Augusta Commission votes to request name change for consolidated university

Six Augusta Commission members jumped back in the fight over the name of the city’s new consolidated university, voting 6-1 on Tuesday to ask the Georgia Board of Regents to consider “any other name” besides Georgia Regents University.


Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who has urged the city to move on and appreciate the millions of dollars the
state is investing in the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, said after the vote that he hoped it didn’t “mislead people with false hope.”

Commissioner Matt Ait­ken, who requested the body reconsider an earlier request made by Com­mis­sion­er Jerry Brigham to include “Augusta” in the name, said the commission should “stand on behalf of those that felt they didn’t have anybody there for them.”

Sending the request will “send a message that we care about our city,” said Aitken, who is in a five-way fight to keep his District 1 seat.

Despite voting in favor of the motion, Commissioner Corey Johnson said it was unlikely to affect the regents.

The university system governing body voted 16-1 in favor of Georgia Regents University despite a local committee’s recommendations and independent study results showing a name that included “Augusta” had wider appeal.

The motion, made by Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, was supported by Aitken, John­son, Brigham, Wayne Guil­foyle and J.R. Hatney. Commis­sioners Alvin Mason and Grady Smith were absent.

Bill Lockett, the only commissioner to vote against the request, said the city should focus on more important issues, such as flooding
and unemployment, rather than the name of the university.

“When it comes down to a name” or the investment from the state, Loc­kett said, “I’ll take the money.”

One of several GRU opponents at the meeting, Augusta College alumna Catherine Rut­land, applauded the city leaders who stood up against the new name.

“I’m thrilled,” Rutland said. “At least they did some­thing besides roll over. It means a lot to us.”