Bonita Jacobs, president of the University of North Georgia, said the gold on the university’s historic steeple never shone as brilliantly as it did Friday afternoon.
Several hundred members of the UNG community, Gov. Nathan Deal, former Gov. Zell Miller, state and military officials and academic leaders gathered together on the Gen. William J. “Lipp” Livsey Drill Field of the university’s Dahlonega campus to celebrate the inauguration of its first president.
Jacobs first came to the campus in 2011 when it was still North Georgia College & State University.
Plans for her inauguration were delayed when the school began its mandated consolidation with Gainesville State College, forming the new University of North Georgia, which will complete its first semester this month.
During the installation ceremony, Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, gave Jacobs three charges.
Jacobs agreed to preside with firmness, fairness and humaneness over the university’s affairs, to create an even higher level of academic and leadership excellence and to maintain and defend the institution’s search for truth and expansion of the limits of knowledge.
“These ceremonies are important; they’re not just symbolic,” Huckaby said. “They tell us that we are at a different beginning. We’re on a different path with great promise. Dr. Jacobs is already showing great leadership with this organization, which was created by consolidating two already outstanding schools. This was a tremendous challenge and an exciting opportunity. ”
Jacobs praised the faculty and staff of the university for their impact on student success and said she looked forward to continuing to honor the “tradition of excellence.”
The inauguration theme “Building on a Tradition of Excellence” mirrored her sentiments.
Deal presented Jacobs with a flag that once hung above the state capitol. He said he was hopeful the beautiful, sunny day was symbolic of the university’s bright future.
He said he was confident in Jacobs’ ability to lead the school and bring it to the next level.
Deal stressed the importance of higher education institutions in the state.
He has led the Complete College Georgia initiative in an effort to equip 60 percent of the state’s workforce with some level of higher education.
“We need the efforts of our technical colleges, the efforts of our universities, both public and private, and they are all working,” Deal said. “I believe we’re going in the right direction to achieve that. If we don’t have an educated workforce, we will not be able to attract the jobs and opportunities the citizens of our state so richly deserve and need.”
The university currently has a student population of about 15,000 between its four campuses in Dahlonega, Gainesville, Oconee and Cumming.
Jacobs said that with four campuses in the Northeast Georgia area, the school is sure to make a significant impact on the region.
She said she was honored and excited about not only her position, but the university’s position within the community.
She added that between both of the former institutions, UNG has a strong heritage of producing leaders that make up the very fabric of the region.
“The leadership of our communities is filled with alumni from our four campuses,” Jacobs said. “Incredible opportunities lie ahead for us to build on this legacy. By promoting student engagement through service-learning and internships and by partnering with community leaders to address the needs of the region, our university will dramatically increase the educational attainment of students and prepare our graduates for service as future leaders in the communities.”