Investiture Remarks

Socrates was a great man.

Socrates gave very long speeches.

Socrates was poisoned by his friends!

I promise you today that I will keep “the lesson of Socrates” in mind and not bore you to the point where I fear for my life! I will therefore attempt to keep my remarks short!

EXPRESSIONS OF GRATITUDE

I have so many of you to thank for putting me in this position to start off with, and for being here to celebrate the beginning of my tenure as President of this great university.

First, please allow me to thank the Inauguration and Investiture committee, co-chaired by Gretchen Caughman and Russell Keen. So many others served on this committee from across the campus and community and I cannot thank you enough.

Governor Deal, thank you so very much for honoring us with your presence. We at Augusta University are especially thankful for what you have done in support of our mission to educate and train the future workforce and leaders of Georgia and beyond.

Your support of higher education in general, and Augusta University specifically, has been nothing short of strong and steadfast, and we look forward to many more years of such support.

Let me also recognize and express our deep appreciation for the First Lady of the great State of Georgia, Ms. Sandra Deal. Thank for all you do, especially for your commitment to stimulating a passion for reading in our elementary schools. First Lady Deal, would you please stand and let us thank you.

To the members of the General Assembly, thank you also for your unwavering support of our mission and our university. We are proud of the way you have represented us.

Chancellor Huckaby, I have come to appreciate your steady hand and firm commitment to the true mission of the University System of Georgia; that is, creating a more educated Georgia. It is a pleasure to work with you towards this goal, and an honor to have you here today.

Chairman Stelling, my High School classmate, and the other Regents and representatives from the University System of Georgia, thank you as well for your commitment towards this admirable goal. I greatly appreciate your dedication and hard work.

To my good friend and colleague, President Jere Morehead thank you for being here representing the President’s, and thank you for your remarks.

I am extremely grateful for the wonderful collaborations we have through our medical partnership campus in Athens, and I look forward to working with you towards even more such collaborations between our two institutions.

I have been so impressed with the collegiality of all the President’s in the University System of Georgia. Although we often compete for resources and for the very best students, you all have been extremely supportive of me during my time in the System, and I sincerely thank you.

I want to thank the senior leadership of Augusta University: Provost Gretchen Caughman and the Vice Presidents, Deans, Department Chairs, and Directors.

Thank you for exhibiting the courage of leadership, especially in difficult times.

Thank you to the faculty, ably represented by Professor Ferguson. Thank you for your remarks.

Let me also thank Carl Purdy, an Instructor in our Music Department and our Bagpiper for today’s festivities. You gotta admit….bagpipes make for a heck of an entrance!!

Our faculty represent the very heart and soul of this University. You are on the front line in our mission of educating the sons and daughters of Georgia and beyond, and on the cutting edge of discovery, innovation, and advanced patient care.

This university’s faculty have always played an extremely important role in the development of our students, and I want to pay a special tribute to two of our faculty for the impact you have made in my life personally, and professionally.

Dr. John Black was a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Augusta College when I first enrolled in 1974. I am not quite sure what he saw in very young and very naive college student, but he took me under his wing none the less. He was not only my teacher, but he was my mentor. He ignited the spark of discovery in me, introduced me to research as an undergraduate, and recommended graduate training in Endocrinology.

Dr. Black set me on the road that would eventually lead me back to Augusta, to this very day. I would not be here without you taking an interest in me at such an early age.

Dr. Tom Abney was a professor in the Department of Endocrinology when I was accepted into graduate school at MCG in 1978. I knew from my first introduction that Dr. Abney’s lab was where I wanted to do my doctoral work, and begin my career in research. Together, out of the research we performed during my tenure as a graduate student, Dr. Abney and I co-authored 9 peer reviewed research articles, 9 abstracts, 4 book chapters and we co-edited a book on the cryptorchid testis.

I’d say we had a pretty productive time together!

Tom Abney took that inquisitive spark given to me by John Black and turned it into a roaring fire! But the thing I am most grateful for is that Dr. Abney taught me that science and research can be fun, and you often learn more from the failed experiments than you do from successes.

These two professors, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate, are the epitome of what this great university is all about. It is not just about teaching students, although that is certainly important. Rather, it is more about mentoring, shaping, and developing independent thinkers, creative doers, and successful members of society.

Dr. Black and Dr. Abney, would you please stand and be recognized for the exemplary role you have played in this University.

