The Board of Regents' selection of Michael Adams to head the University of Georgia is raising some eyebrows, not only at the university, but around the state.
One question being asked is whether the head of a small, 970-student liberal arts college in Kentucky can run Georgia's flagship university with its enrollment of nearly 30,000 students
"I'm wondering how he's going to be able to handle a school of this magnitude," commented a graduating UGA senior to the Associated Press. Theodore Miller, a professor of guidance and counseling education at the school, told the AP his initial reaction was "disappointment, possibly, uncertainty for sure. Quite frankly, the person from UNC state was far and above the other two" (referring to Debra Stewart, North Carolina State University graduate dean, considered the favorite before the Regents' surprise pick).
Concerns are also being raised about Adams' political ties to the Republican Party. Before taking over as president and professor of government at Centre College of Danville, Ky., he ran unsuccessfully for a Tennessee congressional seat and served on the staffs of two high-profile Tennessee Republicans, Gov. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Sen. Howard Baker.
"He'll have to be non-partisan if he's to be president of the University of Georgia," fretted Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen.
Such worries miss the point. Says Regents Chairman Tom Allgood of Augusta, Adams "is really non-political, and I think he will be accepted very well at the Capitol ..."
Gov. Zell Miller echoed that sentiment, calling Adams "an excellent choice." The 49-year-old educator isn't coming to Georgia to play partisan politics, though his political experience certainly played a role in his selection which, incidentally, was unanimous.
He's a good mixer who likes communicating with people at all levels - no "ivory tower" presidency for him. He's the kind of guy, says University System Chancellor Stephen Portch, who can as easily recruit a Nobel scientist as talk with farmers about improving the marketability of Vidalia onions. He's also a stellar fund-raiser, having tripled Centre College's endowment to more than $120 million.
These are the qualities of leadership the Regents were looking for in naming a replacement for departing UGA President Charles Knapp and it looks like they got it in Adams. Along with other Georgians, we join in wishing the new president, who takes over Sept. 1, a long and successful tenure.