Kaufman leaving GGC to head Chamber

Daniel J. Kaufman, President of Georgia Gwinnett College, is interviewed Thursday. Classes begin on Monday at GGC.

Daniel J. Kaufman, President of Georgia Gwinnett College, is interviewed Thursday. Classes begin on Monday at GGC.

DULUTH — If Dan Kaufman can sell a college that didn’t exist, he can sell anything.

The man who built Georgia Gwinnett College from nothing to a campus of nearly 10,000 students in just seven years is switching roles, taking the lead of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber really is the ultimate platform to bring together all the important aspects of our community,” Kaufman said shortly after the organization’s board of directors hired him as president and CEO. He officially takes the $335,000-a-year job July 1.

“When I first thought about would I want to apply for this job, the answer was no because of how important I felt what GGC was doing and it still is, but there are just some things you can’t do from that perspective and that platform that I believe we can do here for the entire community.”

The Brunswick native said he has been “privileged” to have been in positions of leadership since the age of 22, beginning as a platoon leader in the Army. The recipient of a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Kaufman said the presidency of Georgia Gwinnett College was the first job he had longer than two years, after a military career that brought him to the National Security Council in the White House and to serve as the special assistant to three Army Chiefs of Staff. He retired as a brigadier general, serving as the chief academic officer at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

But he said there is little difference in his job building the “campus of tomorrow,” as GGC is termed, to bolstering the “community of tomorrow” he sees in Gwinnett.

“I’m passionate about this. That’s why I made this decision,” Kaufman, 66, said. “I’m convinced that Gwinnett County is not just the future for Georgia but for America’s third century.”

Phil Wolfe, the CEO of Gwinnett Medical Center who is the Chamber’s board chairman, said the group used a search team that scoured the country for a new leader, compiling 250 resumes for the job.

It wasn’t until after four finalists were interviewed that he realized the best person for the job was his friend and neighbor.

“We’ve seen Dan in action during his years of service to our community and we know him to be an outstanding local leader,” Wolfe said, joking later that Kaufman had been interviewing for the job for the past seven years but no one knew it. “We now know unequivocally that he is one the nation’s premier executives who possesses the business acumen and strategic visioning to successfully position this organization for future growth.”

County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who serves on the board, said she was thrilled with the pick.

“I firmly believe that the Chamber Board of Directors has selected the right person to lead the Chamber during the next chapter in Gwinnett’s history,” she said. “He is a dynamic leader with a great set of leadership experiences and skills, and he knows and understands Gwinnett from his time with Georgia Gwinnett College. I look forward to working with Dr. Kaufman in his new role.”

While Kaufman has little private sector experience — a stint as one of the founding directors of a small bank is the only line on his long resume — he said the Chamber of Commerce’s job is more about public service than making a profit.

“My job is to sell people on things. ... My job is to convince (business owners) there are strategic advantages to being here,” he said of the Chamber’s role in economic development. “I started selling a product that didn’t exist,” he said, relating the experience of opening the first brand-new public university in Georgia in more than 100 years. “I’d say we did pretty well.”

Wolfe agreed, saying the success of the college has exceeded expectations.

“We are just as much a public service as the U.S. Army; we just don’t wear uniforms,” he said, adding that Kaufman has proven he has skills at critical thinking. “We thought his past was perfect. ... I think leadership is leadership.”


kevin 2 years, 5 months ago

He sure did sell a can of worms. That is why he is leaving. They are heavy in debt. He wants to be more in the public eye with a bugger salary, paid mostly by Gwinnett BOC. They all keep it in the family. It must be fun spending other people's money all the time.


cibjr1964 2 years, 5 months ago

The say ignorance is bliss, but it can also be pretty ugly at times which is the case here. First off Kevin, it's 'bigger salary', not 'bugger salary'. That being said - a can of worms you say? GGC has grown from 100+ students in 2006 to 9000+ in 2012. GGC first opened with three buildings - A, B and C. Now it has a library, student center, student dormitories, a fitness center, student athletic fields, intercollegiate athletics (men/women’s soccer, men/women's tennis, and baseball), a state of the art athletic complex and Allied Health building - both of which are under construction (not to mention buildings A, B and C). Let's not forget that at GGC’s inception, there were three degree programs and now there are 12 with over 40 different concentrations. Still looking like a can of worms? Now let's talk about 'they are heavy in debt'. Because of the NATIONAL debt, every state in the nation feels the effect. Georgia is one of the few states that cannot sign in a new budget with a negative balance, as such budgetary cuts are necessary across the board every year and education is one of the first to be affected. This is to say that ALL colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia are significantly affected as it pertains to their individual annual budgets. So yes, GGC did not receive all that was requested in the current budget (but no school ever does), and it had more taken away by the state which was not anticipated. To lump these issues into an uninformed ‘they are heavy in debt’ is – as I put – ignorant, which sums up your entire post.


JohninSuwanee 2 years, 5 months ago

I have to wonder if Kaufman is really the right choice here. As the article points out, he has virtually no private sector experience. As the head of the Chamber, he will be trying to sell businesses on the advantages of coming to Gwinnett. We all know that achieving success in the highly competitive world of business is different than achieving success in the bureaucratic world of government, especially the military and education. Pragmatically, it may not make a lot of difference, but it certainly makes a big difference in terms of his credibility to CEOs. I wish him well, but I do have doubts at this point.


Why_not 2 years, 5 months ago

GGC is something to be proud of. Unlike some who comment here, I am fully in favor of higher education and having a four year college here in Gwinnett. And I disagree....we were not sold a "can of worms."


Karl 2 years, 5 months ago

Please disregard all comments by kevin. He always says goofy stuff that makes no sense to anyone, probably not even to himself.


dan 2 years, 5 months ago

Agreed. He's probably some 30-something year old guy that sits around in his parents' basement all day commenting on every article in the GDP.


teddy11 2 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps there is story inside this story? Why does Kaufman give over a 90 day resignation notice and announce is during spring break? Why not wait for faculty and students to come back after spring break and then call a state of the college address and announce it that way? Am I the only one that see something odd here?


Summer2013 2 years, 5 months ago

Recalll the GCC "budget" issue in February 2013? It was odd that the governor--though I support his decision--said the college had to cut its budget by 2.8 million four months before the end of the fiscal year. Would the governor do this without support from the University System? Some suggest that Dr. Kaufman's departure is related to this. Also, Mr. Woolfe comments above that after a nation-wide search and after interviewing four candidates, he realized that the best person for the job was his friend and neightbor, Daniel Kaufman, who apparently did not even apply for the job when it was posted. Too bad Mr. Woolfe didn't realize this sooner before the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce spent money on a national search. It's all very odd though it suggests that Dr. Kaufman may have needed a job ASAP--before his contract expired with the USG July 1.


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