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BC’s Wilkerson to retire

Tom Wilkerson, the president of Bainbridge College, announced to his staff and cabinet Friday that he will retire effective Dec. 31, 2010.

He will leave Bainbridge College at a time of tremendous growth and its campus dramatically changing—but he will also leave it in a position that is in much better shape than when he arrived in July 2005.

“I am especially grateful to the chancellor and the Board of Regents for entrusting this fine institution to my care,” Wilkerson said in the short announcement e-mailed to news organizations and faculty Friday. “The time in Bainbridge has been richly rewarding and the best of all my years in the University System.”

Wilkerson and his wife, Angela, will relocate to Clayton, Ga., to be closer to their children, grandson and other family.

He turns 69 years old on June 24.

Wilkerson came to Bainbridge following the interim tenure of Sherman Day, who was brought to the university to fill the vacancy left by Clifford Brock, who resigned in January 2005 to become president of a community college in California, which he has since left.

When Wilkerson took over the helm, relations with the community were strained because of the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center. Construction on the center started in June 2003, and the promised space for the auditorium and dining hall were cut unbeknown to several members of the community who had donated heavily toward the construction of the building.

The Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center was finally dedicated in October 2008, and the center’s 500-seat auditorium and the 300-seat dining hall were restored in the design. The Kirbo Center is now a source of pride for the community and it has been used extensively by the community and surrounding area.

Wilkerson was responsible for “fixing” the center, and in the process, “fixing” relations with the community during his five-year tenure.

In fact, the assets of the Bainbridge College Foundation have grown from approximately $59,000 to more than $600,000 and climbing, Wilkerson said Friday.

Wilkerson said his time at Bainbridge College has been one of the best during his more than 36-year career in higher education.

New directions

The BC president will retire as the Student Wellness Center—a center he said will change the face of Bainbridge College—will be opening its doors.

The new Student Wellness Center, which the construction started in August, is scheduled to be completed by November.

The two-story center includes a gymnasium that will seat 2,500 persons, which is enough room for the college to host its own graduation ceremonies.

Wilkerson is also overseeing the 10,000-square-foot expansion of BC’s Early County site in Blakely.

As far as enrollment goes, Wilkerson said that when the college opened in October 1973, it had 214 students.

This fall, the college had more than 3,500 students for the first time. The college is projected to have more than 7,000 students by 2020.

Before coming here

The Wilkersons came to Bainbridge after serving as vice president for academic affairs and professor of speech at Spartanburg Methodist College in Spartanburg, S.C. He said Friday he had intentions to retire then, but he was coaxed into submitting his application for the BC presidency.

After meeting the people in Bainbridge and learning the community, Wilkerson said, “I have no regrets with the decision to come here.”

He was in Spartanburg for eight years, and prior to that, Wilkerson spent 29 years in the University System of Georgia.

Before Spartanburg, Wilkerson’s last University System of Georgia post was vice president for academic affairs and professor of speech at South Georgia College from 1984 to 1997.

Wilkerson holds undergraduate degrees from Augusta College (now Augusta State University) and Georgia Southern College (now Georgia Southern University), a master’s in speech and drama from the University of Georgia and an Ed.D in speech education from UGA.

Angela became active in the community as well, serving as co-president and treasurer of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Council for the Arts.

Along with loving the mountains and being closer to family, Wilkerson said he and Angela hope to travel as much as they can. They have been to Europe four times, and he has a personal ambition to travel to all 50 states—he’s visited 39 so far.

Carol Heard can be reached by e-mail at carol.heard@thepostsearchlight.com, or telephone at (229) 246-2827, Ext. 114.