Erroll B. Davis Jr. Inaugurated as USG’s 11th Chancellor
Access, Affordability, Quality are Central Themes of Inaugural Address
Atlanta — September 13, 2006
Chancellor Erroll B. Davis set the tone for his administration today in the inaugural address following his investiture as the 11th chancellor of the University System of Georgia (USG).
The historic ceremony – formally installing him as head of the state’s 35 public colleges and universities – was held at the Georgia State Capitol.
The Georgia House of Representatives made a rare exception in allowing the chancellor’s inauguration ceremony to be held in the House Chamber. Gov. Sonny Perdue delivered remarks and Allan Vigil, chair of the Board of Regents, presided over the ceremony. Davis acknowledged the pomp of circumstance of the occasion by noting, “Today is a day of celebration. While we may celebrate my arrival, above all we celebrate the power and the value of education to society.”
The former chairman of the board of Alliant Energy Corporation – a Wisconsin-based energy holding company with $8.3 billion in total assets and annual operating revenues of $3 billion – Davis assumed the University System of Georgia’s chancellor’s position on Feb. 6, 2006. The USG currently enrolls nearly 254,000 students and employs 38,000 faculty and staff, with an annual budget of $5 billion.
Since taking office, Davis has visited all 35 USG campuses, completing that statewide tour during his first 100 days in office.
“Erroll Davis has proven he has the leadership ability to move the University System of Georgia to an even higher standard of excellence,” said Gov. Perdue. “He understands the role Georgia’s public colleges and universities should play in a more educated and prosperous state. I welcome his leadership at the helm of our university system.”
During his remarks, the new chancellor made clear his priorities for the System’s future, by focusing on issues of academic quality, affordability and access. “The heart of our enterprise and our primary mission is teaching our students,” Davis stated. “That mission must be strengthened in order for the academy to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of our students and the state.”
Davis said his one of his key goals as chancellor will be to “create the kind of environment in which our students prepare not only for a profession or a career, but also prepare to assume leadership roles in society.”
Among other priorities, Davis said he will “focus the attention and resources of the University System on access – particularly for students who may lack the financial resources to enroll in college.”
“We must continue to explore ways of increasing financial options that enable more Georgians to attend college,” Davis stated. “It is not in society’s best interest to lose so many potential students. We need these individuals to help build our society.”
In a move toward addressing the financial barriers of college attendance and “as a small, but symbolic, first step, in order to stimulate catalytic giving,” Davis said the family foundation he and his wife, Elaine, founded will donate $100,000 to the University System of Georgia Foundation to establish a college financial aid seed fund. “It is our hope and our goal that this fund will grow to become a significant new tool in our efforts to broaden access to the University System of Georgia,” Davis said.
Davis positioned the gift as a challenge to others to build upon the seed fund, “if we are going to meet the need in ways that are substantive and not just symbolic.”
“So I also issue a call and a challenge to those who have reaped the benefits of education,” Davis stated, “ to invest in our future by investing in the future of others.”
Regent Timothy Shelnut, the immediate past chair of both the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia Foundation – and himself an extremely generous contributor to the USG – introduced the inauguration’s theme, “The Value of Education.” Shelnut also introduced Southern Company CEO David Ratcliffe, a 1970 graduate of Valdosta State University, and asked him to share the benefits of his USG education. University of Georgia graduate student Bernice Butler attested to the positive implications of her on-going education, and tenth-grader Givonte Latimore talked about his heightened expectations for the future, thanks to his participation in the USG’s Carver High School Early College program.
Members of the Board of Regents, the presidents of the University System’s campuses, the staff of the University System Office, a number of USG faculty representatives and delegates from various education organizations donned colorful academic robes to march into the House Chamber for the ceremony. Also on hand to lend the occasion pomp and circumstance were the North Georgia College & State University Color Guard, musicians from the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music, the Georgia Tech Glee Club, Albany State University vocalist Kendria Bailey and the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Jazz Band.
After Davis received formal greetings from University System of Georgia presidents, faculty and staff, Gov. Perdue presented the chancellor with a specially designed medallion marking his formal investiture.
Prior to Davis’ appointment in Georgia, he had served as chairman of Alliant Energy Corporation since 2000. He joined Alliant in 1998 as president and chief executive officer. Davis retired from his dual roles as president and CEO in July 2005, and retained the chairman’s post until his move to the University System.
Prior to the creation of Alliant Energy, Davis served as president and CEO of WPL Holdings, from 1990 to 1998. From 1978 to 1990, Davis rose through the senior management ranks at Wisconsin Power and Light Company, starting as vice president of finance and ending as CEO and president. His career also includes corporate finance positions at Xerox Corporation and Ford Motor Company.
Davis’ higher education experience includes serving as a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents from 1987 to 1994, and as a former chairman of the board of trustees of Carnegie Mellon University, of which he is a life member. He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Davis earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, in 1965, and a M.B.A. in finance from the University of Chicago, in 1967. He is a member of the board of directors of BP p.l.c., PPG Industries, Inc., and Union Pacific Corp., and numerous professional associations and civic organizations. In 2004, he was elected to the U.S. Olympic Committee Board, and he chairs the USOC’s Audit Committee.
Davis is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including recognition as one of the “75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine in 2005. He also was named one of the “Top 50 Blacks in Technology” at the Black Engineer of the Year 2005 Awards Conference, and received the Carnegie-Mellon Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2004. Davis also was named one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America” by Fortune magazine in 2002 and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business in 1993, the same year he received a Bronze Medal in Financial World’s “CEO of the Year” competition. In addition, Davis was honored by the magazine U.S. Black Engineer as the “Black Engineer of the Year” in 1988.
For full text of Chancellor Davis’ remarks, please go to the Chancellor’s website.