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Gainesville State College President Martha Nesbitt Announces Plans to Retire Effective June 30, 2012

Atlanta — August 8, 2011

Dr. Martha Nesbitt thumbnail
Dr. Martha Nesbitt

Gainesville State College President Martha T. Nesbitt made the formal announcement to the entire College community today at the Annual Welcome Back Fall Luncheon that she plans to retire at the end of this academic year.

Having served as the College’s third president, Nesbitt is also first in many categories. She is the College’s first female president; she is the first president to serve under the College’s “state college” status; through her leadership the College became one of the first tobacco-free colleges in the nation, and the list goes on and on.

One of only nine female presidents in the 35 institutions of the University System of Georgia (USG), Nesbitt took over leadership of then “Gainesville College” in 1997, and over the past 14 years, she has continued to shape the institution to better serve as an educational and cultural resource in northeast Georgia.

“I have been fortunate to work with a wonderful faculty and staff as GSC has grown and added more opportunities for our students and Northeast Georgia,” said Nesbitt. “These include new academic programs, another campus, support services and campus life activities. At the same time, even with our exponential enrollment growth, the college has remained true to its value of focusing on student learning and development, and that is a great tribute to our college community.”

Under Nesbitt’s leadership, the College experienced a 174% enrollment increase during the ten year period, Fall Semester 2000 to Fall Semester 2010, when enrollment increased from 3,256 students to 8,900 students. This impressive growth has been made possible by the addition of the Oconee Campus in Watkinsville and continuing growth on the Gainesville Campus. Nesbitt realized the need for a two-year college in the area east of Gainesville, and through her strong and effective vision, the Oconee Campus became a reality in the summer of 2003.

“A hallmark of Dr. Nesbitt’s career has been her dedicated focus on ensuring a strong college access mission for students,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby. “She has been singularly effective in this work within the University System, both at DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College) and as president since 1997 of Gainesville State College. During her tenure as president, she created the College’s new Oconee Campus, which is just one example of her highly effective leadership.”

Respected for her role in the promotion and progression of education in our state, region and nation, Nesbitt has lent her talents and expertise to quite a few organizations, including the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC). In 1995, the AAWCC recognized her as its “Outstanding Woman of the Year,” and she served as its president from 1999–2002. In 2006, AAWCC recognized her as “President of the Year.” The Georgia Association of Colleges chose Dr. Nesbitt to serve as president, 2002-2003. In 2004, she was asked to join the Board of Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. Dr. Nesbitt has served the Commission on Colleges (COC) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in a number of roles since 1983 and received an award for Meritorious Service in 2000. She served a three-year (2004-06) term on the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Board of Directors. She served on the Board at the Art Institution of Houston (2001-2010) and was the Chair of the Board from 2001-2005. The Turknett Leadership Group, in partnership with Kennesaw State’s Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character, presented Dr. Nesbitt with the Turknett Leadership Character Education Award in 2009.

In a recent note to Nesbitt, former USG Chancellor Erroll B. Davis wrote, “…thank you for your personal support over the last five and a half years. I have come to relish our always ‘frank and candid’ discussions at the Presidents’ meetings, and I truly believe I have benefited from this experience.”

Closer to home, Dr. Nesbitt was recognized by the Rotary Club of Gainesville for Excellence in Vocational Service in 2003, was named Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women’s Association in 2004 and received the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Silver Shovel Award, also in 2004. The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia presented Nesbitt with the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction Award in 2011. That same year, she was awarded the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award by the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

These awards not only reflect her effective leadership of Gainesville State College but also her strong service to the Gainesville/Hall County community. In 2003, Nesbitt served as Chair for the 33rd International Canoe Federation Flatwater Racing World Championships Award Ceremony Committee; in 2005, she served as the Fund Drive Chair for the United Way of Hall County; and she served as President of the Northeast Georgia History Center in 2007. Currently she serves as President of the Rotary Club of Gainesville; is a member of the Northeast Georgia Health System Board and serves on its Executive Committee as well as Chair of its Governance Committee; and serves as a Lay Reader and Chalice Bearer at Grace Episcopal Church.

“When you think of Martha Nesbitt,” said Dr. Stephen Portch, former USG Chancellor, “you think of boundless enthusiasm, deep commitment, true loyalty, genuine compassion, and tireless work ethic. That’s why she became a transformative President for GSC.”

Dr. Nesbitt earned her B.A. and M.A.T. degrees from Duke University and her Ph.D. in History from Georgia State University. She and her husband, John P. “Pete” Nesbitt, have two adult children, Ann Weber and John Nesbitt.

Information regarding the search for Nesbitt’s replacement will be announced at a later date.

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