For the past 15 years, Gainesville State College has been under the leadership of one woman.
Now her name will be forever synonymous with the school’s Oakwood campus.
On Wednesday, more than 100 people gathered in the former Academic IV building to help pay tribute to the school’s third president, Martha T. Nesbitt, by dedicating the newest building on campus in her name.
Now, the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building will help house the some 8,900 students who take classes at Gainesville State.
“I am just so thrilled because it was such a surprise when the announcement was made and now to finally see my name on the building, it’s kind of hard to really digest,” said Nesbitt.
Nesbitt, who took over the presidency in 1997, retired this summer.
During her tenure as president, the school’s enrollment grew more than 150 percent and began offering bachelor’s degrees.
“Martha not only served Gainesville State on a phenomenal level, but she served our community in so many ways, like her predecessors did as well,” said Philip Wilheit, member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. “It is obvious Dr. Nesbitt has made higher education a priority in her life.”
The academic building, which opened last fall to students, is 135,000 square feet and cost $37.5 million to build.
The construction of the building took two years, but Nesbitt had pushed for the space for more than five years prior to groundbreaking.
“We’re here today for something that I think Martha is most proud of and that is this wonderful new building,” said Wilheit.
The building includes 24 classrooms, 12 instructional labs, specialty labs for foreign languages and media production, a 48-seat Academic Computing Tutoring and Testing Center, conference rooms and a multipurpose room.
Nesbitt, faculty and staff said, leaves behind a legacy of open access for thousands of students — many of whom are first-generation college students.
“(Nesbitt’s) efforts to help this institution continue to grow while maintaining our access mission has given our faculty many opportunities and a wonderful place to work while allowing us to concentrate on what we love to do: teaching our students,” said Robert M. Guyton, faculty senate chair.
At the beginning of next year, Gainesville State will join North Georgia College & State University to form the University of North Georgia.
Nesbitt helped with the merger before her retirement. J. Randy Pierce is currently serving as the interim president.
But, no matter the name of the institution, Nesbitt’s name will remain on the Oakwood campus building.
“This is, without a doubt, one of the happiest days of my life,” said Nesbitt. “It feels awesome to leave this kind of legacy.”