Rarely can you attribute the transformation of a university campus to one man, but there is little doubt that Fort Valley State University’s physical plant is very different -- and much better -- than it was when Larry Rivers arrived a little more than seven years ago to lead his alma mater.
While the physical plant is new and improved, the school’s fiscal health is better as well. From a $2.5 million deficit to a string of balanced budgets, the school is healthy even during a period where state support has dropped almost 40 percent. But there is a more important aspect of Rivers’ tenure. He’s restored relevance to the university. He has changed the way faculty, parents, students, the city of Fort Valley, and observers think when they say FVSU.
The Middle Georgia community is going to miss Rivers and we hope the new president, Ivelaw Griffith, can continue the school’s string of success. That will be hard to do. With Rivers, the university got a twofer. Betty Rivers is better known on campus than her husband. “They may like me,” Rivers said in a recent interview, “but they love Betty.”
There are many challenges ahead and while Rivers has raised the university’s profile, fundraising, while quadrupled, still attracts just a fraction of alumni.
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Stephen Portch, former chancellor of the University System of Georgia, explained his five-year philosophy concerning university presidents. He told the Editorial Board that after five years, a president had either achieved his goals -- and it was time to seek new challenges -- or if he or she had not, they never would. Rivers is going out on his terms after achieving his goals by bringing FVSU into the 21st century.