Chairman Ben Tarbutton, Remarks to the Board of Regents
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Thank you Chancellor for those excellent remarks. They set us up well as we look ahead.
Let me also take a moment to thank the Board for electing me as your chair. I understand the responsibility you have given to me and that you trust that I will live up to the excellent records of my predecessors. I will do my very best to live up to both the expectations and the history of this Board.
I owe a great deal to many people, but let me single out just one today: our former colleague and regent, Felton Jenkins. Felton taught us all a great deal about what it is to be a regent and how to effectively serve on this board. I like to think that he prepared me, through the example of his daily work, for my upcoming term as chair.
Lastly, I want to thank my family for coming today. Just some quick introductions: My mother, Nancy Tarbutton is here. Unfortunately, my father had a preexisting conflict and could not join us. My two sisters and their husbands: Anne and John Mori and Rosa and Neal Sumer. Growing up as the younger brother, those two used to wear me out! My wife, Betsy, and our three children Ben, Annabeth, and Henry. Marriage is a partnership that is built upon love, faith, and collaboration; so Betsy, just know that you share in this honor that has been bestowed on me by colleagues.
As I was thinking about my remarks today, I was struck by the word “new.” As chair and vice chair, both Dink NeSmith and I are new. Chancellor Huckaby is new … he has new people in key senior positions: Steve Wrigley, David Morgan and John Brown. And, of course, Gov. Deal is in his first year in office. So we certainly are turning a new page.
But, perhaps that isn’t the most accurate description. This is not passive – we are not just turning a new page, we are writing a new chapter in the 80-year history of this Board and this University System …a chapter that will build upon all of the good work that leads us to where we are today. I believe Chancellor Huckaby is correct: we have a great opportunity to focus on ensuring that we are doing things the right way to create a more highly educated Georgia.
This state continues to suffer from the recent recession. However, we will not be deterred. Whether through our teaching, our research or our public service, it is part of the mission of the University System to be a key driver in the return to prosperity.
My goal as chair is to support the chancellor and the governor in their efforts related to higher education and in providing Georgia with the human capital it needs. To that end, I want us to continue our strong tradition of having the work of this Board be committee-driven. I thank all of you for your willingness to serve on our standing and special committees. Your countless volunteer hours do not go unnoticed.
Specifically, let me thank our new standing committee chairs:
- Regent Stelling, on Academic Affairs;
- Regent Ellis, on Organization and Law;
- Regent Pruitt, on Personnel and Benefits;
- Regent Wilheit, on Finance and Business Operations;
- Regent Bernard, on Internal Audit, Risk and Compliance; and
- Regent Walker, on Real Estate and Facilities.
In support of the Chancellor’s focus for the University System, we will, as a Board, continue our efforts to strengthen retention, progression and graduation rates throughout the System. This will include our good partnership in the “Complete College America” and “Complete College Georgia” initiatives, with their goals of ensuring more college graduates.
Last week, I attended the Governor’s press conference announcing this important, statewide effort. I support the Governor’s focus on increasing the number of Georgians who enroll in and complete some level of postsecondary education.
We are proud that two of our institutions: the College of Coastal Georgia and Georgia Gwinnett College, will share $1 million in Complete College America grants with two technical colleges. These grants directly tie into past work by this Board in terms of taking a hard and honest look at how we approach learning support in the System. The grants will help us discover methods that work best for students.
The Governor’s announcement of a plan to create a needs-based scholarship program also has our full support. Such a program could do much to ensure broad access to college and dovetails in nicely with the Maintaining Affordability Committee Chaired by Regent Griffin.
The Governor’s intent to create the Higher Education Finance Commission is critical to the System’s future. Chancellor Huckaby, in his comments, noted that the times demand changes and our thinking must shift from a focus on the numbers we enroll to the numbers that graduate. This new commission offers us an exciting opportunity to create a funding mechanism that will support this change in how we operate.
Our more immediate attention on the formula has to do with the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 budget. We will support efforts to return to full formula funding. As the Chancellor noted, we are in a new era of resources. Our efforts must be focused on actions that demonstrate our good stewardship and our accountability. As we make the case for continued investment in the University System, we must also clearly demonstrate that we are using the investment wisely and to our primary goal of creating a more highly educated Georgia.
I am pleased to report our return to our historic pattern of scheduling two board meetings each year at an institution. This is important in our work to connect as a full working body with our campuses, our faculty and staff, our community partners and supporters, and especially our students.
Of course, there is much, much more that will engage this Board over the course of the year – some known and planned, and some unknown. I count upon each of you to respond to both the knowns and the unknowns as you have done so well in the past.
Again, thank you for this great opportunity to work with you and all of our colleagues, supporters and partners on behalf of the University System of Georgia – and to ensure the success of our 320,000 students.
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