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Descriptive summary

Repository: Special Collections and Archives, Gainesville campus, University of North Georgia

Creator: Gainesville State College, 1964-2013

Title: Gainesville State College, Presidential records, J. Foster Watkins

Date(s): 1983

Quantity: 0.33 linear feet

Language(s): English

Historical note

In 1962 the Gainesville-Hall County Educational Task Force was established to build support for opening a community college that would support the educational needs of a growing population. With the community’s support, an application for the establishment of a junior college in Gainesville was submitted to the regents in March of 1964. The application included a guarantee of $2 million in bonding to cover construction costs and funding for the creation of a technical school adjoin the junior college. Two years after the application was accepted by the regents, Gainesville Junior College opened its doors to the first class of students. Hugh M. Mills, Jr. was chosen as the first president. In 1967, the college held its first classes on the newly built campus.

Dr. Foster Watkins became the second president of the college. Gainesville Junior College became Gainesville College in 1987 when the Board of Regents gave all junior and community colleges the option to drop "junior” and “community” from their names.

Upon Dr. Watkins retirement in 1997, the presidency went to Martha Tovell Nesbitt. Her tenure saw substantial growth and expansion for the school. Within the 16 years of her presidency, Nesbitt added satellite campuses in Cumming and Watkinsville. In 2005, the name of the college was changed to Gainesville State College and it was announced that several four-year degree programs would begin in the fall of 2006.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia announced in 2012 that Gainesville State College would merge with North Georgia College and State University to form the University of North Georgia. The merger took effect in January 2013.

Biographical Note

In the spring of 1983 Dr. James Foster Watkins was approved as Gainesville Junior College’s second president. He took office on July 1, 1983 and, after brief settling in period, was inaugurated on October 17, 1983. During his first years at Gainesville Junior College, Dr. Watkins streamlined the administration, made the college more visible in the wider community and opened a micro-computer laboratory as well as a smaller instructional lab for the business, natural sciences and mathematics divisions. Watkins oversaw the first name change for the college in 1987; Gainesville Junior College became Gainesville College. In 1997, Watkins announced his retirement.

Before coming to Gainesville Junior College, Watkins worked at both the University of Alabama and Auburn University. He completed his bachelor’s degree industrial engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was the captain of the football team. He received a master of education degree and his doctor of education from Auburn University.

Scope and contents

This collection contains information relating to the inauguration of Dr. James Foster Watkins as the second president of Gainesville Junior College. Of note are copies of the remarks and speeches given at the inauguration and correspondence from friends congratulating Watkins on his new position.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by topic of format.

Administrative information

Cite as: Gainesville Junior College, Presidential records, J. Foster Watkins, Special Collections and Archives, Gainesville campus, University of North Georgia.

Detailed description of the collection

Committee, 1983

Box 1/Folder 1


Congratulations, 1983

Box 1/Folder 2

RSVPs, 1983

Box 1/Folder 3

Speakers, 1983

Box 1/Folder 4

Thank you notes, 1983

Box 1/Folder 5

News clippings, 1983

Box 1/Folder 6

Programs and invitations, 1983

Box 1/Folder 7

Remarks and speeches, 1983 October 17

Box 1/Folder 8

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