By Dana Davis
In this issue of Highlander we say goodbye to our beloved president, Randy Pierce, who has been with the college for a decade. Through stormy times he has gently, yet strongly led this institution from one campus with a satellite in Cartersville to a multi-campus college that serves most of northwest Georgia. In that decade he has more than doubled enrollment. He has been the guiding force behind a sector change from two-year college to four-year, limited-mission state college.
Through a tumultuous name change and campus openings, he has maintained his passionate belief in the mission of Georgia Highlands – to serve as an access point to students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to go to college. Randy was a product of a two-year college, and he often says had he not gone there and been exposed to a world he had never imagined, he would not have become the leader he has been for so many years.
For me, however, his leadership skills far exceed his education. One of the qualities that makes him able to steer such a strong-minded group of singular individualists is his ability to accept and accommodate a diverse variety of personalities and temperaments. That in itself is a gift not many of us possess. Randy is inordinately kind and accepting of others. He listens. He mentors. He guides. But he never loses sight of the fact that each of us is different. We all process information differently. We all respond to situations according to our own experiences, environments, insecurities, abilities and values. And he’s fine with that. He inevitably brings out the positives and helps refocus the negatives that can hinder one’s progress as a professional and as a human being. The impact of such influence is immeasurable.
This ability reflects a natural curiosity, a keen empathy and a strong analytical intellect – all qualities educators should both possess and seek. It also demonstrates how astonishingly free of prejudice and judgment he is.
I think he is a natural Quaker – he automatically sees, as Friends say, “that of God” in everyone. Or at least the best, the good, the potential for positive direction. I will miss him terribly. I’ll miss his wit, his passionate, quick flare of anger that never harbors revenge or grudges, his keen ability to view the long-term.
There will be other presidents, even wonderful ones. But I will always remember Randy’s unique legacy of diversity, fairness and intellectual generosity. I wonder if it will ever be replicated here again. For that, and for your steady hand and focused eye, Mr. President, I thank you.