Fall Convocation looks back at college’s history
Change has always been a part of Georgia Perimeter College’s DNA—and its history.
From its beginnings in 1964 as DeKalb College to name and mission changes in the 1970s and 1986 to the current consolidation process with Georgia State University, the college has been in almost continuous change.
That was the message underscored by both Rob Watts, GPC’s interim president, and Diane Hickey, interim executive vice president for financial and administrative affairs, during the college’s last convocation held Sept. 11. In January, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents is expected to confirm the consolidation, making Georgia Perimeter—or Perimeter College, as it will be called—a unit of Georgia State University.
Georgia State University President Dr. Mark Becker was the keynote speaker at Fall Convocation (see separate story). Members of the Georgia State executive team attending the event also were introduced. Debra Denzer, GPC Faculty Senate president, and Dee Willis, Staff Senate president, served as emcees.
Hickey updated the audience with a report on the college’s enrollment and financial status and also presented “before and after” slides of college campus improvements that have occurred in the past year.
“Enrollment is on the increase after two years of double-digit declines,” she said. “And while I cannot predict the future, I’m proud to say that you’ll find the facilities in the best condition they’ve been in after a number of years.”
It was Watts’ PowerPoint presentation that showed the audience how many changes the institution—and its employees—have been through in the past five decades. Calling it a “different kind of convocation,” Watts reminded the audience how few of them have been around for those changes. “The average length of service at GPC is 8.6 years; the median, 6.2,” he said.
Just 12 current employees—plus Watts—were around in 1986 for the transfer of the college from the DeKalb Board of Education to the USG Board of Regents, he said.
“While the USG ushered in a time of financial stability and growth, it was even more of a dramatic change than the current consolidation,” he said. “The county system and the state system were very different. The BOR did not recognize the tenure structure, and all faculty members lost tenure and had to start from scratch … can you imagine the morale during this change?”
To the delight of the gathering, Watts called out individuals who had been at the college during many of its changes, including the merger—and then uncoupling—of DeKalb College with DeKalb Technical College. “There was one employee who is still here who was here in 1972—Sheila White.”
White stood as the audience applauded her 43 years of service to the college. She currently works in Enrollment and Recruitment Services on Clarkston Campus.
Watts also recognized long-time employee Lynn Ellington, who joined the college in 1979 with the opening of the North (now Dunwoody) Campus. Ellington works at Lakeside in the IT department.
As he presented a final “countdown clock” slide toward consolidation—to uproarious laughter—Watts talked about the college’s mission and emphasized that the chancellor, BOR and President Becker all recognize and support that mission.
“It’s important to note that for 50 years, we have remained the college for students who couldn’t or wouldn’t be in college; we have remained the college where classes are taught when … where … and how students need them. And we’ve been a member of the small group of lowest cost institutions in the USG,” he said. “This is our students’ chance—you are their chance—not to be working in fast food at age 40 with no health insurance and no pension. GPC is their chance, and they are lucky to have you as their chance.”