ATLANTA - The decision decades ago to unite the state's institutions of higher education under a single system has helped propel Georgia into the 21st century and should continue to benefit the state, leaders said at a ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the University System of Georgia.
"What was created 75 years ago has endured and grown along with the state," Chancellor Erroll Davis told the audience at an event held at the state Capitol to commemorate the system's diamond jubilee. "Indeed, the growth of the state is closely linked with the growth of the university system."
The first substantive sessions came in 1932. It was the beginning of a decade that would lead to a never-before-seen level of political independence for the state's colleges and universities. In the early 1940s, Gov. Eugene Talmadge engineered the firing of a University of Georgia official who Mr. Talmadge said supported racial integration. Several of the state's universities lost accreditation in the fallout before Mr. Talmadge's successor, Ellis Arnall, pushed through the Legislature a constitutional amendment to prevent future political meddling.
Not that the system is devoid of controversy. Most recently, former Chancellor Tom Meredith left for Mississippi in 2005 after a rocky three-year tenure that included conflicts over UGA President Michael Adams' decision not to renew the contract of former athletics director Vince Dooley and Dr. Meredith's controversial plans for steep tuition increases.
The ceremony Wednesday, though, largely focused on the change the system has sparked through the education offered at its colleges and universities.
"It changes individuals, but individuals make up a great state and change our state while they're about it," Gov. Sonny Perdue said. "It's a commitment to the future. It's a belief in what's to come. ... We've seen great things in the past 75 years of Georgia's university system, and I'm optimistic about the next 75 as well."
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