UGA President Adams is stepping down

Adams, who has led the state's flagship college for 16 years, will be 65 by the time he retires.

During his tenure at UGA, the university has become more selective and is consistently ranked as one of the top 20 public colleges in the country. Enrollment, meanwhile, has grown by almost 6,000 students to nearly 35,000.

Adams is expected to discuss his pending retirement with the campus community, according to a state official and a high-ranking University System of Georgia employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

University of Georgia spokesman Tom Jackson declined to comment and efforts to reach Adams were unsuccessful. .

State Board of Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton also declined comment. Adams announcing his retirement this far in advance, gives the regents enough time to search for a replacement.

Adams is the highest-paid president in the university system, with a total compensation package of $660,318, according to figures from the state agency.

Under Adams' leadership, UGA secured more than $1 billion in new construction and has raised millions for student scholarships and endowed professors and department chairmen.

"We're a better university because of Dr. Adams," said Jerry Daniel, president of the UGA Staff Council. "He's always been a fighter for us. Whoever comes after him will have big shoes to fill."

Adams has weathered numerous political storms over the years. Most notable was a public battle with legendary football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley over when Dooley should retire.

Dooley, who had been a member of UGA's athletic association 40 years at that point, asked for a two-year contract extension as Georgia’s athletic director in 2003. Adams denied that request despite pressure from several members of the UGA Foundation, then the university's primary fundraiser. Adams eventually granted Dooley a six-month extension to help in the transition to new athletic director Damon Evans.

The foundation tried to force Adams out as president, questioning his spending and leadership decisions. Adams withstood the pressure because of support from the university system and state leaders.

The rift led to the regents directing the university to sever ties with the foundation in 2005. A new group, the Arch Foundation, was formed to raise money for the university. Last year the two foundations announced plans to merge and create a new University of Georgia Foundation.

In response to anther controversy, Adams created a committee in 2008 to handle sexual harassment complaints after highly publicized allegations against faculty members.

Adams' efforts to grow programs at UGA rustled feathers with some of the state's other research colleges.

Lawmakers and politicians in Augusta vehemently opposed a move to open a medical college campus in Athens, worried that it would harm programs at the then-Medical College of Georgia. A partnership medical campus between the two universities eventually opened in Athens in 2010.

UGA also fought a successful battle in 2010 to offer new engineering degrees, despite concern from some regents and politicians that the programs were too similar to those already taught at Georgia Tech. The regents narrowly approved those three programs, but in February unanimously approved UGA's new master's and Ph.D. engineering degrees. The university is scheduled to open a college of engineering July 1.

Students appreciate Adams' long advocacy for the college, said Kaitlin Miller, outgoing vice president of the student government association.

Miller said Adams has been receptive to students' concerns, especially through the Open Mike with Mike events held once a semester. The informal sessions allowed students to discuss with Adams any questions, concerns or suggestions they have.

"He's the kind of president where when you walk into his office you a get a high-five or a hug," Miller said. "He'll be missed."

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