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Dr. Max Burns has worn many hats

Dr. Max Burns, who will assume the presidency of Gordon College January 1, has worn many hats and lived myriad experiences in the years leading up to his new posting. Burns grew up on a two-mule farm in Screven County, Georgia near Sylvania. His mother died when he was young. His father drove a bread truck. Farm chores and school work were his tableau as a youngster. ’I was fortunate to get a quality high school education. It has opened up wonderful opportunities. There are multiple paths to success,’ Burns told The Herald-Gazette during a visit to campus last week. Burns was one of three Screven High grads in his class to go off to Georgia Tech and the only one of the three to graduate. He worked his way through school via a job at the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. At Tech, he met his wife, Lora, then went on to get a master’s degree from Georgia State. A Ph.D. in business followed. ’I pursued that degree because I wanted to go to work at Georgia Southern and I did. I was there with Erk Russell. When I got there, it was smaller than Gordon is now,’ Burns said. While in Statesboro, Burns and his family lived on the family farm and he served on the Screven County commission. In 2002, he ran for U.S. Congress. ‘I won. I don’t know who was more surprised; me or my opponent,’ Burns said. He served one term in the U.S. House then stayed on in Washington for a few years doing policy consulting before moving to Dahlonega in 2007 where he worked in administration at North Georgia College. He applied for the Gordon vacancy because it is closer to his farm roots in Sylvania. His son, Andrew, is the fourth generation Burns to live on the farm and telecommutes to his job in Chicago. Another son, Nathan, lives with his wife in Smyrna. They are parents of Dr. Burns’ only grandchild, Luke, whose photo adorns the screensaver of granddad’s iPad. Max and Lora Burns will move to Barnesville next spring. For years, Burns officiated high school football games across Georgia. He says it helped him develop people skills, learn to make split second decisions and hone his ability to mediate conflict. He also likes to hunt, fish and play golf. In Gordon, he sees a great opportunity for himself, the college, the Barnesville-Lamar County area and, most importantly, the college’s students. ’This is a great opportunity for me. This is a wonderful school ‘“ a wonderful community. The leadership here has been great. Gordon is well-positioned to grow and excel. I am excited to be here. Gordon is absolutely a top shelf value for students. We can deliver a quality educational experience that is second to none for a cost that is nominal compared to other schools,’ Burns said. He notes that academic economics in Georgia have changed considerably since he worked his way through Georgia Tech. Nowadays, students and their families bear a much larger portion of the costs. ‘We’ve got to help mitigate those costs and look for other funding sources,’ the new president said. Burns also pointed out that colleges, Gordon included, will always be in the business of doing at least some remediation for a portion of those students arriving on campus from struggling high schools or family units. ’Most students need development beyond that high school diploma but study after study proves that diploma is critical. Our students are top quality, can go anywhere and will. Many are very well prepared. Some are not prepared. We will partner with secondary schools and work with those with the desire and ability to succeed,’ Burns said. Clearly, students will be the focus of the Burns administration at Gordon. ’We are here for one reason: to help young men and women be successful. We have to let them decide what constitutes success for them and then help them reach their goals,’ the big man on campus concluded.

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