UGA dean walked a fine line in fine form

The Covington News - - Opinion - You can reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@ bell­ or P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, GA 31139. DICK YAR­BROUGH

I try to make it a habit to hang around with smart peo­ple. Given that my IQ is not much larger than my waist­line, this isn’t dif­fi­cult to do.

One per­son who fits that bill — and is a nice guy to boot — is the dean of my beloved Grady Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism and Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, Dr. C. Culpep­per Clark.

It is no small co­in­ci­dence that the dean of the Grady Col­lege hails from Grady County. It is just an­other ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of the fact that God is par­tial to UGA. Our dean could have come from Ashtab­ula, Ohio. The Ashtab­ula Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism? That would never have worked.

No need to dredge up times that are bless­edly in the rearview mir­ror, but suf­fice it to say that it has been a bumpy ride dur­ing much of the ten­ure of Michael Adams, the soon-tobe past pres­i­dent of my alma mater. But let by­gones be by­gones. I will al­ways trea­sure the form let­ters from his of­fice ac­knowl­edg­ing my fi­nan­cial sup­port of UGA.

Walk­ing the fine line be­tween his ego­cen­tric su­per­vi­sor (Adams) and an opin­ion­ated colum­nist/Grady grad of wide cir­cu­la­tion who can find the hu­mor-im­paired like a moth finds a porch light (guess who) has not been easy for Cully Clark. But if my barbs at his boss ever caused him dis­com­fort, he never let it show. (Un­like his boss.)

Dean Clark re­tired this week with much less fan­fare than Mike Adams, but his good works de­serve ap­plause. The Grady Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism and Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at UGA is a bet­ter place be­cause he was there (and it was pretty good to be­gin with.) Be­cause of the dean, I have con­tin­ued to sup­port the univer­sity through schol­ar­ships and in­tern­ships and a re­cently-an­nounced chair in Cri­sis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Lead­er­ship at the Grady Col­lege. I doubt any of this would have hap­pened had he not been around.

We had lunch re­cently to cel­e­brate his re­tire­ment and to talk about the fu­ture. We dis­cussed our ef­forts to make the Grady Col­lege a national leader in the area of cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the days to come. There will be no short­age of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Iron­i­cally, our get to­gether co­in­cided with the fi­asco that is Paula Deen. Whether or not she has been treated fairly is not the is­sue. What mat­ters is that when not crying or beg­ging for­give­ness, it is clear she was not pre­pared for the fall­out that oc­curred af­ter she men­tioned she had used a racial slur in the past. Now, her food em­pire is crum­bling like a half-baked cake. It didn’t have to hap­pen.

It is my hope that fu­ture lead­ers will un­der­stand that the court of pub­lic opin­ion can harm an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion as much or more than the court of law and that the place to find out how to deal with crises will be good ol’ UGA and the Grady Col­lege of Jour­nal­ism and Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Cully Clark’s re­place­ment will be Dr. Charles Davis, cur­rently a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri School of Jour­nal­ism, an­other top-notch fa­cil­ity. By the way, if you doubt my the­o­log­i­cal be­lief of God’s fa­vor­able view of UGA, Dr. Davis hails from Athens, the Clas­sic City of the South.

He earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy from North Ge­or­gia Col­lege in Dahlonega and his mas­ter’s de­gree in jour­nal­ism from the Grady Col­lege. Truth in ad­ver­tis­ing re­quires me to tell you that the new dean got his doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Florida, but he drives a red and black pickup truck, I am told, which makes up for a host of sins. Plus, you can take the boy out of Athens, but ... well, you know the rest.

At the same time that Cully Clark steps into the next phase of his aca­demic and per­sonal life, Dr. Jere More­head will be in­stalled as the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia’s 22nd pres­i­dent. The Board of Re­gents made a great choice in Dr. More­head, cur­rently the univer­sity’s provost. He has al­ready made a fa­vor­able im­pres­sion on the Yar­brough clan by his per­sonal par­tic­i­pa­tion at the cer­e­mony an­nounc­ing my com­mit­ment to the cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram at the Grady Col­lege.

Life goes on at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, but I will miss Dean C. Culpep­per Clark, of Grady County.

He has been and will re­main a good friend for whom I have the high­est re­spect. Like Nik Wal­lenda and his re­cent Grand Canyon hike, Cully Clark walked a fine line and sur­vived the ex­pe­ri­ence.

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