University of Georgia President Michael Adams announced Thursday that he will retire on June 30, 2013. His decision brings to a close a tumultuous but positive 16-year tenure at the state's most visible and well known university.
Adams should be best remembered for the positive changes he brought to the university. Under his guidance, the school has become an academic powerhouse among the nation's public universities. The school is habitually ranked in the top 20 of such institutions. The university has earned that reputation even as it has become more selective and increased its enrollment by almost 6,000 students.
In addition, Adams established new professional programs on campus, played a major role in bringing more than $1 billion in new construction, and raised millions of dollars for student scholarships and to endow professors and department chairmen. All those endeavors are worthy of acclaim.
Not everyone in the University of Georgia community agrees that his tenure is worthy of such praise.
As signs of failure, they point to his controversial dealings with the athletic department, to never-proven allegations of financial mismanagement, and to his tardiness in addressing sexual harassment complaints against some faculty members. In every instance, though, the nay-sayers failed to make their case. He's flourished and won widespread support over the years from every group within his constituency -- state leaders, university faculty and staff, students and the bulk of the school's alumni.
The announcement by Adams, a 1966 graduate of Chattanooga High School, was somewhat a surprise. He said that he'd decided to retire only within the last couple of weeks. It was clearly an emotional decision for all involved.
Assembled students, faculty and staff arose as one to give him a standing ovation when he entered a university hall to formally announce his retirement. Adams shed a few tears as he began his talk, and the crowd rose again to applaud him as he ended his remarks. Adams will remain president through the next academic year and then, he says, stay on to teach write and conduct research, His continued presence surely will be welcome, but Thursday's announcement signals change to come in Athens.
The State Board of Regents will open the search for Adams' successor in late summer or fall. Whatever the outcome of that search, the new president will seek to create his or her own vision for the university. The question, of course, is whether the new president will be able to build as positive and productive record as Adams accomplished.