Georgia Gwinnett College students, faculty, staff and members of the Gwinnett community gathered today to celebrate another first for the young college – the naming of one of its buildings. More importantly, the naming honored the college’s charter president, Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman.
“It’s not every day that a college is able to name a building after its founding president,” said Dr. Stas Preczewski, GGC president. “And it is certainly rare that this is done during that person’s lifetime. Today, Dr. Kaufman and his family experienced the significance of the honor and the appreciation of the entire GGC community.”
Earlier this year, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the naming of Georgia Gwinnett College’s library in honor of Kaufman’s outstanding and distinguished service. Today’s event officially dedicated the building as the Daniel J. Kaufman Library & Learning Center.
Speaking on behalf of the University System of Georgia (USG), Chancellor Hank Huckaby remarked that he had left his prepared remarks in his car, on purpose.
“It’s easy to talk about Dan Kaufman,” he said. He reminded the audience of the Gwinnett community’s vision for a four-year college in the county, and the USG’s responsibility for hiring college presidents. “That vision would have meant nothing if we had not selected the right person to implement that vision … we hit a grand slam home run,” he said, in reference to hiring Kaufman.
“GGC’s model is outstanding. I wish we could replicate it in other parts of this country,” he said. Referring to the library as the “heart and soul” of the institution, Huckaby said Kaufman “deserves this honor from every perspective.”
Gene Ruffin, dean of Library Services, recounted the library’s beginnings and Kaufman’s support.
“He realized that the new college needed an intellectual center,” Ruffin said. “It needed an academic commons. It needed a heart.”
In his response, Kaufman shared several stories, many humorous, of the college’s earlier days. He expressed appreciation for GGC’s charter cabinet members and the community’s supportive leaders, and thanked Chancellor Huckaby for his devoted public service to the college, the state and the nation.
“What an honor. I cannot tell you what this means to me and my family,” Kaufman said. “I have received numerous awards in my professional life, but there is nothing I will treasure more.”
Never one for resting on his laurels, Kaufman looked to the college’s future.
“GGC is just getting started,” Kaufman said. “When it comes to the promise of Georgia Gwinnett College, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
A low, decorative wall newly installed in front of the building bears its new name. Kaufman’s official presidential portrait will hang in the library’s Quiet Reading Room. Indoor signage above the main entrance will remind generations of students of Kaufman’s signature message of confident encouragement, “Go be great!”
At a pre-event, private reception for Kaufman’s family and closest associates, Dariush Aziz, recipient of the college’s first diploma at its inaugural commencement ceremony in 2008, reflected on that day’s history-making handshake with Kaufman, and how he would again shake Kaufman’s hand for this historic day. He also referenced the Thomas Scott quote – “A man cannot leave a better legacy to the world than a well-educated family.”
“Dr. Kaufman, from your GGC family, thank you for believing in the institution and in us. Your legacy continues each and every day. Thank you,” Aziz said.
Kaufman became president of the then-unnamed college in 2005, and quickly organized a leadership team charged with opening the institution one year later. In August of 2006, GGC welcomed 118 students. Over the next several years, the college experienced dramatic growth, and today enrolls more than 12,000.
More importantly, Kaufman and his team established the college as a new, game-changing model for higher education. It was literally built from the ground up to support student success, regardless of the level of academic preparation, learning style, work schedule or financial barrier.
With a game-changing commitment to student engagement and mentorship, GGC has achieved student retention rates on par with state universities. About half of its graduates are the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. GGC has been noted three times as the most ethnically diverse Southern regional college by U.S. News & World Report magazine, which has twice noted GGC for its affordability.
“Dr. Kaufman’s vision of higher education evolved into GGC’s groundbreaking model,” said Preczewski. “Due to his leadership and commitment to our students, it is undeniable that our community, our state, and beyond, are forever changed because of what he has accomplished here.”
In talking about the opportunity to build Georgia Gwinnett College from scratch, Kaufman has often said, “If we are lucky in life we get to be part of something extraordinary.”
Referring to Kaufman’s well-known comment, Preczewski said, “I think most of us here would also say that ‘If we are lucky in life we get to work with an extraordinary leader.’ And we have all been very, very fortunate. Thank you, sir.”