Hepburn a factor in institution's success
By MICHAEL HALL The Brunswick News
When asked who's responsible for the recent successes of College of Coastal Georgia, the college foundation's incoming chairman has a short, quick answer.
"Valerie Hepburn," said Mike Hodges, who will chair the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation Board of Trustees in 2013.
Ask him why she has had such success here, and he again has a quick answer.
"(Hepburn) is a bridge builder," Hodges said. "She has a vision and knows how to communicate that vision to all corners of the community."
Since Hepburn took over in 2008, more than $80 million in new construction and renovations have occurred on campus, transforming it from a junior college circa 1960s into a modern four-year college able to attract traditional and non-traditional students alike, Hodges said.
Without her leadership, the transition may not have been as smooth, he added.
"She is our best sales person for the college," Hodges said.
Her ability to energize the community spread quickly to the foundation, he said.
The foundation is the primary fundraising body for the college and provides funding to support quality education at the school.
In 2009, Hepburn's first full year as president, the foundation raised a little more than $1 million. In 2012, it set a new record with more than $3.5 million raised in support of the college, Hodges said.
That opens the door for more programming and, most importantly, more scholarships, he added.
An energized fundraising effort will lead to a more robust college, which will lead to a transformation in Brunswick as well, Hodges said.
"People like to buy into success and potential success," Hodges said.
The more they buy in, the more the economic benefits of living in a college town will be felt, he said.
"The college is a generator of income," Hodges said. "It is a huge economic engine."
Colleges also tend to be generators of knowledge, he added.
"The college is increasing our curiosity index," Hodges said.
With a positive future ahead for the college, Hodges and a search committee he is a member of will have a difficult road to finding a replacement for Hepburn, who announced this year she will be stepping down as president in May, at the end of this academic year.
Since he can't clone Hepburn, Hodges said he hopes the committee is able to find a replacement with similar attributes.
Hepburn also hopes the committee finds a good replacement.
She said she has fond memories from her time at the college and is hopeful her replacement will be able to continue the valuable relationships that have been forged with the Glynn County School System, Southeast Georgia Health System and the community in general.
The next budget year will likely be worse than the current one. Hepburn said quality leadership will be required to continue increasing the number of students who not only attend the college but also graduate.