Georgia State University- an under-appreciated treasure
We hear a lot about UGA and Georgia Tech locally, but not much about the largest higher-level educational system in the state – Georgia State University.
GSU has not been given nearly enough credit by my fellow Georgians for its positive impact on the business and social/racial atmosphere in the greater Atlanta area. Frankly, most Georgians do not know the history of Georgia State and how it has evolved. Here is a brief synopsis:
•GSU began in 1914 as the Evening School of Commerce, downtown, as part of Georgia Tech;
•In 1915, seven people graduated; they were all working full-time, a GSU hallmark even now;
•The Evening School grew, became accredited in 1952 and was renamed the Georgia State College of Business Administration in 1955;
•It became Georgia State College in 1962 and Georgia State University in 1969.
•After its 2016 merger with Georgia Perimeter College, GSU now has campuses in Alpharetta, Decatur, Clarkston, Dunwoody and Newton County, as well as its downtown hub – and hopefully someday will expand to Coweta and Fayette.
Over the years, GSU has become synonymous with the rise of Atlanta as a progressive city and an international center for business. GSU now:
•has a $2.5 billion annual economic impact on the metro area;
•consists of 51,000 students – following the 2016 merger with Georgia Perimeter College;
•is ranked #4 in innovation and #8 in undergrad teaching, according to U.S. News and World Report;
•graduates more minority students than any other college or university, according to the New York Times;
•has become a major force for the redevelopment of downtown Atlanta, countering the move by many businesses to the suburbs;
•consists of a student body that is 60 percent minority;
•has 60 percent of its student body coming from low-income families, providing upward mobility;
•consists of over 250 majors for students to choose from, more than any University in the state;
•has areas of emphasis which include business, education, health professions, STEM, humanities, social science and law.
I have two degrees from GSU, obtained over a period of 10 years – 1967-1976. Like many, most at the time, I attended at night, working to support my wife and three young children. I would never have been able to become a highly successful business executive and SVP without GSU…or retire at the ripe old age of 55 to a lake, far away from the hustle and bustle of the corporate world.
But GSU means a lot more to me than just my sense of financial independence. For many years, I had season tickets to GSU basketball and football. What impressed me most was that the audience was very diverse, with people of all races and nationalities. And, they all got along famously… true brothers and sisters cheering on the home team. In that way, GSU is a model for what America can become,rather than what it is at present with its tribalism.
Frankly, that feeling of brotherhood/sisterhood is not the feeling I have had when I have gone to games at other universities both here and in various Southern states where I have lived. But, it should be; and, hopefully, with a younger generation of ever more tolerant and accepting people, it someday will be.
Jack Bernard of Fayette County, a retired corporate executive, was a two-term county commissioner and former county Republican Party chairman in Jasper County.