Just a few short hours after Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz submitted his letter of resignation to officials with the state’s board of regents last week, he felt a great sense of accomplishment regarding his time in Augusta.
But Azziz said he is also ready for the next chapter in his life.
“It is the right time,” Azziz said last Thursday, adding that he wanted to give the board of regents a six-month notice in order to allow for GRU to have a smooth transition. “Five years as the change agent is plenty. We’ve done 20 years of work in five years and, so really, my family and I felt this was the right decision.”
It’s been five years since Azziz was named president of the then-Medical College of Georgia back in 2010 and, not long after moving to the Garden City, he quickly became known as the man heading the merger of Augusta State University and MCG, later known as Georgia Health Sciences University.
That merger led to the highly controversial name GRU.
Long-time residents of the area strongly objected to the new name because the word “Augusta” was initially not included.
Citizens throughout the CSRA were outraged after Azziz backed the GRU name instead of the “University of Augusta,” which received the most support in local public polling.
Azziz acknowledged that becoming president of GRU during this transitional period has been a tremendous challenge.
“It has been an incredible journey. It has been a journey that was filled with wonderful successes and great individuals,” Azziz said. “It has been obviously, at times, difficult. No transformation goes without difficulty. No transformation goes without a set of detractors. But that is normal. That’s what’s to be expected.”
Back in 2010, when Azziz left his post as professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to move across the country with his family and become the eighth president of MCG, members of the selection committee said he was “the best person for the job.”
With more than 20 years of leadership experience in higher education, research and healthcare, Azziz seemed like the perfect fit to head the merger of the two universities.
As president of GRU and CEO of the Georgia Regents Health System, he managed a greater than $1.3 billion integrated and aligned enterprise with more than 1,000 full-time faculty, 8,500 students and 10,000 employees.
But now it is time to step away from this role and return to some of his passions, Azziz said.
“The first thing I’m excited to do this coming year, I’m going to delve into my academic productivity, my writings,” Azziz said. “At heart, I am a professor. I’m a faculty member. I miss my teaching. I miss the research, as do I miss my writing, although I’ve continued to do all of those a little bit during my presidency.”
While he is excited to return to those roles, Azziz said he is “hesitant” to go out and look for other opportunities immediately, since he is still committed to GRU until June 30.
However, Azziz says he treasures his time in Augusta, adding that all of the bumps and bruises that he has endured since 2010 have been for the ultimate goal of a stronger university.
“It has been an extraordinarily hard job,” Azziz said. “Not just for myself, but for my team and for my family because my family has been a part of that. But I will share with you that I always believe that somebody has to take the responsibility to get the hard work done. And that responsibility fell to me and I embraced it. My team embraced it. And I’m very proud of everything we accomplished.
“But it hasn’t been easy. But, at the end of the day, great things don’t happen without effort.”