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Portch To Step Down From University System Chancellor’s Post

Atlanta — May 9, 2001

Signaling time for new leadership to bring new ideas to old challenges, University System of Georgia Chancellor Stephen R. Portch today informed the Board of Regents that he would step down from his post at the conclusion of a national search to name his successor.

Portch, who joined the University System of Georgia in July 1994, said he was maintaining the commitment he made to the board upon accepting the chancellorship – that he would serve no less than five and no more than seven years. He first notified the chairman and vice chairman a year ago of his intent to maintain that period of service.

In a moving, yet characteristically humorous, speech in which he shared only a few of the myriad achievements of his term as chancellor, Portch acknowledged the System has made great strides during the past seven years. During his tenure, these accomplishments include:

  • Leading the Board of Regents in the development and implementation of a highly successful strategic plan that has guided its decision making and policy setting;
  • Increasing the national competitiveness of USG salaries by 35.5 percent;
  • Securing the funding for and overseeing the 150-day launch of GALILEO, the statewide electronic library;
  • Strengthening the caliber and diversity of the USG’s leadership via the appointment of 23 presidents through nationally conducted searches and recruitment of high-quality administrators to the System office;
  • Increasing service to Georgia’s business and industry dramatically through such programs as the University System of Georgia’s Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP);
  • Implementing the first-ever USG tuition reimbursement policy and post-tenure review process;
  • Collaborating with two Governors on key strategic statewide programs as the HOPE scholarship, the Yamacraw high-technology effort, and the state’s newly funded Cancer Initiative; and
  • Helping secure $1.09 billion in record funding for University System capital construction projects.
  • Under Portch’s leadership, the also raised academic standards across the System, including:
  • Elevating average SAT scores of entering freshmen from 981 to 1021, surpassing the national average;
  • Reducing USG remedial student enrollment from 30 percent to 16 percent;
  • Increasing first-year student retention from 66 percent to 71 percent;
  • Issuing a guarantee on all teachers prepared in the University System; and
  • Assisting two of the System’s research institutions (Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia) in securing positions among U.S. News and World Report’s Top 20 Public Universities.

In addition, the University System of Georgia has increased educational seamlessness throughout the state with initiatives such as P-16 and its Postsecondary Readiness Enrichment Program (PREP), a highly successful statewide program to help children in at-risk situations prepare for college. System officials also have forged greater links with the Department of Technical and Adult Education. The System’s institutions also have increased the research volume being conducted on its campuses by $195 million, or 46 percent, between Fiscal Year 1995 and 2000.

Yet, despite the lengthy list of accomplishments, Portch is quick to point out the achievements are collective, not individual. “I am proud that wherever you go in the nation now, people talk about the successes of higher education in Georgia,” he stated. “But I haven’t taught a student in the System; I haven’t provided any services to students; I haven’t built a single building; I haven’t cleaned a room nor mowed a lawn nor served a hamburger.” Portch said that the credit goes to the 30,000 employees of the University System, who’ve “responded magnificently” over the past seven years, as he has asked them to “work harder and smarter.”

Portch also has enjoyed the benefits of working with an extremely cohesive and strategically directed Board of Regents, who has consistently applauded his leadership.

“Honoring Steve Portch’s request to step down was one of the toughest decisions that the Board of Regents Executive Committee has ever had to make,” said Board of Regents Chairman Glenn White. “We absolutely could not have asked for a better chancellor than he has been for Georgia for the past seven years. He has raised this System’s aspirations and our performance with his keen vision, strategic planning and relentless implementation. We wish he would stay, but he truly deserves the opportunity to reconnect with his academic life. And we’re delighted that we’ll be able to call on him.”

Portch informed the board that he will take an educational leave for a year, during which he will conduct consulting and remain available to the Board of Regents and System campuses to ensure continuity and stability in the leadership transition. Highly touted nationally, both as an educational leader and public speaker, Portch should have no shortage of activities to keep him engaged in the academic enterprise.

Portch takes pride in how far the System has moved in quality measures and national reputation on his watch. In fact, his announcement comes just one day after he led the Board of Regents in its second phase of long-term strategic planning, aimed at building on the goals and accomplishments of the initial plan shaped under his leadership in 1994.

“Yes, we have unquestionably accomplished a better educated Georgia; our quality is measurably and dramatically improved,” Portch stated. “Yet, as I revealed to the board yesterday, we continue to run a stunning deficit in participation by Georgians in post-secondary education.” That, Portch says, is the leading challenge facing his successor, coupled with the need to transition to formula funding for the University System that places greater emphasis on quality achievements rather than enrollment.

The chancellor also called for attention to the challenge of “how higher education can ensure equity of opportunity to participate in both education and the economy for all citizens,” a quest that permeated his tenure.

Board of Regents Chairman Glenn White plans to announce the board’s strategy for conducting a national search to fill the chancellor’s by the end of the week.

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