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New GS president likely to make both Statesboro and Savannah his home
Brings multi-campus experience from West Georgia
Marrero Family 372.JPG
Georgia Southern University's next president, Dr. Kyle Marrero, speaks to reporters Saturday from the steps of the Marvin Pittman Administration Building. With him are interim GS President Shelley Nickel, left, as well as Marrero's wife, Dr. Jane Redding, right, and their daughter Lily, wearing an Eagles shirt. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

Georgia Southern University’s next president, Dr. Kyle Marrero, probably will have homes in both Statesboro and Savannah, he told reporters Saturday morning in front of the Martin Pittman Administration Building on the Statesboro campus.

But while predicting that a lot of time on the road will be part of the job, he also referred to that office location, across Sweetheart Circle from Statesboro’s Blue Mile, as a “principal home base.”

Currently still president of the University of West Georgia, where he has served in the top administrative post since 2013, Marrero doesn’t take the helm at Georgia Southern until April 1. But after the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia confirmed his hiring with a unanimous vote Thursday, he responded to area media requests with a brief press conference.

Accompanied by his wife, Dr. Jane Redding, and their daughter Lily, age 8, Marrero said the words “excited” and “thrilled” weren’t enough to describe his feelings about the job ahead.

“Really as we think about the distinctiveness and wonderful history of this campus, of Georgia Southern, of Savannah, of Armstrong’s history and heritage, Hinesville and the Eagle Nation and unifying that vision together and being part of that, it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a look to the future where together we will bring what the expectations are for this region, for this state and beyond.”

Interim GS President Shelley Clark Nickel also stood beside Marrero, and he thanked her for serving in that role for seven months so far, with two ahead. Nickel has been interim president since Dr. Jaimie Hebert’s resignation took effect June 30.

During his two years as president, Hebert led Georgia Southern through the year-long, regents-mandated consolidation process with the former Armstrong State University. This added the Armstrong campus in Savannah and Armstrong’s previous Liberty campus in Hinesville to the Georgia Southern brand at the beginning of 2018, creating a university with more than 26,000 students.

The University of West Georgia, based in Carrolton, had 13,733 students in the fall semester, after growing during Marrero’s presidency.


UWG multi-campus

When a journalist from a Savannah TV station asked what kind of balancing act Marrero will face managing a three-campus university, he noted that the UWG also has multiple locations.

“Well, I have a little bit of experience with that,” Marrero said. “The University of West Georgia has a Newnan campus. We also have a presence in Douglasville and we’re looking to expand in LaGrange. And so for that, you really understand the communities’ needs specifically.”

As an example, the he noted that in Newnan, the University of West Georgia worked with the local chamber of commerce and development authority.

“We talked about what are the exact programs in industry, technology, the different sectors that you’re looking to attract and make sure we’re delivering those programs in those essential-need areas and working in tandem,” Marrero said. “And so the same is true.

“I mean, the logistics of it, obviously, are I’m going to be on the road a lot,” he added. “I’m going to be spending time here as a principal home base and then being as present as possible in Savannah and linking that. What we want to do at the end of the day is make sure everyone here sees Georgia Southern as this regional presence, this united, single university serving the entire region.”


Two hometowns

The Statesboro Herald then asked Marrero if he and his family will make their home in Statesboro.

“We will certainly have a home here, and we’ll probably have a place also in Savannah,” he said, “and so we’re excited to be in both places.”

Before his appointment at the University of West Georgia, Marrero served as vice president for university advancement at the University of West Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan.

Marrero has visited 10 foreign countries in the United States Embassy Artistic Ambassador Program, as well as 40 states as a singer and stage director. His wife also holds a doctorate in music and has a career as an opera singer.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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