“Lessons from the Top of the (Academic) Hill: Higher Education Leadership in Challenging Times”
Dr. Michael F. Adams was named the 21st president of the University of Georgia on June 11, 1997. He immediately focused on securing UGA’s future as one of America’s premier public research universities. Under Dr. Adams’ leadership, student quality has risen steadily and the University of Georgia has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 20 public research universities for eight out of the past 10 years byU.S. News & World Report.
Now in his 16th year as President of the University of Georgia, Dr. Michael F. Adams is one of America’s longest serving and best known university presidents. A widely respected figure in higher education, he has been elected by his peers to lead a number of national organizations including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the American Council on Education and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Executive Committee.
He holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and has been awarded five honorary degrees. In addition, he is a specialist in political communication and higher education administration and has written professionally in both areas. Dr. Adams has held senior positions in state and national government—as Chief of Staff to former Senator Howard Baker and as an advisor to former Tennessee Governor and current Senator Lamar Alexander.
Either personally or on behalf of the University he has received more than 50 awards in higher education, including the Knight Foundation Award for Presidential Leadership, the Pioneer Award for Leadership in Civil Rights and the James T. Rogers Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He is the recipient of the Governor’s Award in the Humanities from the Georgia Endowment for the Humanities. For 11 consecutive years, Georgia Trend magazine has included Dr. Adams on its list of Most Influential Georgians.
The UGA campus has been transformed since he took office, with more than $1 billion in new construction, renovation and infrastructure and 6.2 million square feet of new space completed. The East Campus Village, served by the Harris Dining Commons, added space for more than 1,200 students to help meet demand for on-campus living, and another 500-bed residence hall opened in 2010. The new home of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, also on East Campus, opened in 2008, and the expansion of the Georgia Museum of Art was completed in early 2011. The Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries, to be named in honor of the long-serving Georgia Senator, was dedicated in February 2012, and a range of student-serving facilities, including an expansion of the Tate Student Center, has been opened during his tenure.
Under his leadership, the University of Georgia has attained its highest rankings ever; has become the most selective in its history; and has grown from some 29,000 students to almost 35,000 students today.
Dr. Adams is a graduate of the public schools of Georgia and Tennessee, earning his diploma in 1966 as the most outstanding graduate of Chattanooga High School and earned undergraduate degree in speech and history from Lipscomb University, which named him Alumnus of the Year in 2011. He has been married to his college sweetheart, Mary Lynn Ethridge Adams, whom he met in a Lipscomb University history class, for 41 years.
They are the parents of two sons, both of whom are married to UGA alumnae, and are very proud of their three granddaughters, Campbell, Tucker and Lawson.
In May, Dr. Adams announced his intention to step down from the presidency effective June 30, 2013, saying, “I was privileged in 1997 to be given the opportunity to come to a university that had been very well served by its previous presidents, especially those in the modern era, Fred Davison, Henry King Stanford and Charles Knapp. I believe that my work here has continued the upward trajectory they established and that the next president will find a university positioned for extraordinary success.”