Jerry L. Hardee is president of Paine College, a HBCU in Augusta. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission voted last year to strip the school’s accreditation over financial issues. Paine sued. Under a consent order, the school retains its SACS accreditation during the litigation, but is on probation.
Hardee became president of the troubled campus in July. He was president of Sherman College of Chiropractic in South Carolina and served as assistant to the president of Valdosta State University and vice president for academic affairs at Albany State University in Georgia.
By Jerry L. Hardee
I am on a personal mission to ensure the long-term sustainability of Paine College with the help of everyone that I can find from the corporate, civic, and religious community that understands and values the legacy and tradition of a historic black college. Earlier this year after having retired from a fulfilling career in higher education and with plans to travel and enjoy my family, I came out of retirement to offer myself to lead this historic institution in Augusta, an institution that many skeptics had all but counted out for good. This fall we welcomed a new freshmen class, renewed interest from our city and county officials and witnessed a resurgence of hope. Paine College is emerging anew.
Like most Historic Black Colleges and Universities, Paine has a rich history embedded in the annals of self-help following slavery and emancipation. The college has a historic and unprecedented dual board relationship between the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church; a roster of distinguished alumni and unprecedented traditions. The Paine College pride is still exuberant. Most importantly, it has an excellent academic program and dedicated, committed faculty and staff focused on meeting the needs of its students. Having graduated from two HBCUs, my conscience would not allow me to rest knowing that another institution that has educated African-American youth for over a century was on the brink of closure due to a series of mishaps and events that caused the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to take action. This is the back story of the narrative but the real story is that this institution called Paine College is an absolute Georgia treasure and all who love and care for higher education would be encouraged to pay special attention to this gem of a school in the home of James Brown and the legendary Master’s Golf Tournament and the former Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University).
Why is Paine College necessary? Paine is the only HBCU located in the historic Central Savannah River Area, two-and-a-half hours from Atlanta, and before you cross the South Carolina borders. There are students who are primed for a Paine College experience in education from both the city and the rural areas of Georgia and South Carolina. Paine is that kind of institution that wants to fine tune academic scholars. We want students that have a thirst to achieve and we want to encourage and assist those who need that extra push.
Having attended Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University and Fisk University), I know firsthand the benefits and residuals that quality education and life skills that these institutions bring to so many deserving and sometimes underserved students. Some would argue that we have more than enough HBCUs and that Atlanta is saturated with them. I would say that there is still a need for Paine College in Augusta as well as the other HBCUs.
Like Paine College, most of these institutions were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of pioneering men and women. These institutions have educated hundreds of thousands of students over the last 150 years and have taught them to stand strong and gallant even in difficult circumstances. A HBCU experience is a special experience for those in attendance now and for those who preceded them! The camaraderie, the bond, the relationships, the friendships are unmatched. They are necessary. Paine is necessary.
Sometimes good students are often penalized for the mistakes and bad judgment of the institutions where they matriculate. Students deserve better and the leadership of any school must be held responsible and accountable. Paine has addressed and corrected those issues cited and is working hard but cannot do it alone. This institution needs your support. Not only financially but sending us students as well. There are many ways you can help. Here is an opportunity for the community to join in and help this 135-year-old institution fulfill the vision and the Paine Ideal, that every student can and will succeed.
Paine College is the alma mater of many great men and women and is worthy to be supported. We need the universe to tilt its favor towards Paine and we need those who value education to assist us. Like our great supporter, the United Negro College Fund, says, “A mind is still a terrible thing to waste.”
We look forward to your support as Paine College emerges anew.