Former Georgia Governor and US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will become the 14th chancellor of the University System of Georgia.
The system’s Board of Regents voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Perdue to lead the state’s 26 public colleges and universities, their more than 300,000 students and more than 40,000 faculty and staff.
Perdue, 75, of Houston County, was selected sole finalist for the post two weeks ago after a nationwide search following the retirement of former Chancellor Steve Wrigley last summer.
The Republican served two terms as governor in the 2000s, then was secretary of agriculture in the Trump administration from 2017 until last year.
Before being elected statewide, Perdue served in the state Senate, where he chaired the Higher Education Committee.
Student and faculty groups criticized Perdue’s appointment because of his lack of experience in education administration.
But Regent Don Waters of Savannah said management and leadership are more important to the chancellor’s role than an academic pedigree.
“Sonny Perdue is extraordinarily well equipped to lead the University System of Georgia,” he said. “His skills make him the right person at the right time.”
Regent Barbara Rivera Holmes of Albany said Perdue will take his new role with the university system at an important time for higher education in Georgia.
“We’re facing a national and global labor crisis … a workforce challenge,” she said. “Our institutions are our biggest economic development drivers. … Sonny will do a phenomenal job.”
Perdue’s appointment is effective April 1.
“I appreciate the board’s confidence in me and look forward to working together with them, our campus leadership and faculties, our elected representatives and most importantly, our students, to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to be successful and to produce even more outstanding results,” Perdue, who did not attend Tuesday’s board meeting, said in a statement.
“This may be the most important job yet. I can’t think of a better way to make a difference than to help prepare the next generation – educating them for prosperity, themselves, their families and ultimately our state. I’m excited to get started.”