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'Out to Lunch' with ... Stanley "Stas" Preczewski

Stanley "Stas" Preczewski

Stanley "Stas" Preczewski

WHAT WE ATE

IHOP

Coffee, $1.99

Country omelette, $8.99

Western Melt Sandwich with a side of fruit, $7.99

Editors note: "Out To Lunch" is a periodic feature that allows readers a chance to learn about the people behind the titles in Gwinnett County through a lunchtime conversation with a member of the GDP staff. The subject picks the place, we pick up the tab and then share the conversations that occur during the meal. (In "Stas" Preczewski's case, however, he wouldn't let us pick up the tab. But he did thank us for the offer).

Much of what Stanley "Stas" Preczewski learned about the working world he gleaned from his time as a coach at Cornell University.

While overseeing the New York institution's lightweight rowing division decades ago he observed that, much like a solid vision for a unified workforce, "everybody has oars in the water at the same time, going the same direction toward the same goal," said Preczewski as a waitress arrived at the table.

He thanked the woman as she placed a Western Melt sandwich with a side of fruit at the table before him. He sat down on a recent afternoon at IHOP to talk about his position as interim president at Georgia Gwinnett College. He also answered some questions that offered a glimpse at what makes the 54-year-old retired Army colonel tick.

He's the father of three: Kristen, 29, Michael, 28 and David, 27 (each of whom hold the rank of captain in the U.S. Army). He and wife, Jean, met 42 years ago, and they have been married for more than 30 years.

While they've moved from home to home 19 times in their time together, Stas said that no matter where they live "(Jean) makes a home out of it."

The couple has lived here for seven years now (the longest they've lived anywhere together), and Preczewski said he's glad he decided to take the post as vice president for academic and student affairs at GGC.

He got a call from then-president Daniel Kaufman in 2006, asking if he would come take the position.

"(Kaufman) invited me, and I initially turned him down until he really described the vision he had," Stas said. "He told me, 'It's about service. After serving your nation for so long, why would you stop now?'"

Kaufman also knew the man was well qualified prior to extending him the offer.

He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering at Cornell in 1980 and concurrently received his Army officer commission. His other degrees include a master's degree in engineering form the University of Massachusetts, a master's in National Security Strategy and planning from the United States Naval War College and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Missouri.

While a tenured member of the department of behavioral sciences and leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point, he served as the vice dean for resources and taught strategic planning as a fellow at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I.

His military schooling included the field artillery cannon course, the infantry advanced course, command and general staff college and the naval war college.

Preczewski also commanded two artillery units with the 2nd and 1st infantry divisions. His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and Airborne (paratrooper) and Air Assault wings.

While serving at West Point, he worked under Kaufman's leadership. He said the two "complemented each other."

Since Kaufman's retirement earlier this month, Preczewski has held the title of interim president.

The institution, he said, has reached a point where "it is now building on itself. It's got its own momentum. We attract high quality people, and it's now attracting donors, athletes and getting a whole life of its own."

Added Preczewski: "Seven years ago nobody knew what Georgia Gwinnett College was. This past year, 22,000 students put the words 'Georgia Gwinnett College' on their financial aid form for the government."

So what does he do in his spare time, when he's not running the college?

"What's spare time?" Preczewski laughed. "When you're helping build a college the words 'spare time' don't exist for anybody. If I can squeeze in a workout sometimes, that's nice. Get on the elliptical and go mindless for 45 minutes."

He said that spare time back in college meant coaching rowing. It's through his involvement with the sport that he learned some life lessons. Among them:

"Everybody's got to pull with the same rhythm and the same strength, and if you do that you'll cross the goal ahead of opponents."