A head for education

Former UGA senior vice president now runs the state’s university system

A head for education

Hank Huckaby

Photo by: SPECIAL

When Hank Huckaby grabbed the helm of the University System of Georgia, he assumed a crucial role in improving the state’s economic outlook.

“We have always had a need for an educated citizenry,” says the chancellor, who began leading the 35-college system in July. “It will be even more critical in the future, and all our schools have a role in helping meet the goal of an educated citizenry.”

Higher education has never been more closely tied to economic development, says Huckaby, citing a Georgetown University study showing more than 60 percent of new jobs will require some college education. In Georgia, only about 40 to 42 percent of adults have some type of college degree, he notes.

With decades of experience in state government, Huckaby is confident he can lead the university system toward bridging that gap, while managing a growing enrollment and lean budgets.

Huckaby (M ’06) has deep ties to Athens and UGA, where he studied for a doctorate in public administration. He later served as director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and then senior vice president for finance and administration. Within a year of moving to Oconee County in 1997, he and his wife, Amy, knew they had found the ideal place to retire.

“We like the people and the amenities,” says Huckaby, who has two grown children and six grandchildren. “It’s difficult to find anything bad to say about the University of Georgia.”

Huckaby shifted into semi-retirement in 2006 after six years overseeing UGA’s finances. He continued working part time as a special assistant to the president at UGA. But semi-retirement didn’t stick.

In 2010, he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly. Just three months into his term, he was tapped to head the university system, replacing Erroll Davis, who retired and now heads Atlanta Public Schools.

Huckaby was chosen as part of a national search that included several college presidents. His experience at UGA and as state budget director under former Gov. Zell Miller gives him insight into areas where the system can run more efficiently, he says.

His supporters, who include Gov. Nathan Deal, believe Huckaby can accomplish another key goal: strengthening communication between the university system and the General Assembly.

Huckaby spent his first three months as chancellor visiting every university, college and research center. “I met with staff who are enthusiastic in the face of budget cuts and students who are committed to their work and pleased with the education they are receiving.”

Yet students across the state expressed concerns with job prospects, he says. Those concerns motivate him to work hard.

“I’m a product of the university system,” says Huckaby, who has an associate’s degree from Young Harris College, where he is now a trustee, as well as a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Georgia State University. “I love a challenge, and I’m committed to it.”

He still plans to retire, for real, in Oconee County. Someday.

—Patti Ghezzi is a freelance writer living in Avondale Estates.