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-to-be 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.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.