Friday, April 19, 2013
On April 17, the University System Board of Regents approved the renaming of the University of West Georgia’s Honors House to honor the late Dr. Donald Wagner, the first dean of UWG’s Honors College and Professor Emeritus at UWG. The Honors College at UWG was the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.
Wagner taught political science at the University of West Georgia for 25 years. In addition to serving as the first dean of the Honors College, he was also the dean of both the extended degree programs and UWG e-Core. He co-created Georgia’s Political Heritage Project, helped build UWG’s Master of Arts in Public Administration program, and served on over 30 university committees during his tenure, including holding more than 10 chair positions.
What truly set Wagner apart was his commitment to students and higher learning. Students continually commented that he was a professor who sparked creativity, exploration and personal soul-searching. Above all, Wagner was willing to provide students with advice and assistance on any topic from academics to financing college to coping with personal dilemmas.
"Dr. Wagner was my advisor and mentor when I was a political science major and honors student at West Georgia,” said Dr. Michael Hester, dean of the UWG Honors College. “He was my boss and mentor when I was employed in the Honors College at UWG. The Honors College not only owes its institutional existence to his and Dr. Sethna's efforts. Its inspirational and intellectual foundations were born of and continue to draw strength and guidance from the example he set."
While at UWG, Wagner received the Teacher of the Year in the School of Arts and Sciences award once and was recognized three times as the Honors Program Teacher of the Year, an award that was renamed after Wagner in 2010. He also received the Owen Moore Faculty of the Year award from UWG’s alumni association in 2012, and a UWG presidential scholarship was named for him in the summer of 2010.
Wagner’s reach extends far beyond UWG. He served on several University System of Georgia committees and assisted in the development of USG policy on numerous topics including assessment, improvement of instruction, distance education, summer school, the core curriculum and semester conversion. The Distance Learning Administration Conference presented Wagner with the first Distance Education Leadership Award, and the following year, this award and several related ones were named after him and are now collectively known as the “Don Wagner Awards.”
Wagner was an instrumental member of the American Association of University Professors, serving as president and vice president of the West Georgia chapter and also as the executive secretary of the Georgia Conference of the AAUP. He was one of only six people honored by the Georgia Conference with the Akin Award, presented to those exhibiting outstanding service to academic freedom. He served on major committees at the national level of AAUP including those concerned with governance, accreditation, academic freedom and tenure. He chaired the AAUP’s national committee on government relations, and in addition, he served three terms on the governing board of the Academic Freedom Fund, chairing the Special Committee on Distance Education and Intellectual Property Issues. Further, he spent seven years on the Assembly of State Conferences, two years as chair and another five on the executive committee.
“Dr. Don Wagner was richly deserving of this honor,” said Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, UWG president. “Based on his long and excellent service to UWG as a faculty member extraordinaire, as the founding Dean of the Honors College and Special Programs, and his state-wide and national visibility in his service to AAUP, it was my pleasure and honor to recommend to the Board of Regents that we name the Honors House after him. I am delighted that they have agreed with my recommendation.”
Wagner was a key member of the community, holding the position of poll manager for six years in the City of Carrollton and 18 years in Carroll County. He served on the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1965. Wagner served on various community committees and countless panels, roundtables and workshops. He had more than 30 papers presented at professional conferences and more than 20 publication credits. Wagner died on Oct. 4, 2012, due to complications from cancer.