To our staff, represented by Lillian Jackson today, thank you for what you do. Let me also say a special thank you to one of our staff members, Eunice Byrd, who sang our National Anthem. The staff here at Augusta University are talented in so many ways, and you are the unsung heroes of this university.

And to our students, all of you, represented by Amma Sarfo and Evan Monson, thank you for choosing Augusta University for your education. We should always remember that you, after all, are what this university is all about!

To our many alumni, represented by Mei Lucas, we thank you for the continued support of your alma mater. We have with us today a special group of alumni representing the Department of Endocrinology where I received my Ph.D.

This department was so ably led by Dr. Virendra Mahesh for more than 25 years. Dr. Mahesh is also here with us today. Dr. Mahesh, would you and the alumni and faculty of this department that are hear today please stand and let us all recognize your many accomplishments.

To Mayor Davis, and the entire community of Augusta thank you for your continued support. I have said many times that our university can never be as great as it should be without the support of our community.

And I also believe that Augusta cannot live up to its full potential without a successful and collaborative university. Our mutual successes are inextricably linked, and I look forward to a long and prosperous future working with you.

I am a native of this great community, and an alumnus of this university, and I am indeed thrilled to be back home!
This is home, and I am blessed to have so many of my family here in this community, and present here today for this celebration.

My oldest brother Grice and his wife Gayle live in North Augusta and are here today. Along with them is their daughter Amy and her husband Ted Shultz and their daughter Samantha (who has just been accepted as a freshman at Georgia Southern).

Some of you may know Amy who is currently an administrator in our Department of Emergency Medicine. Many of you may also remember her mother Gayle, who has only recently retired from our IT department. Grice and Gayle’s other daughter Dr. Cheryl Eidell and her husband Kevin Eidell are also here.

Some of our students in attendance may recognize Dr. Eidell who is an instructor in our Chemistry Department.

My older brother David and his wife Nancy live in Martinez and are here today, and I am especially honored to have my brother lead our invocation today. David is a 1975 graduate of Augusta University! He and Nancy have three daughters and 5 grandchildren spread across Georgia and Florida.

People are remembered for many accomplishments in their lives, and for many things. I sincerely hope that when my time on this earth is complete, that I will be remembered most for bringing two individuals into this world: my son Preston and my daughter Sara.

Sara is here today with her partner Thomas Berg and their daughter, and our first grandchild, Penelope Rose. Sara, who currently lives in Philadelphia, is a graduate of SCAD and a successful fashion designer for Anthropologie.

Preston is closer to home….actually very close to home, and lives in Augusta. He is currently a pharmacy tech at AU Medical Center and is going back to school to complete a degree in computer science and cybersecurity at Augusta University.

Sara and Preston, the thing I am most proud of in this world is being your father. I love you both very much, and I hope I make you proud as well!

So, as you can see, my roots grow deep here, and I have many family members here in Augusta, and at Augusta University. This is truly a homecoming for me. Being here and seeing that this university thrives is not only a professional obligation for me. It’s personal.

Finally, there is one more individual that I most want to single out. There is an old saying that behind every successful man there stands a woman!

Now, for me, that is not the case….let me repeat that….for me, That is NOT the case!

You see, I am so very fortunate that, instead of having a woman standing behind me, I have a partner, a spouse, a colleague, a collaborator, a sweetheart, and my best friend who stands BESIDE me.

Sometimes she is leaning forward pulling, sometimes leaning backwards pushing, but she is always beside me, supporting. Tammie, I love you more than you will ever know, and I am so grateful to have you by my side and in my life.

Tammie is an accomplished researcher and scholar in her own right, and I cannot think of a more wonderful representative of this university!

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in recognizing the First Lady of Augusta University, Dr. Tammie Schalue!

THE THREE LEGGED STOOL

I opened my remarks today with a reference to Socrates as a reminder for me to be brief. However, while I am still on this Socratic theme, I think it is also appropriate to mention that, according to the writings of Plato, Socrates’ last words were to his old friend Crito:

As Socrates was succumbing to the poisonous effects of the hemlock, given to him by his friends I remind you, he laid down and said these final words:

“Crito, we ought to offer a rooster [as sacrifice] to Aesculapius. See to it, and don’t forget”

There has been much debate on the exact meaning behind this final utterance of Socrates, and his admonishment of Crito to not forget his final wishes.

