In a first address to Augusta leaders Thursday, new Paine College President Dr. Jerry Hardee said he is committed to restoring the college’s accreditation, doubling enrollment and embarking on a successful fundraising campaign.
Hardee told Augusta Commission members and Mayor Hardie Davis he’s often asked why he came out of a sixth retirement in April to become the 16th president of Augusta’s historically black college.
He takes the helm as Paine continues efforts to shake a recommendation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges that its accreditation be revoked. The revocation remains on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit.
“I know, having graduated from two historically black institutions and one majority institution, how important institutions such as Paine are to the cultural, educational and economic development of all communities, but especially the African-American community,” Hardee said.
Hardee said he’s promised the Paine board of trustees several things, including “making sure that all issues related to that accreditation are lifted” while also obtaining accreditation from the Transactional Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, another accrediting association. “I’ve promised that we’ll have both,” he said.
Hardee said he’s also promised to double an enrollment that’s presently around 500 to 1,000 students. Outgoing President Samuel Sullivan told The Augusta Chronicle enrollment stood around 400 full-time-equivalent students earlier this year.
“Multiply 1,000 by $20,000 per student” to see the financial impact on Augusta, Hardee said.
The college’s financial picture, not its academics, is the only factor in SACS’ recommendation, he said.
“I’m going to find 1,000 people who might be willing to give Paine College $1,000 each; 100 people who might be willing to invest in Paine College $10,000 each and four to five people who have the resources to give Paine $1 million each,” Hardee said.
Hardee did not ask the commission for anything besides support, but Commissioner Bill Fennoy, a Paine alumnus, introduced Hardee with a note of the commission’s decision to give $12 million for a parking deck for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. The contribution adds to the state’s investment of more than $50 million in the center.
“What I would like to remind the citizens of Richmond County and my colleagues that Paine College is also an asset to Augusta, Georgia,” Fennoy said. “When we look at giving Paine College money we should not look at the fact that Paine is a private school because dollars are green.”
The city has supported Paine in the past, with annual supplements as well as a sizable sales tax contribution that led to construction of the HEAL Center, an athletics complex.
The mayor said if Paine needs something, it was time to ask. “In the words of the great gospel writers may I suggest that the days of begging are over,” Davis said. “It’s a simple principle, ask and it shall be given.”
In another matter, the commission approved holding a joint meeting later this year with the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and Richmond County Board of Education to develop a community vision for the education system.
Commissioner Sean Frantom made a last-minute effort to add something titled “disclosure statement for all employees about taking government property” but it lacked unanimous consent to add to the agenda. On Tuesday, a Richmond County grand jury declined to make any indictments into misuse of government equipment at a private site in Lincoln County after hearing a sheriff’s investigation into the incident involving two landfill employees. Commissioner Ben Hasan, who opposed the addition, said the matter needed discussion through the committee cycle.
The commission also approved, after a closed-door session to discuss “litigation” and “personnel,” nine hours’ pay for firefighters working during the July 3 paid city holiday. Closed sessions aren’t legal under Georgia open meetings laws except to discuss specific personnel or actual litigation.
While fire department administration already was getting the paid holiday that the commission approved earlier this month, Fire Chief Chris James wasn’t giving it to rank-and-file suppression firefighters, Commissioner Grady Smith said. “This way it would make all the firefighters get the same,” Smith said.
Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.