Sitting in the Board of Regents meeting this morning as they announced President Keel’s new appointment to Georgia Regents University was upsetting. As the vote was taken and the announcement was made, my heart sank and I thought, “How would anyone ever be able to replace the passion and excitement that Brooks Keel brought to Georgia Southern?”
One of my first memories of Georgia Southern was meeting Brooks Keel at a scholarship event my senior year of high school. I was already terrified of sitting through a scholarship interview, but the thought of having to shake hands with the most important man on campus was almost too much to handle. Presidents are big scary people that don’t have time to remember your name or care about where you’re from; they’re there to be the face of a school and bring in students. Right?
President Keel is the opposite of all this. He spoke at our scholarship dinner about how Georgia Southern is here to help and guide you through your four years of college knowing you’ll come out the other side a better person. And you know what? I believed everything he was saying. He is warm, welcoming, kind, caring, smart and a damn good Georgia Southern Eagle. When I sat at the same scholarship event this year, this time as a student speaker, President Keel again spoke to the upcoming students. This was right after a shooting off-campus the previous day and President Keel did not shy away from addressing it for concerned parents and students. He didn’t try to spotlight our football program and glance over safety concerns; he told everyone very plainly what happened and praised the people that made sure our campus was safe.
President Keel does not try to be just a figurehead and blow smoke about Georgia Southern; he is earnest and sincere. He walks around our campus frequently, stopping to take selfies with students or chatting about what class they’re on their way to next. You can spot him at Starbucks ordering coffee or running at the RAC. And during the toughest times on campus, like the recent death of five students, President Keel is there to lead the way and assure us that we are a family and will always have someone to lean on in tough times.
Going into my senior year, I think what I’ll miss most is getting to shake President Keel’s hand as I walk across the stage at graduation with my diploma. After getting to meet with him this past semester while working as managing editor, I got to know him as a proud Eagle, an intelligent thinker, a fellow fan of “St. Paul and the Broken Bones” and as an academic who truly cares about every student that passes through his campus.
Yes, I will be sad to not wait in line with President Keel at Starbucks anymore or wave at him on campus, but I am thrilled that Georgia Regents University will have the honor and privilege of having such a great president. It is a bittersweet day for Eagle Nation, but we have to put our chins up and remember that just like President Keel wants the best for us and our futures, we should want the best for his.
We will miss you President Keel. Good luck and thank you for setting the example of what it means to be a Georgia Southern Eagle.