The many scholars in attendance today, however, will instantly recognize the name Aesculapius (and Chancellor, before you ask, yes I had to Google it!).

Aesculapius is the Greek God of Medicine and Healing, and the rod of Aesculapius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a widely recognized symbol of medicine today.

So as I begin my formal remarks, I hope you will allow me to metaphorically paraphrase the final words of Socrates and say:

“Augusta University, let us continue to dedicate ourselves to Aesculapius. See to it, and don’t forget.”

In 1828 this university was founded on the principles represented in the mythology of Aesculapius, and for 188 years, this university has dedicated itself to these principles.

The Medical College of Georgia, the State’s only public medical school, is the 13th oldest, and the 9th largest medical school in the country.

We have branch medical campuses in Savannah, Brunswick, Albany and Rome, and a partnership medical campus in Athens, and we have more than 600 clinical training sites across the state.

The entire State of Georgia is indeed our campus.

The Dental College of Georgia is the only dental school in the state.

We have world class nursing and allied health programs.

Our graduate program is producing the next generation of biomedical scientists who will unlock the mysteries of the physiological, biochemical, molecular, pharmacological, and epidemiological basis of disease.

Our AU Health System consists of the 478-bed AU Medical Center adult hospital, the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and the AU Medical Associates, consisting of more than 450 physicians at more than 80 outpatient practice sites in one setting.

We are responsible for providing health care for the correctional system of Georgia, and we are now in charge of running the Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehab Hospital.

So the Aesculapian principles of medicine and health care run deep in our veins, and are a significant part of our history, and our culture, as well as our unique mission.

However, something wonderful happened in 2012 that forever changed the role, scope and mission of this University, and did so in a very positive way.

In its wisdom and great courage (and I mean that sincerely), the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia Consolidated this storied academic health center with

Augusta State University, a four year, primarily undergraduate campus with a long and distinguished liberal arts history of its own.

From this conjoining, the State’s fourth comprehensive research university was born.

Like all comprehensive research intensive universities, our primary mission rests upon a three legged stool of service, education and research. However, because we are the states only public academic health center, this tripartite mission carries with it unique responsibilities and unprecedented opportunities.

SERVICE

The first leg of this symbolic stool is Service.

Clearly we have a responsibility to provide outstanding, state-of-the-art clinical care to the Augusta Area, and we are doing that exceptionally well. But our clinical service responsibility goes well beyond the CSRA.

We have an obligation to help meet the entire State of Georgia’s comprehensive mandated health care needs.

We need to harness the clinical, public health, and research expertise we have to design solutions to the hard things the State is facing.

We should be known nationally as leaders in the delivery of healthcare to the correctional system, both adult and juvenile.

We need to help stabilize rural hospitals, not to bail them out, but help stand them up.

We need to find creative ways to ensure that all Georgians have access to quality medical and dental care regardless of whether they live in the city or on the farm.

Service is our responsibility, and one that we take very seriously.

EDUCATION

The second leg of this tripartite stool is education.

For many decades, we have helped train the next generation of scientists, doctors, dentists, nurses and health care professionals in the State.

But the consolidation of the medical school with a comprehensive undergraduate campus brings with it new challenges and responsibilities, along with limitless opportunities.

We now have an obligation to focus on the management of undergraduate enrollment and the unique needs that an undergraduate population of students brings.

In case you haven’t noticed, competition for undergraduate students today is tough!

We have to be creative if we are to be successful in encouraging these bright young people from across the country and indeed the world to enroll in Augusta University, especially when they have so many excellent educational opportunities elsewhere.

We have to make this a destination campus if we are to be successful.

We are already well on our way to making Augusta University a destination place.

Our plans to move the College of Science and Mathematics to the Health Sciences Campus will put our undergraduate STEM majors right in the middle of all the White Coats, allowing us to implement new and creative undergraduate research opportunities, internships, and clinical experiences for these young undergraduates.

This “clinical experiential learning” will greatly enhance the undergraduate experience of these STEM majors, making them much more competitive when it comes time to apply for graduate and professional clinical and biomedical programs.

It won’t take long for the word to get out that if you want a career in the STEM area, Augusta University is the best place to get your undergraduate education, and to give you a competitive edge upon graduation.

Another tremendous opportunity for us to become a destination campus is in the area of Cyber Security.

With the Cyber Command coming to Ft. Gordon, the City of Augusta and Augusta University have the chance, together, to become the next “Silicon Valley” for Cyber Security education, training and for research.

