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College VP dies of heart attack

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Lonnie Harvel, a charter cabinet officer at Georgia Gwinnett College, died Thursday from a heart attack, school officials said Friday.

The 47-year-old was the vice president of educational technology and an associate professor at the state college, which opened in 2006 in Lawrenceville. A 30-year veteran of the University System of Georgia, Harvel received his Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech in 2005.

"Lonnie was a visionary leader," GGC President Daniel Kaufman said. "He was passionate about using technology, the language of the 21st century, to help students learn. He was a dear friend and mentor to many, and a unique and wonderful blend of heart, faith, technology and the arts."

One of the college's original four cabinet members, Harvel directed the operations of centralized computing services and support, networking, telecommunications, desktop computing, and academic, classroom and online technologies for the new institution. He also played a major role in the formulation and implementation of programs essential to the innovative mission of the college, officials said.

"Lonnie's view of using technology to support active learning was a foundational facet of GGC's educational philosophy," Kaufman said. "He didn't believe in using a new technology just because it was new, or just because others might be using it. Lonnie believed in using technologies that enhance the educational experience, which is what this college is all about.

"GGC is Lonnie's legacy."

Although his career centered on technology, Harvel also had an interest in theatrical arts. He was a driving force in the partnership between Georgia Gwinnett College and Lawrenceville's Aurora Theatre.

Anthony Rodriguez, the Aurora's artistic director and Harvel's college roommate at the University of Georgia, said he first knew Harvel as an actor. Sometime during college, Rodriguez said, Harvel decided to become a "computer genius."

"He was truly a renaissance kind of guy," Rodriguez said. "He was adept at computer things and could also discuss medieval foods ... and beverages without breaking stride."

Harvel was also a dedicated educator who wanted to bring students a variety of culture, Rodriguez said.

"He helped to make the partnership with Georgia Gwinnett College and the Aurora what it is today," Rodriguez said. That includes the GGC Lab Series and the main stage sponsorship. "He was incredibly supportive and helpful in helping craft all of that and making sure the partnership was a strong one."

The college is planning a memorial service for Harvel, but details were not available as of press time Friday.