" If these walls could talk..."
Many people — educators, community leaders and of course, students — have played a part in shaping the university’s history. You are invited to meet some of them through a series of monthly installments written by Doug Vinson, instructor of journalism at UWG.
When Dr. Ward Pafford arrived on the Carrollton campus in 1971 to become the college's fourth president he had his work cut out for him.
Some of the student unrest of the late '60s spilled over to the '70s on the West Georgia campus. Student drug arrests had become a problem and admission standards and retention rates were issues that had to be addressed. In addition, West Georgia faced some stiff competition from three other colleges that had recently opened within 50 miles of Carrollton.
Pafford set up new procedures to standardize hiring practices and promotions. He established a planning council to reorganize the college. The council, lead by history professor Dr. Newt Gingrich, drafted a plan which replaced the six academic divisions with four schools. This system is still in place today, however the schools are now colleges with the exception of the Graduate School.
Most students went about their work and were solid citizens. But there were a few who marched to the beat of a different drummer. Streaking was one of the ‘70s fads and West Georgia had some students who participated in this pastime. One of the more creative young scholars took this fad to new heights by sky diving out of a plane and landing on the intramural field.
Over the years, a number of families forged a loyal link to the college by sending several generations to the campus. In 1972, Wade Benson became the youngest in a family of five children, all who had attended the college, as had his parents. Benson was the leading actor in the campus production of The Man of La Mancha.
In 1972 the debate team gained national attention by qualifying for the National Debate Tournament for the first time.
On the sports front, the men’s basketball team, coached by Roger Kaiser, won the national NAIA championship in 1974. In 1975, the Lady Braves basketball team won the state title and finished the season as runner up to the national champions. Clema Billingsley, WCG’s first female scholarship athlete, was named All-American as a freshman.
As West Georgia students registered for classes on September 23, 1975 they knew they would face long lines – they didn't know at 2 p.m. they would be facing 70 m.p.h. winds from Hurricane Elosie.
Fortunately, no one was hurt, but obviously it was an ordeal for all involved. The day also marked the first fall registration for Dr. Maurice Townsend, who had recently become West Georgia college's fifth president.
Townsend, like his predecessor Pafford, really enjoyed interacting with people.
During his first year, he made 99 visits to faculty in their offices. He participated in many student and faculty gatherings to make sure he stayed in touch with the issues that concerned people the most. He reorganized the office of student services and expanded students programs and services.
In the later part of the '70s all college administrators in Georgia had to contend with mandatory budget reductions ordered by the Governor. The escalating costs of utilities also played havoc with the budget. Townsend had to cancel classes for three days in January 1977 because of utility costs. In the summer of 1979 energy costs resulted in the closing of several buildings and a four-day week for faculty and staff.
When he wasn't trying to balance budgets, Townsend loved to unwind by reading books. Lots of books. In fact, he gave 6,905 books from his personal collection to the library. It was no surprise to those who knew him that his first building proposal was an expansion of the college's library.
College brochures usually have a statement in their recruitment literature that says something like: “If you come to our college you’ll be treated with respect - you won't be treated as a number.” During the '70s, Pafford and Townsend were two insightful men who, holding to their principles, did treat each individual with respect. Under their leadership, they ensured the college matured and moved forward and weathered some tough times.