The leader of Georgia’s university system announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the year, closing a term of more than five years.
Hank Huckaby announced his plans Wednesday morning at a Board of Regents meeting in Atlanta.
Steve Wrigley, the university system’s executive vice chancellor for administration, will become interim chancellor on Jan. 1. Wrigley has worked for the system since 2011 after holding a variety of positions in higher education and Georgia state government since 1988.
“Public higher education touches all aspects of our society. It is the fabric that holds us together and is an investment that pays dividends for life,” Huckaby said in the statement.
“The university system is one of the great strengths of Georgia, and I am grateful to have been able to serve with the faculty and staff who bring it to life every day to serve our students.”
When he became chancellor, Huckaby immediately began work to consolidate various campuses, lowering the number of system schools from 35 in 2011 to 29 this year.
“That was his vision,” said Philip Wilheit Sr., a Gainesville businessman who has served on the university system Board of Regents since 2011.
Huckaby argued that consolidation was the best way to lower operating costs, but the decisions occasionally sparked disagreement on the affected campuses.
“Chancellor Huckaby has led the University System of Georgia through a significant transformation to make it stronger and more efficient, while keeping students at the forefront of the USG mission,” said Bonita Jacobs, president of the University of North Georgia, one of those combined universities.
UNG was the result of a merger between North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College.
“He understands the importance of higher education and how it benefits our students, our communities and the state of Georgia,” Jacobs said of Huckaby.
“I particularly appreciate Chancellor Huckaby’s passion for supporting student scholarships and need-based aid, which has been one of my priorities at the University of North Georgia. His leadership and support will have an impact on UNG, the university system and our students for years to come.”
Wilheit also lauded Huckaby’s work on transitioning many classes to free, online textbooks and driving the Complete College Georgia initiative seeking to increase the number of Georgians earning college degrees.
Huckaby served for a short time as a Republican member of the state House before becoming chancellor. He previously worked as director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget under Gov. Zell Miller and vice president of finance and administration at the University of Georgia.
Wilheit said Wrigley’s appointment as the interim chancellor for the system is a good move.
“Steve has been there from the beginning with Hank,” Wilheit said. “He’s up to speed. It’ll be a totally seamless transition.”