Take 5 — President Michael F. Adams on his legacy at UGA


Q: Take us back to June of 1997, when you were named president of UGA. What do you remember about that time?

A: What I remember most about the spring of 1997 is two things. First was the opportunity that I could see for the University of Georgia, which I thought at the time was in the very early days of what would be a substantial rise in American academia. Second, I remember the pride of my late parents and my two sons, who stood behind me on the steps of the Chapel. It was especially true of my mom and dad, longtime Georgia residents, who were excited about the role I was undertaking.

Q: Early in your tenure, you laid out a bold vision for UGA—that “the people of Georgia deserve a flagship university every bit as good as the people of North Carolina or Virginia or Michigan or California.” Where did that idea come from? How close is UGA to that goal today?

A: That idea was mine alone and is what I really came here to do. UGA is now on every top 20 list and has come very, very close to the quality of those flagships regularly mentioned as the best in the country.

Q: What makes you the most proud about your time as president?

A: It is the people I have been able to attract to the institution. I have said it and said it and said it—it comes down to people and filling every vacancy with a person of higher quality. We truly have some of the best faculty, staff and students in the country here. I am glad to have played a role in attracting some of them here and proud that I have graduated almost half of UGA’s living alumni.

Q: You have been an advocate for the quality of the physical environment. Why is that important to you?

A: I simply believe that the best institutions in the country look like the best. Attention to detail, the quality of the physical plant and the condition of campus are often mentioned by enrollees as the second most important factor, after academics, in their decision to come here.

Q: What will life be like for you and Mrs. Adams after June 30?

A: Life for us will happily have a slower pace. I earned my doctorate 40 years ago at the age of 24 and have gotten up every day since then with a folder containing a full schedule, reading material and correspondence. Most of that time has been in academia, with two stints in government. I believe this year off afforded me by the Board of Regents will give us a much-needed opportunity to think about our future, spend more time with our children and grandchildren and analyze what we have been a part of here, what we could have done better and in what we can take legitimate pride. The future is bright both for us and for the University of Georgia, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it going forward.

Brooks Mall is one of many green spaces created on campus during Adams’ tenure as president.