Like healthcare, we need to establish ourselves as the destination place for “all things cyber”.

As we strive to become a destination campus, we must also take on a responsibility of improving the economic development of our community and help Augusta become a destination city.

This we can do, not only by providing the education and training of the workforce for business and industry in the city, but perhaps more importantly, by serving as a magnet to bring additional business and industry to our area.

We are indeed on a two way street with our community. As Augusta grows in prosperity, so does Augusta University, and vice versa.

One final thing I’ll mention regarding the unique education mission of our consolidated university.

While we are certainly committed to raising our admission standards to be more reminiscent of the State’s other research universities, we cannot forget the rich history of educational access that this university has played in our community for decades.

We are certainly no longer a “Community College”, but we are still the “Community’s College”; and we have now become the Community’s University.

I am living proof of the important role this university has played in providing the sons and daughters of this community with an opportunity to receive a quality education.

I am therefore committed to ensuring that the people of the CSRA continue to view this institution as their University.

RESEARCH

The third leg of this metaphorical stool upon which we rest is Research.

We have already established a reputation of great strengths in at least three main areas of biomedical research: cancer, cardiometabolic disease and neuroscience including stroke.

We are also expanding into emerging research areas like regenerative and reparative medicine, personalized and genomic medicine and public and preventive health.

These are heady and important areas of research, especially considering that they address many of the health disparities currently impacting Georgians.

But we have much work to do before we achieve the full research potential worthy of the State’s only public academic health center.

We have as a goal to become one of the Top 50 medical schools in the country.

Currently, our neighboring states of Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida all have public medical schools in the Top 50: Georgia does not.

Getting into this elite group will take very heavy lifting, but it is a goal we must strive to achieve. It will be the tide that raises all research and creative boats across the entire campus pf Augusta University.

If we are to achieve our goal of breaking into the Top 50 medical schools, achieving NCI designation as a National Cancer Center is imperative, and we are well on our way of getting there.

Excelling in service, teaching and research is what comprehensive research universities do.

We must not lose sight of the unique position of responsibility we have as the states only public academic health center, and we must continue to strive to become one the country’s leading institutions.

4 YEARS OLD, 188 YEAR HISTORY, A BLANK SLATE

I often remind myself that while we were technically created in 1828, Augusta University is really less than four years old, and we are still in the process of charting our future as a consolidated, comprehensive, research intensive university.

We are truly a four year old university with a 188 year history. Think about that for a moment….how many other universities can say that?

We can no longer consider ourselves just a medical school, or a dental school. We are no longer an access institution or commuter school.

We are no longer a nursing school, or an allied health school.

We are no longer a small liberal arts undergraduate school, nor is our focus purely on the graduate and professional degrees.

And we can no longer see ourselves as simply a heath care provider.

We are not MCG, or Georgia Health Sciences University, or Augusta College, or Augusta State University, or Georgia Regents University.

We are now in fact an amalgamation of all of these parts, a unification of these distinctive, separate missions into one unique endeavor we now call Augusta University.

The various maces you see before you on this stage are a reminder that we are indeed the sum of many parts.

Exactly how we assemble all these parts is really up to us.

This merger has provided us all with an incredibly unique opportunity to create something very new, very creative, and very distinctive. We….you and I…. both individually and collectively, have the power to shape this university into whatever we desire.

We can decide for ourselves what this new University will look like, and perhaps more importantly, what it will NOT become.

We are a brand, spanking new university, and our future is a blank slate. In other words, we have the unique opportunity to build a new and improved three legged stool.

The merger of a mostly graduate, health-centric, research intensive academic health center with a predominately undergraduate, liberal arts university, offers us the opportunity to look at research, creativity, discovery, clinical care, and education in new and unprecedented ways.

Our outstanding faculty are already seeking ways to take advantage of this collaboration.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what this incredible group of scholars will come up with next!!

So, ladies and gentlemen, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

We are a four year old university with an 188 year history.

We are Georgia’s only public academic health center, and one of only four comprehensive research universities in the State.

We are research intensive, and we are student focused.

We are Augusta University.

We are Jaguar Nation.

This is your university, this is our university, this is my university, and I am indeed humbled and honored to be your president.

I look forward to working alongside each of you, as we unleash this Power of You and together create our future.

Thank you very much……and GO JAGS!!!