The chancellor of the Georgia Board of Regents will be the speaker for the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday, and organizers are hoping recent GRU controversies don’t overshadow his visit.
Henry “Hank” Huckaby, entering his second year as chancellor of the state’s 31 public colleges and universities, is instead expected to discuss issues of higher education relevant to the chamber’s business-minded members, said the chamber’s president and CEO, Tammy Shepherd.
Similar to previous formats for the chamber sessions, which precede and follow up all Georgia legislative sessions, Huckaby will be joined at Savannah Rapids Pavilion by members of the county’s legislative delegation, who are expected to deliver brief remarks regarding the recently ended legislative session.
Because Huckaby is the speaker, however, questions from the audience might be screened.
“The only thing we might do is take questions on note cards, and then go through them that way,” Shepherd said. “My biggest concern, with it being the chancellor, we don’t want it to turn into a bashing of anything or questions getting out of hand.”
The troublesome questions, she said, could be those regarding the controversial Georgia Regents University name for the merged campuses of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University. Recent concerns also have been raised by the discovery that GRU spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovations to President Ricardo Azziz’s university-owned home without first getting the required approval from the regents.
That’s not why Huckaby was invited to speak, Shepherd said.
“This is really about what can we expect for the economic development side or the impact the whole Georgia Regents University would have on Augusta, from both campuses,” Shepherd said. “What’s going on with other universities in our state, from growth and development. ... That’s the thing we think would be most important to our membership.”
Admission to the breakfast, which begins at 7 a.m., is free to chamber members, $20 to non-members. Reservations are needed by noon Monday by calling (706) 651-0018.