ASU golf backer quits GHSU board over name issue

While hundreds were making noise Monday about the new school name at Augusta State University’s campus, Nick Evans Jr. quietly voiced his protest at Georgia Health Sciences University by resigning from its hospital board.

The Augusta College graduate and longtime supporter of the ASU golf program said he resigned from the GHS Medical Center board of directors because he was unhappy with the new name and the process from which it resulted.

“I think it is a huge mistake to take away the name of Augusta,” Evans said. “I simply do not understand it.”

Evans, an Augusta National Golf Club member and the chairman of ECP Benefits, said leaving out Augusta from the new school’s name was casting aside a name associated with prestige and excellence around the world.

“It is a global brand second only to Coca-Cola,” he said.

Despite his resignation, Evans said he is fully behind the consolidation of the two universities and very appreciative of the commitment to Augusta made by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Board of Regents.

“I don’t want to work against the ‘new U’ in any way because I believe in it,” he said. “I just find it hard to believe that they didn’t anticipate this type of reaction from 90 percent of the people in Augusta.”

There are others who, although they dislike the name, are ready to accept the decision and move on with the process of making a major university here in Augusta.

“Nobody loves the name of Augusta more than I do,” said Jim Hull, who serves on the ASU board of trustees. “I think that many of the people protesting the name are following their conscience and have every right to do so.”

But Hull and some other area business leaders think the name is a fight that won’t be won, and would rather the community focus its energy on taking advantage of the opportunity ahead.

“I think we should move on and think in terms of being the state’s fourth comprehensive university and what that means,” Hull said.

Hull said the state is prepared to put Augusta “in the front of the line” for millions of dollars in investment to build a research university on par with Georgia State and Georgia Tech.

Phil Wahl, Augusta market president at Savannah River Banking Co., agrees. He said the battle over the name is blinding residents to the tremendous change that is about to occur in the next decade.

“This is a lifetime opportunity for Augusta,” Wahl said. “We are going to be a university town.”

Wahl said he and others in the business community want to move past the name issue and look to the future.

“We can sit here and debate this issue all day long, but we have a major entity being created here that is going to be a major economic driver for years to come,” he said.

Wahl said he fears that if the protests over the new name continue, it could damage that plan and the governor and regents could lose faith in Augusta.

“This is a competitive situation,” he said. “It’s creating a stressful situation for everybody.”

Evans said he also understands that continued strife over the school name could be politically damaging to Augusta, but he said that doesn’t make it right.

“This is a forever decision and it needs to be the right one,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be a political decision, but that is what it has become.

“Why not bring everybody together instead of picking a name that divides us?”

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