Francis J. Tedesco has changed the landscape of Medical College of Georgia during his 13 years as president, his colleagues said.
Dr. Tedesco gave his final State of the University address Thursday before a full auditorium at the School of Dentistry. He is among the 148 faculty and administrators who took the early retirement program and he is scheduled to leave after Jan. 31. But as the senior faculty leave, Dr. Tedesco said, younger, new people are taking their places.
"While some of the faces have changed, the collective energy of this institution has not flagged," Dr. Tedesco said. "I am heartened to see the same high level of enthusiasm and devotion that I did when I assumed the presidency of this institution in 1988."
The same can be said of Dr. Tedesco, said James Puryear, retired vice president for student affairs at MCG.
"Constant enthusiasm and dedication, and commitment to the progress of MCG," Dr. Puryear said. "He never lets up."
Throughout the campus, there are reminders of his tenure in the buildings and research facilities that sprang up during his time at the helm: the Children's Medical Center, the Ambulatory Care Center/Specialty Care Center, the Center for Sports Medicine and the Interdisciplinary Research Facility, among others. And more are coming in a $20 million addition to the research facility, and a $36 million nursing and allied health sciences education building, Dr. Tedesco said.
For Department of Family Medicine Chairman Dr. Joseph Hobbs, the last speech "was kind of a bittersweet recollection of what I think has been some of the most remarkable growth in the school's history. It's going to be very hard for us to think about MCG without thinking about Fran Tedesco."
"He saw far enough down the road to see what was required," then got the resources, said Dr. Ralph Caruana, interim chairman of the Department of Medicine.
During his tenure, the endowment for the school has increased from less than $10 million to more than $105 million. The building and the endowments are the most visible things Dr. Tedesco has done, said Dr. Thomas Gadacz, chairman of the Department of Surgery.
"I was (here) at the right time and I was very fortunate," Dr. Tedesco said of the praise. "Buildings are wonderful, but those are just tools. I think if we use those tools wisely, and I want the faculty to know they have, both our increased research and student outcomes are wonderful."
As he thought about his address, it was the students that weighed on his mind.
"Think of the lives they've touched," Dr. Tedesco said. "The wounds they've healed, the children they've birthed, the minds they've challenged, the mysteries they've solved. These students, this is our legacy. This is how we will be remembered."
He nearly made it through, but as he tried to thank his wife, Luann, his voice cracked as said "soulmate." He was quiet, head down, for several seconds, saying she was "the best first lady this institution ever had."
He left the lectern to a standing ovation, kissed his wife and received her hug. And the applause went on.
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