Community Connection: Daniel Kaufman
GGC president comes from military background

Before Daniel Kaufman became president of Georgia Gwinnett College, he was the chief academic officer at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The former brigadier general also graduated from that school in 1968. Kaufman has taught courses in international relations, comparative politics, national security affairs, U.S. foreign policy, and American politics and government.

In this edition of Community Connection, Kaufman talks with staff writer Heather Darenberg about how his military background helped prepare him for his current career and the things he enjoys doing in his spare time - even if he has no talent for them.

HD: You've got (about) a month before the first freshmen arrive on campus. What are you most excited about?

DK: I think it's always great to see the dream come true. We've got our first freshman class arriving in August, but also we've got 80 new faculty members who are now arriving at the college and getting settled and getting ready to start teaching. It's the combination of the sense of energy of the new faculty and the sense of anticipation of the arrival of new freshmen. ... It's fun. It's exciting.

HD: How has your military background prepared you for what you do now? (Kaufman's military service includes tours with cavalry and armor units in the United States and Vietnam.)

DK: Higher education and, actually, military service aren't all that different in some respects. First, it's self service. You really are serving the institution and the students and the community. Second, both higher education and military services have to do with uncertainty - that is, in preparing people to cope with the unknown and what they don't know with uncertainty in the future. We are preparing young people for positions of responsibility, not just as members of the work force, but as leaders 10, 20, 30 years from now in a world that we can't predict.

HD: You received two Purple Hearts when you were serving in Vietnam. Can you tell me how you were injured?

DK: I was shot once and blown up once. I zagged once when I should have zagged twice. It's a reality of combat that people are killed and injured.

HD: If you were coming to class at Georgia Gwinnett this fall, what class would you be excited to take?

DK: Well, I've always been a history buff, so I like history. And of course, I'm a political scientist by education (Kaufman has a doctorate in philosophy in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), so I confess my bias for political science. ... I think because we are educating not just citizens of Gwinnett County or Georgia or the United States but, really, globally-educated, globally-aware citizens, I think it's the opportunity to learn about the world around us and how this community, this state, this nation fits into that global community (that excites me the most).

HD: What were some of your favorite memories from when you went to college?

DK: I went to West Point. I didn't have any fun in college.

HD: (laughs) No fun?

DK: Graduating was my favorite memory of college. (laughs)

HD: So what's your favorite time of the academic year?

DK: The first week of class, the coming together of all of these various parts we've talked about is always exciting. But because, while we don't have any graduates yet, we do have people who are completing a year of academic work. They're excited about what they've learned. They're looking forward to coming back. ... So really, the beginning and the end of the academic years are particularly exciting.

HD: When you aren't here working as the president of this college, what are you doing? What are some of your favorite activities in your spare time?

DK: Well, I'm a golfer of no talent and great enthusiasm, so I do like to play golf. I have a 2-year-old granddaughter (Emma) who takes up as much time as we can get with her. She lives up in Greenville, so we either go there or she comes down to visit us at every opportunity. ... Our son and his new wife live over in Charlotte, and we either go see them or they come to see us. ... We (Kaufman and wife Kathryn) still have family down in Brunswick, in south Georgia. My mother-in-law turned 101 this month, so we go down there quite frequently to see her. Family is an important part of our life, but to relax, I play golf or I'm a runner of, again, no talent, but it's a great way to stay in shape and relieve mental stress.

HD: Do you ever go see any golf tournaments or anything in the area?

DK: Of course, we happen to live in the Sugarloaf Country Club, where they play the AT&T Classic now. It's one of the great opportunities is to literally walk out the front door and sort of be there for that tournament. We also got to go see the master's this year, over in Augusta. So, yeah, we do try to take advantage.

HD: What's your favorite book?

DK: "Gone with the Wind." I read it as an adolescent, and it was grand in scale in describing the collapse of a civilization. ... It was grand and awe-inspiring and fun to read. It encouraged me to read lots of other things.

HD: What advice has helped guide you in your career?

DK: There are two principles by which I've always tried to work. One is hire people that are smarter than you, and then get out of the way. The other is be kind. ... Treat everyone with respect. You'll be amazed at how people respond to that kind of treatment.

HD: What advice do you have for the incoming freshmen?

DK: Time management (is important). Learn to be a good user of your time. Just because you're not in class doesn't mean you don't have things to do. Using time wisely, I think, will be my emphasis to the college class.