Valdosta State University mourns the passing of former president

The late Dr. Hugh Bailey (Valdosta State)

The late Dr. Hugh C. Bailey (Valdosta State)

I wanted to be sure that Valdosta State University graduates saw the obituary of former president Hugh C. Bailey, who led the school from 1978 to 2002 and played a large role in its transformation.

An Alabama native who graduated Samford College and earned a doctorate at the University of Alabama, Bailey was 83 when he died Friday at South Georgia Medical Center.

In a Facebook tribute today, a graduate noted: Your legacy lives on at Valdosta State University. Responsible for many strong academic changes at VSU, Dr. Bailey also worked to promote quality architectural design and preservation to keep the campus a beautiful example of Spanish mission architecture. If you’ve never seen it, drive through on your way to or from Florida in the spring or summer. For me, it was a beautiful and inspiring place to learn. And because of him, it will continue to have visual impact for the more than 13,000 students who enroll there each year. Thank you Dr. Bailey.

According to the family-placed obituary:

During his tenure as president, Dr. Bailey supervised Valdosta State University’s emergence as an innovator and educational leader in Georgia. Under his leadership, Valdosta State more than doubled its enrollment and became one of the state’s two regional universities. He personally presented over 33,000 degrees to students during his years as president.

New programs introduced during his presidency included the MPA, MSW, MSN, MBA (Accounting), MLIS and Ed.D., all of which were accredited by their respective accrediting agencies. The University established the first College of the Arts in the University System, which greatly enriched the cultural life of the region and served as the birthplace of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.

Also under Dr. Bailey’s leadership, the physical facilities of the campus expanded significantly,  including the creation of the University Center Complex, the Physical Education Complex, a Student Recreation Center with indoor swimming pool, the Communication Disorders Building, the addition that doubled the size of the Odum Library, the renovation of West Hall, and a 158,000-square-foot Science Center, which was later named the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center.

Dr. Bailey was honored by the Georgia Association of the American Institute of Architects for recognition of his work to promote quality design and preservation of the Spanish Mission architecture on the VSU campus. In 1998, Dr. Bailey led the University in adopting new admission standards, the first University System institution to do so. He pioneered a long-distance education program and the expansion of offsite campuses such as Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, as well as installing a multimillion dollar satellite uplink facility for transmitting VSU programming to the world.

Other university achievements during Dr. Bailey’s tenure included the theater program, which annually received over half the awards in the theater area for the entire University System, the launch and establishment of the football program and the creation of the marching band.

When asked about his career and his passion for education, Dr. Bailey once said, “I strive to draw on the creativity and energy of others to help them develop talents they may not know they possess. I hope that our region and our state are richer because of this fact.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

7 comments Add your comment


October 8th, 2012
1:43 pm

Behind every great man stands a great woman. We used to playfully refer to Valdosta State’s first couple as Dr. and President Mrs. Joan Bailey.
Godspeed and thank you Dr. Bailey. Valdosta State University is a greater place because of you but Valdosta, Georgia is a smaller place with your passing.

Will Thomas

October 8th, 2012
6:23 pm

Dr. Bailey was an exceptional educator and leader. I had the opportunity to have a history course taught by him when I was at VSU in the early 80s. His leadership will be sorely missed. To Mrs. Bailey and the girls, it was always a pleasure to visit in your home for events. A wonderful family who taught and welcomed all with open arms.Thank you so very much for sharing yourselves and Br. Bailey with us.

Mike Honcho

October 8th, 2012
6:43 pm

Great and very nice man. Loved my time at VSC/VSU. His leadership was extremely important.

VSU / VHS band alumnus

October 8th, 2012
9:03 pm

So sad to hear od Dr. Bailey’s passing. Laura was one of my best friends growing up and I spent a great deal of my happiest times in her company. Dr. Bailey was a wonderful father and a kind soul to any who knew him. My prayers for him and his family in their time of grief.


October 9th, 2012
10:31 am

I was there in ‘81 and remember how friendly and approachable he was. His office was always open. I was in a night class once and Dr. Bailey came in with a freshman he found wandering lost in West Hall. He made sure the guy was in the right classroom before he left. Do college presidents still do such things?

Debra Bailey Helwig

October 9th, 2012
4:03 pm

Ms. Downey, thank you so much for making the time and effort to share the news of my father’s passing. My mother, my sister, and I are grateful. Dr. Hugh Bailey was a tremendous leader for VSU and the Valdosta community, and he was also the best father any little girl could have. I am the luckiest woman alive to have him for a daddy. He will be deeply missed.

Ude Eko

October 9th, 2012
9:11 pm

I am a better person for crossing paths with Dr. Hugh Bailey – president, mentor, family friend, “uncle”. The shock I felt when I read about his passing has not abated. I had the honor of being student government president when Dr. Bailey led the then Valdosta State College to university status, and he afforded me an hitherto unprecedented place [for a student leader] at the table to observe events behind the scenes. He was decent, caring, and tough while not appearing so, and I will miss him. My family’s thoughts are with Aunt Joan and Debra and Laura during this very difficult time.