Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Georgia Gwinnett College founding President Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman, laughs with Chief of Staff Academic and Student Affairs, Melinda Spencer and other facility members during a farewell celebration to honor the service of Kaufman in Lawrenceville Tuesday. Kaufman's last day will be July 1st, before transferring to his new role as president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- On occasion, peers who work outside the Georgia Gwinnett College community will ask Stanley "Stas" Preczewski about his boss, Daniel J. Kaufman.
They've heard positive things about Kaufman, Preczewski said. Most notably: his leadership style.
"They ask, 'Is he really that good?'" said Preczewski, speaking to a crowd of hundreds on Tuesday outside the GGC library. "Unequivocally, yes."
The event was a formal farewell for Kaufman, the college's current and founding president, as he plans to make his departure on July 1. The gathering featured students, teachers and government officials all reminiscing on time spent with the leader.
Kaufman announced publicly his plans to step down in March after accepting the position of president and CEO with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
He addressed the group on Tuesday, saying the upcoming transition has brought "mixed emotions."
"On the one hand, I'm excited about the opportunities for the position at the Chamber of Commerce ... on the other hand, as I look around at what GGC has become, I confess that the thought of leaving is one that I have not yet come to grips with just yet."
Clay Runck, a professor at the institution, said that feelings were mutual among him and his peers regarding Kaufman's departure.
"(Kaufman's) leadership has been the glue that has held this institution together through thick and thin," Runck said.
Chad Miller, chair of the college's alumni board, recalled that Kaufman's leadership has been effective partly because "he has the ability to connect with a person on a one-by-one basis in a room full of people."
Gwinnett County District 4 Commissioner John Heard and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson also spoke kindly of the man.
Kaufman, who was GGC's first and only president, opened the institution on Aug. 18, 2006, with 118 students attending.
It was the nation's first four-year public college founded in the 21st century and the first four-year public college established in Georgia in more than 100 years.
As he addressed the group Tuesday, Kaufman said that his decision to leave had a lot to do with the success of GGC, which he called "a prototype college for the 21st century in the United States."
"It occurred to me that we can do in the Gwinnett community what you are doing here at the college," Kaufman said as faculty, staff and students listened. "We can bring a passionate, talented, dedicated team together to focus on a vision and create something truly special, just as you have."
Added Kaufman: "We can create a prototype community of the United States in the 21st century."
Preczewski, who is vice president for Academics and Student Affairs, will take the helm as interim president. A final recommendation for the president position has not yet been made.
Addressing the crowd, Preczewski said that Kaufman "has brought us to this point in history, and he's done so with passion, fortitude, integrity and a strong determination to succeed."
Turning to Kaufman, he added: "Thank you, sir."