Georgia Highlands College President Dr. Randy Pierce has announced his plans to retire, effective Dec. 31, 2011.
â€śI consider myself extremely fortunate to have served the University System of Georgia and the citizens of this state for almost 40 years,â€ť Pierce said. â€śWhile I look forward to a new chapter of my life, I nevertheless feel a certain sadness at the thought of leaving the wonderful people at Georgia Highlands with whom I have been honored to work. So many committed professionals throughout the University System have made my work rewarding and successful.â€ť
Pierce has served as president of the college since June 2001. During his tenure, enrollment has increased 131 percent, from 2,400 students in fall 2001 to 5,529 in fall 2011. This past May, the Board of Regents approved state college status for Georgia Highlands, which allows it to offer for the first time a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
During Pierceâ€™s presidency, there have been a number of other significant changes, starting with the name. In 2005, the regents approved the change from Floyd College to Georgia Highlands College to reflect more accurately the regional nature of the institution.
Under this new name, Georgia Highlands has extended its presence in Northwest Georgia, and now provides instruction at the founding campus in Floyd County; Heritage Hall in downtown Rome, which houses health sciences; the Cartersville campus; a site in Marietta on the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University; a site in Paulding County, on the square in Dallas; and an instructional site in Douglas on Stewart Parkway in Douglasville.
â€śPresident Pierce has overseen phenomenal growth and development at Georgia Highlands,â€ť said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby. â€śToday, people from all across the region are able to access public higher education in ways and with an ease that did not exist when he took over as president in 2001. His leadership has made a difference for the college.â€ť
Willis Potts, a member and past chair of the Board of Regents and a Floyd County resident, also praised Pierce. â€śHe has been very astute in interfacing with the community as a whole, serving in a variety of committee chairmanships at the Chamber of Commerce and participating actively in civic organizations,â€ť he said.
Potts also cited Pierceâ€™s role in bringing Georgia Health Sciences Universityâ€™s third- and fourth-year medical residents to Rome.
During his presidency, Pierce has worked with institutions in both the USG and the Technical College System of Georgia to facilitate transfer and cooperative degrees, including the collegeâ€™s participation in the Floyd County College and Career Academy, which gives students a headstart in teacher education or a technical skill.
Most recently, Pierce has overseen the introduction of a competitive athletics program. During his tenure, he presided over the acquisition of land in Cartersville for the current campus.Â The first building opened in 2005, immediately doubling enrollment there. That campus now enjoys the largest enrollment of any of Georgia Highlands’ six locations. Pierce also negotiated the donation of land in Dallas and the development of the site in Douglasville.
Pierce also has supported programs such as the annual summer Foundation Camp, which mentors at-risk teenage boys, and the USGâ€™s African-American Male Initiative, which strives to retain and graduate minority male students.Â GHCâ€™s Brother2Brother, a chapter of the national organization by the same name, has surpassed the retention and graduation rates of the college as a whole.
â€śRandy has been a force for change, seizing opportunities in all of our communities where increased college access is both wanted and needed,â€ť said Renva Watterson, vice president for academic affairs. Through his leadership and relationship-building, this college is in an excellent position to boldly grow, thrive and create meaningful change across the region. He has been a stalwart for student success. We will miss him in this mission and in the day-to-day operations of the college he has been so instrumental in advancing.”
Prior to becoming GHCâ€™s president, Pierce was provost of the Lawrenceville campus of Georgia Perimeter College. From 1994 to 1999, he also served as the interim director of the then Gwinnett University System Center, a collaborative effort among Georgia Perimeter College, Gwinnett Technical College, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia.
His professional career in the University System began at Georgia State University, where he worked as a conference coordinator from 1973-1975 and as a program development specialist for the College of Education from 1975-1977.
He then began what was to be a 24-year career at Georgia Perimeter College, starting as the business manager for the Community Campus from 1977-1979, and holding a number of administrative positions at the Collegeâ€™s various campuses, including continuing education coordinator, program director and registrar, before becoming in 1988 the campus administrative dean for the Lawrenceville campus, a post he held until becoming provost.
Pierce has had a number of articles published dealing with the public schools, community colleges and continuing education and has led a number of seminars dealing with developing partnerships between public schools and two- and four-year colleges.
He earned all his higher education degrees from Georgia State University, including a Bachelor of Business Administration, a Master of Education and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational leadership.