When people write the story of Chuck Knapp as President at UGA, what points do you hope they make? What are the accomplishments you had hoped to be remembered for during your ten years?
Rise in academic reputation. I think if they remember that, then the rest of it is detail. That’s what I was trying to do, and I think we accomplished that, and I think that trajectory continues to this day. I’m very proud of the University. I had a great time. I had ten great years. I left at a period in time where I still had other things to do and I’m still enjoying life, but I’ll always look back at that as kind of a wonderful period and frankly, a period where we set out to do something and got it done.
You served ten years to the day. Was that by design?
I did. No, it was just happenstance. I had begun to think about the…it’s different for different presidents, and I’ve watched a lot of them over the years, and some the period’s shorter and some it’s longer, but for me, in that tenth year we had had a strategic plan. We had reached the objectives in the strategic plan, and I remember in that year calling in one by one, every dean, every vice president, and saying, “All right, what’s our new energy source here? What’s the…we’ve built academic reputation, what do we do next?” And come away from that in my own mind, although there were a lot of good ideas on the table, without a clear sense of what was next. Then the opportunity at the Aspen Institute came up and it just worked out that it was ten years.
So you’ve been out of office now 12. How’ve you spent the 12 years?
Well, I was at the Aspen Institute for a number of years, and then I ran the higher education practice in Heidrick and Struggles for three or four years, I guess. One day, I was having lunch with my friend, Tom Cousins, who was on the search committee. Tom was really the principal recruiter in terms of the person I was talking to the most during the search, and we have maintained a friendship ever since, and I was frankly whining about the amount of travel I was having to do. This was after 9-11 and it just was difficult to get on and off airplanes three times a week and I was going all over the world with Heidrick, which is a huge search firm dealing with university issues, and he said, “Well, why don’t you just come work for our family foundation part time and do our educational programming?” and that sounded like a good deal and it has been. It’s been great. I have morphed from there into chairing the East Lake Foundation and the revitalization efforts in southeast Atlanta, and we are now just now embarking on an effort to try to take what we’ve learned from East Lake to others…that model to other cities across the country. So that’s very exciting. I don’t think I’m retirable really. I’ll probably just fall off the saddle sometime and that’ll be it, but I can’t see myself retiring at least now.
Well, we thank you. I wonder if there’s anything I haven’t asked that you wished I had asked.
We’ve had a good discussion. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m still a Bulldog. I want everybody to know, I’m a Bulldog forever. The last nights over the weekend, I found myself turning on ESPN2 rooting for the women’s softball team in their battle out there in Oklahoma City. We still take great pride, Lynne and I take great pride in the University and all it has accomplished and continues to accomplish, and it was a great period in our lives.
Thank you for your time today.