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Gainesville State honors 2 key men
Dr. J. Foster Watkins comments at Gainesville State College during a ceremony to dedicate buildings to himself and Loyd Strickland on Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Watkins served as the school’s second president from 1983 to 1997.

Gainesville State College on Tuesday commemorated two individuals instrumental in the institution’s upbringing.

Both Loyd Strickland and J. Foster Watkins now have buildings dedicated in their honor on the Oakwood campus.

The Loyd Strickland Academic Building, formerly the Academic II Building, recognizes one of the key players in getting a junior college built in Hall County.

“Loyd was the key person,” Watkins said during the ceremony. “The truth is none of us would be there today without Loyd Strickland.”

Strickland was a member of the Hall County Task Force in the early 1960s that obtained permission for the Board of Regents to build a junior college.

He also was a key player in the development of Interstate 985.

“He loves Hall County and loves to see it grow and prosper,” said Pam Strickland, his wife.

She said the college now “far exceeds” what Strickland ever had in mind.

Watkins, the second president of the college from 1983 to 1997, was honored alongside Strickland.

The J. Foster Watkins Academic Building, formerly the Academic III Building, was built during Watkins’ presidency and houses the Academic, Computing, Tutoring and Testing Center.

“It’s emotional for me to talk about it,” he said. “The best years of my life were spent here, and it’s the people here — there are the best people here. They come to make a difference, not to just go through the motions.”

Watkins also oversaw a collaboration with North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega to offer baccalaureate degrees from North Georgia on Gainesville State’s campus.

By the end of his tenure, the GSC Foundation had built an endowment of $4 million, the largest of any two-year college in the state.

Current President Martha Nesbitt, who retires at the end of the week, said the two men were “very deserving” of the honor.

“These are well deserved honors and important to our history, because in another six months we will not be an independent institution the way we are now. And I think it’s important for the ones who come later to know who really built this college,” she said.

Charles Bell, the staff council chairman and academic adviser at Gainesville State, said he did not personally know Strickland and Watkins, but has learned a lot about the two men over the last few days.

“What I’ve found out over the last two days is that these were great individuals,” Bell said. “These buildings will be represented well.”

Watkins said he believes they will and hopes the future of the campus remains bright.

“This place does it better than any other place I know in the University System (of Georgia), especially in the access opportunities,” he said. “During the merger with North Georgia, this campus is going to be crucial, and I hope it keeps the access opportunity.”