ATHENS, Ga. - Shunning his usual State of the University garb - dark suit and red tie - University of Georgia President Michael Adams opted for more relaxed attire during his seventh annual speech Thursday afternoon.
Addressing a packed UGA Chapel, Dr. Adams spoke for 45 minutes, reviewing the highs and lows of 2003 and urging listeners to focus on the potential of 2004. He wore a tweed sport coat and burgundy bow tie spotted with yellow flowers, something at least one observer said was evidence that Dr. Adams is done with the events of 2003.
"He looked cool. I loved the bow tie," said junior Matthew Wilson, a psychology major who has attended the past two State of the University addresses. "It shows that he's ready to move on from all the stuff that went down this year, and that as a university we can move forward as well."
Dr. Adams, UGA's president since 1997, surprised some onlookers when toward the end of the speech he reflected on the past six months - a stretch that saw him embroiled in a statewide controversy that began when he didn't renew Athletic Director Vince Dooley's contract.
"The past six months have been the most difficult of my professional life. The stress of numerous events on my family has been greater than I would have ever hoped," he said. "I have spent too much time too far removed from what drew me to higher education."
From the Dooley decision to a probe into his own spending of UGA donor dollars, Dr. Adams was in the spotlight much of last year. He wants to shift the focus to where it belongs, he said Thursday - to the university.
"I'm not oblivious to it, but I've told you all along, (the media) paid more attention to (the controversy) than I did," he said after the speech. "I'm not concerned about it. I have so much to do every day."
Outlining his 2004 goals, Dr. Adams spoke of reversing a trend of faculty vacancies. The university is down about 200 faculty members, more than 10 percent of the 1,800 it had two years ago.
"This is a trend that simply cannot continue, and I pledge today that the first priority for any additional tuition revenue will be the hiring of faculty," he said.
He cited several construction projects - the East Campus Village residence halls and the Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences - as keys to academic progress. Dr. Adams also said he hopes this is the year plans are completed and fund raising is accelerated for a campus alumni center.
"Such a center will bring an elevated level of activity to the central campus area and become a home for UGA's increasingly numerous alumni," he said.
Latham Saddler, the president of the UGA Student Government Association, said the president's words were encouraging, especially during a time when everyone at the university is feeling the heat of looming state budget cuts.
"I think we all want to see this place progress," said Mr. Saddler, a junior.