October 6, 2012

VSU Community mourns loss of Dr. Hugh C. Bailey

VALDOSTA – The Valdosta State University community continues to mourn the loss of Dr. Hugh C. Bailey, former president of the university who passed away on Oct. 5. He was 83.

The family will hold visitation from 6-8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 8, at the Carson McLane Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Christ Episcopal Church.

“Every president leaves his or her unique mark in a university's history. It is rare, however, to find a mark so transformative as President Bailey's,” said VSU President William J. McKinney. “Dr. Bailey's legacy on our campus is apparent not only in its physical structure, but also in its spirit of strong community that we all value so highly. He set the high standard against which all future VSU presidents have been judged, and for his vision and leadership I will always be thankful.”

On July 1, 1978, Bailey, his wife, Joan, their two daughters, Debra and Laura, arrived at what was then Valdosta State College.

For 23 years, Bailey, a staunch advocate for higher education, set forth a vision for Valdosta State that led to increased academic standards and new degrees at the master's, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. He also worked to enhance educational accessibility to students throughout South Georgia, including the installation of the satellite uplink facility. Valdosta State now serves as a leader within Georgia in the number of courses offered online in both the bachelor’s and master’s level.

Bailey often would proclaim his greatest achievement and proudest moment was obtaining university status in 1993. His efforts and determination were influential in making Valdosta State one of Georgia’s two regional universities, along with Georgia Southern University.

Senator Tim Golden fondly remembers Bailey not only as president of Valdosta State, but also a friend and mentor.  

“I have lost a father figure; a mentor; an advisor; and, most of all, a wonderful friend,” Golden said. “I will miss his quick wit and his smile. I thank God that Hugh Bailey came my way.”

Golden said he remembers working with Senator Loyce Turner and Bailey to secure funds for regional university status, and how this important milestone continues to be apparent even today.   

“One of the greatest moments for Valdosta State was in 1993 when we received regional university status,” said Golden, a 1977 Valdosta State graduate. “I was a young representative in the House and Dr. Bailey and I fought like dogs to get regional university status. A lot of people doubted if it would be a significant part of the university, but I think history will attest that university status was a transforming moment for this university and this town.”

Golden, who remembers as a young boy riding his bike to Valdosta State where his mother worked on campus, said, “Dr. Bailey and his wife, Joan, have meant so much to me through the years. Words cannot even begin to convey the importance and impact they have had on my life, both personally and professionally. You cannot talk about the history of Valdosta State without talking about President Bailey. For years to come I will remember Dr. Bailey, his years of service to Valdosta State, this community, and the entire state of Georgia. His years of dedicated service will be forever etched into the history of this university.”

Golden, who is serving his seventh term in the Senate, worked with Bailey and Valdosta State on many projects, including the construction of the University Center and the Bailey Science Building, which was the last academic building constructed under Bailey’s tenure as president.

“I talk a lot about teamwork and its importance, like our delegation, like our community working for the Health Sciences and Business Administration building, teamwork wins and what a team we had in Hugh and Joan Bailey,” said Golden. “Dr. Bailey loved VSU, and it shows as we were put on the path to being a world class university under his leadership. Regional university status was his dream, and he achieved that dream and so much more.”

Dr. Ronald M. Zaccari, who served as Valdosta State’s seventh president from 2001 to 2008, said Bailey’s mission was to advance VSU into a compelling future.  

“What clearly stands out in Dr. Bailey’s 23 years as VSU’s president was his ability to combine his dreams with tenacity to create an exceptional institution of higher learning,” Zaccari said. “His leadership was filled with optimism and a keen sense of how to navigate the challenging waters of contemporary higher education.”

Zaccari said that Bailey was an effective communicator and engaged strong public support for his initiatives and vision.

“It is my fond hope that VSU can harness his spirit—a force which will encourage continued growth at VSU,” Zaccari said. “Thanks to Dr. Hugh Bailey, our greatest days lie ahead.”

During Bailey’s tenure, he was instrumental in doubling the student enrollment and oversaw the construction of more than $60 million in new facilities, including the P.E. Complex, University Center, Special Education and Communications Disorders Building, Student Recreation Center, and the Bailey Science Center, which was named in his honor in April 2006.

An ardent Blazer fan—often wearing his signature red jacket—Bailey presided during years of growth in Valdosta State’s athletic programs, including the establishment of the football team.

Bailey was born in Berry, Ala., on July 2, 1929. He earned his B.A. from Samford University (then Howard College) in Birmingham, Ala., and his M.A. in 1951, and Ph.D in 1954 from the University of Alabama.

Bailey returned to Samford University as a history and political science instructor in 1953, working his way up the ranks to assistant professor, associate professor, professor, head of the Department of History, chairperson of the Division of Social Sciences, and dean of the Howard College of Arts and Sciences. While there, he sponsored the school’s chapter of Pi Gamma Mu, an international honor society dedicated to encouraging and promoting excellence in the social sciences and upholding the ideals of service and scholarship.

Bailey established a chapter of that same honor society at Francis Marion College in South Carolina when he was named vice president of Academic Affairs in 1975, and he did the same when he assumed the role of president at Valdosta State in 1978.

Earlier this year, Bailey was inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu Hall of Fame. He was recognized for his years of service and dedication to the Alabama Gamma, South Carolina Lambda, and Georgia Theta chapters of Pi Gamma Mu.

Bailey's work within the community is also noteworthy. In 2000, the Alapaha Council of Boy Scouts of America named Bailey its Distinguished Citizen. In 2003, Bailey served as chairperson of the Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy Carter Work Project, which raised $1 million and constructed 25 houses in Valdosta. In 2011, he received the Community Service Award from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration Association. He served for many years on the boards of the Salvation Army Valdosta Corps and United Way of Lowndes County.