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A woman with sights set high in the mountains

POSTED: October 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Cathy Cox wanted to be governor, but ended up as president.

Cox, 51, was inaugurated July 25 as the 21st president of Young Harris College. I was invited and went.

If you haven't been to a college presidential inauguration, there is a lot of pomp and circumstance and a good number of academic types in big robes. Nobody said anything in Latin, or anything like that, but it was pretty impressive.

Cathy Cox and I have been friends for many years. She and my late brother, Dixon, were classmates at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton. She holds an associate degree in horticulture from that fine institution. She went on to the University of Georgia where she earned a degree in journalism. She also holds a law degree from Mercer University.

She cut her journalistic teeth right here at The Times.

Cathy Cox grew up in Bainbridge, which is about as far south as you can go in Georgia without being in Florida. She now works in Young Harris, which is about as far north as you can go without being in North Carolina. Geographically, she has reached the top.

In her inaugural address, one of the things she said she doesn't miss from South Georgia is gnats. If you've ever lived below the gnat line, which cuts roughly across the midsection of the state, you understand what she's talking about.

The thing I found interesting is Cathy Cox has been president of Young Harris College since June 2007 and they just had her inauguration this month.

"I can't say that I've found the exact historical answer to that question, other than in the academic world, they give you a year to get your feet on the ground, to get to know the institution, to shape a vision for the college, and otherwise to see if you're going to fit in," said Cox in her prepared remarks. "And you know, I began thinking that perhaps the political world should try it this way - give our governors and presidents a year to see if they ‘fit' before we inaugurate them. And maybe we wouldn't be stuck with some of them for four full years if they didn't."

In her first year, Cathy Cox has indeed shaped a vision for Young Harris. The college is well on its way to become a four-year college and they have broken ground for additional campus housing.

To hear her tell about the future of Young Harris was exciting. They plan to start the fall of 2009 with four bachelor's degree programs in biology, business and public policy, English and music. They've hired new faculty with plans to hire more.

She has a faculty member who is a former governor and U.S. senator. You may have heard of Zell Miller, who doubles as a trustee and an unabashed cheerleader for the college.

The trustees represent a well established group of great leaders from around the state and I sense that they have embraced the vision set forth by their president.

I asked her after the ceremony if she had found her calling. Her eyes seemed to twinkle as she said yes.

Cathy Cox is smart and articulate and certainly had all the credentials one needed to be governor, but I'm glad she decided to become president.

I'm honored to call her my friend.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Sundays and only in the print edition on Wednesdays.



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