Thank you, Dr. Preczewski, students, faculty, staff, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for attending today’s ceremony. I had no idea I owed so many people money. Kathryn and I are truly touched and humbled by the honor you have accorded us today.
I would first like to recognize and thank all the people who worked so hard to put this ceremony and reception together. Their names are listed on the back of the program, and I particularly want to thank them for all their efforts in making this event such a success. I also want to thank Commissioner John Heard and Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson for their kind words and for the unwavering support they have provided GGC since we opened our doors. Thanks also to Chad, Seijin, David, and Clay for their gracious words and for what they continue to do for GGC.
Special Guests, today is obviously a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand, Kathryn and I are excited about the opportunities that my new position at the Chamber of Commerce affords for community development. On the other hand, as I look around at what GGC has become, I confess that the thought of leaving is one that I cannot quite come to grips with just yet. That rather large construction crane looming over us at the Allied Health and Science Building site is the perfect symbol of the extraordinary opportunities that GGC will provide to its students and this community for decades to come.
As I reflect on what we have accomplished together in the last nearly eight years, the temptation is to recite that extensive list of events and achievements, since what you have done really is truly transformational. Breathe easy, colleagues, I promise not to relive all those remarkable events in real time.
That said, I hope you will indulge me one reminiscence. I do remember walking into the B Building on the morning of September 19, 2005, as the first and only employee of what was still an unnamed state college. What a wonderful journey it has been since that day. As I thought about what I might say at my farewell ceremony, it occurred to me to go back and review what I said at the welcoming ceremony that was held here on October 4, 2005, just a couple of weeks after I arrived.
I pointed out at the time that I was the envy of every other college president in the country, since at that point we had no students, no faculty, and no alumni. All of that changed in a hurry, however. I did note that I had numerous conversations with people who asked about my vision for the future of the new college. Let me share with you what I said on that October morning about what was going to happen. I quote:
Clearly the education at this new college will be designed to develop versatile, creative, and critical thinkers who can adapt to the intellectual, professional and ethical challenges that will confront them throughout their lives. Developing creative, adaptive, intellectually agile students has never been more important than it is today. The challenges of living in a global community require men and women of character who can anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world. Education is a critical aspect of achieving that goal. I am confident that the new college in Gwinnett will play an integral role in educating talented men and women and inspiring them to careers as leaders in business, education and public service.
How will we proceed toward achieving this vision?
One of the most exciting prospects about the new college is that we are in an enviable position that few institutions of higher learning ever experience. We are starting with a blank slate as far as the design and implementation of the operating systems of the college are concerned. Consequently, we have the opportunity not only to create a more efficient institutional design, but also a new learning experience.
Equally important, we have a wonderful opportunity to exploit the confluence of technology, learning and student success. The hallmark of the new college in Gwinnett will be innovation and creativity, particularly in the use of educational technology. We will offer traditional classroom courses, to be sure, but we also will develop learning experiences whereby students will learn at home, in the classroom and in the office using the Web and enhanced classroom solutions. All of our facilities will feature innovative, advanced “smart” classrooms where student learning is facilitated by technology, and our dedicated teaching faculty will be knowledgeable in the use of educational and information technology. In essence, no matter where the student happens to be in Gwinnett County, the region, the state or around the world, learning can take place via a seamless extension of the classroom available at any time using educational and information technology platforms.
I concluded my remarks on that day with the following prediction:
I am absolutely confident that by continuing to work together we can make the new college all that we want it to be – one that combines technology and learning to make student success exciting and productive, and one of which the citizens of Gwinnett and all of Georgia can be justifiably proud.
As I reflect on what we have accomplished together, I would have to say you made those predictions of eight years ago come true.
There are so many people whom I need to recognize for all that they have done to make GGC the extraordinary place it is. In the interests of time and the fact that I am all that stands between you and the food, I will save the individual thanks for another occasion; I will simply thank the cabinet, the deans, the faculty, the staff and all the students we are privileged to teach for making this opportunity of a lifetime the truly wonderful experience it has been.
I will close with one observation. As those of you who have been around here for a while will remember, in the early days of the College, I would remind the faculty and staff that if we are lucky in life we get to be part of something truly special, something extraordinary. I submit that all of us at GGC are so blessed, that we really are part of a transformational institution whose impact on higher education and on the lives of our students, their families and their communities will be felt for decades to come. So, if I might be so bold as to offer one bit of advice, take the time often from your frenetic schedules to pause, to appreciate and to savor this experience. Kathryn and I have been privileged to know all of you, to see how you all devote all of your energies every day to the development of this community, to know all of you who combine to make Georgia Gwinnett College the truly special place it is.
So, if it is so special, why are you leaving? It is your fault….
As I take your leave, I am reminded of the sentiment that other charter president, George Washington, conveyed to his countrymen in his Farewell Address. As Washington put it so eloquently as he retired from public office: “I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that this step is compatible with both.”
It has been my privilege to be your charter president and your colleague. Good luck,Godspeed – and go Grizzlies!