Longtime employee steps in as president

Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
JANICE RICHARDSON
AGE: 62
JOB: Acting president of Augusta Technical College
FAMILY: Husband, Jimmy; one child and one grandchild
EDUCATION: Master's in business administration and Bachelor of Science from Brenau University
QUOTE: "There really is no greater reward for all the years."

Janice Richardson is running Augusta Technical College; it only took 42 years.

"My career has spanned the entire existence of the college," said Mrs. Richardson, who completed her first week as the college's acting president while continuing to serve as vice president for administrative services.

The college opened in 1961. She enrolled in 1964 and began working full time a couple of years later as an accounting clerk and running the bookstore.

"From that day forward, my entire life has been Augusta Tech," said Mrs. Richardson, 62. Her 42 years at the college is longer than any other current employee.

For the next five or six months, she will be handling the day-to-day operations of the fifth largest technical college in the state in President Terry Elam's absence. Mr. Elam is serving as interim president of Savannah Technical College until the position is filled permanently.

"I looked at her and said, 'It's yours,' " Mr. Elam recalled saying to Mrs. Richardson after deciding she would be best to take the reins while he is in Savannah.

He described Mrs. Richardson as honest, trustworthy, loyal and someone who shares his sense of humor.

Once, the two were reviewing a building site plan in a heavily wooded area, the type of area where snakes were likely to be found, he said. Mr. Elam, allergic to bee stings, realized he was standing on a yellow jacket nest, but all of the bees buzzed past him and zeroed in on Mrs. Richardson's yellow suit.

"All those bees stung her and not a single one stung me," Mr. Elam said. "I say that's the kind of loyalty you need ... I kid her about that a lot."

Mrs. Richardson comes from a meek background. As the 10th child in a family of 14 children, she recalls picking cotton, harvesting vegetables and tending to the livestock.

Her mother led by example and always did a bit more work than anyone in the family.

"Our mother worked so, so hard all her life to make sure we had all we needed," Mrs. Richardson recalled. "There's nothing that even makes me prouder than my family ... We like to say we bring our own crowds."

Mrs. Richardson began working at Augusta Technical College before most of the students there were born. More than 85 percent of the students are younger than 40.

"Sometimes they refer to me as that white-haired lady," she joked. "Even if I thought about retiring, I wouldn't be slowing down ... There's nothing that bothers me more in this world than having to sit idle. I'm not saying there's not mornings I wouldn't want to sleep another hour."

What keeps her going is that every day on the job is a new challenge.

"I feel like I still have something to give," Mrs. Richardson said, admitting in her own humorous way that she never expected to be acting president and shying away from a higher position. "I certainly have no aspiration of moving to Atlanta to be commissioner."

She maintains close communications with Mr. Elam, and doesn't expect any major changes at Augusta Tech during his time away.

Despite any rumors to the contrary, he will return to the college in a few months, she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.