I believe I have written three letters to The Times over the years, one in which I tried to make the case that public schools can not do it alone and must have the support of the larger community in meeting the challenging needs and demands placed upon it.
In a second one, I defended the outcomes/goals movement developing at the time in public education — much to the concern of local school administrators — if the goals were intended to prepare self-directed learners with strong critical-thinking, decision-making, communication and interpersonal skills who could work as individuals and in groups or teams in a society increasingly moving in a group-oriented direction. In that letter, I pledged the continued support begun by founding President Hugh Mills that Gainesville College in Oakwood would be a partner as an access and opportunity institution as we moved forward.
The third letter was a thank you from myself, Janice and our family for the overwhelming support we felt from the community during our time in leading the college and living in the community we affectionately defined as Emerging Northeast Georgia, with Gainesville as the mini-capital. Hopefully, this makes the case that I write to the paper infrequently and only on special occasions.
Janice and I attended a very special event on Wednesday at the Gainesville campus of the newly merged University of North Georgia. The event was hosted by the two foundations moving successfully in a merged direction.
The Donor Wall, which captured very effectively the giving history of the two institutions, was opened to public view for the first time. The Wall, in the lobby of the Continuing Education Building on the way to the Ed Cabell Theatre, will be viewed by many over the years while on the way to the theater.
As stressed by President Bonita Jacobs in her remarks, we hope it is not only a recognition of the past support both institutions have received over the years but also as an appropriate reminder that the challenges loom even greater in the future for UNG, as the financial support of public higher education from governmental sources continues to go in the wrong direction.
The Wall had such an impact on me I did not work the crowd, as I should have, which included many of the supporters who had been with the college from the beginning. I was almost moved to ask Bonita to let me say something when she acknowledged the presence of Janice and me, along with Martha and Pete Nesbitt, the other past presidential couple in the crowd. But those of you who know Foster best know that would have been a mistake.
The feelings I reflected on during our drive home was for an opportunity to express a big thank you with as much meaning as possible. Hopefully, this fourth letter to The Times has been effective in doing so. Occasionally, when our travels carry us by the campus, I never miss a chance to pick up a copy of the paper as a way of staying current to a degree with the college and the community we called home for some 15 years.
J. Foster Watkins