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College says farewell to 'consummate leader'

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With vivid detail, Chris Brandon remembers the first time he met Daniel J. Kaufman.

"It was our first faculty meeting (in August 2006), and it was 10 of us in a conference room with Dr. Kaufman," Brandon said. "Kaufman started pacing around the room giving us this ... pep talk, telling us that, you know, the reason we were here was because we were the best of the best and 'You will lead us.' I walked out of there feeling like I was running out of the locker room at a National Football League championship game. I thought to myself: Man, this guy is good."

Brandon, a charter faculty member and professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, said filling Kaufman's shoes will likely be tough. But following Thursday's announcement that the president will soon leave the local learning institution, the search is on for someone new to lead the seven-year-old college into the future.

Kaufman, who was GGC's first and only president, was named Thursday as president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. He plans to start the job officially in July. In the meantime, the local college and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents begin the process of finding a successor.

Board of Regents spokesman John Millsaps said the standard process for finding a college president includes the formation of two separate committees: a campus search committee and a Regents search committee.

The campus search committee is made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. The Regents search committee is composed of two to three board of regents members.

In addition, Millsaps said, an executive search committee will often be hired to assist "in identifying what they're looking for in the next president."

The committees will then work to narrow down the pool of applicants and assess the strengths of those in the running. The Regents committee will then interview remaining applicants and make a recommendation. Upon the committee's recommendation, the Board of Regents will make a final decision.

Regardless of who will lead GGC next, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said Kaufman "was the right choice to lead Georgia Gwinnett College at its founding."

"Under his leadership, the college opened and has lived up to expectations at the state and local level to provide access and to create a new model for higher education in the 21st century. On behalf of the University System, all of us are proud of what has been accomplished in only seven years under his leadership. He will be missed, but we are excited his talents will continue to serve Gwinnett County and the State of Georgia," Huckaby said.

In October 2004, the Board of Regents voted to create a new four-year college in Gwinnett County. Kaufman was hired in 2005 as president of the then-unnamed college, which would inhabit facilities once occupied by the Gwinnett University Center: a consortium of several state institutions.

On Aug. 18, 2006, GGC opened its doors to 118 students. 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. Soon after, it received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and established 12 degree programs with more than 40 concentrations.

Currently, the college has more than 9,000 students and is one of the University System of Georgia's 10 biggest institutions.

During Kaufman's tenure, GGC built a library and learning center, a student center, a parking deck, three student residence halls, a laboratory building and recently broke ground on a $30 million, 91,000-square foot Allied Health and Science building. The college also is in the final stages of construction on an intercollegiate athletics complex.

Kaufman said he was glad to be a part of building "a unique college that has proven that higher education can indeed be transformed, a college that will change lives for many decades to come and a college that will forever enrich our community, state, nation and world."

Stas Preczewski, vice president for academic and student affairs, said Kaufman's "infectious enthusiasm and inspiring dedication to students have been the hallmark of his tenure as president."

Charter faculty member, Brandon, said that Kaufman's decision to leave has left him with a feeling of "concern about our next president. Ever since we've been here, I've been thinking, 'I dread the day when (Kaufman) leaves,' because he is just a consummate leader. He's the reason we've gotten to where we are."

Kaufman file

Before assuming his duties as GGC president, Kaufman was a brigadier general in the U.S. Army, serving as dean of the Academic Board and chief academic officer at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a position from which he retired in June 2005.

Previously, Brigadier General Kaufman served as professor and head of the Department of Social Sciences, and director of International Relations and National Security Studies. A prolific author, his most recent book is "Understanding International Relations."

Kaufman graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1968 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Armor. He also holds a master's of public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a doctorate in philosophy in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Studies Association and the American Political Science Association. Upon retirement from active duty, Kaufman was honored by the British government as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Kaufman's military service includes tours with cavalry and armor units in the United States and Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star for heroism and two Purple Hearts for wounds sustained during combat. He also has served as a member of the National Security Council staff in the White House and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He served as a Special Assistant to three Chiefs of Staff of the Army. He also was a member of the Department of Defense Presidential Transition Team in 1992. Brigadier General Kaufman also was engaged extensively in the development of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, which opened in Kabul in April 2005.

An active member of the Gwinnett community, Kaufman is a member of the boards of directors of the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia, and of the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation. He also serves on the board of trustees of Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville and the Partnership Gwinnett Steering Committee.

Source: Georgia Gwinnett College