Regent Willis J. Potts to Keynote Fall 2012 Commencement
(Nov. 27, 2012) University System of Georgia Regent Willis J. Potts Jr. will deliver the keynote address to nearly 650 candidates for graduation at Armstrong's Fall 2012 commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Armstrong Sports Center. Potts will address candidates from the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Science and Technology at the 10:00a.m. ceremony and candidates from the Colleges of Education and Health Professions at the 1:00p.m. ceremony.
After a successful career in the international pulp and paper industry and a longtime commitment to leadership, education, and service, in 2006 Potts was appointed to represent the Eleventh Congressional District on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents by Gov. Sonny Perdue. He served as chair of the board from July 2010 to June 2011.
A Georgia native, Potts graduated with highest honors in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and completed the Executive Program at the University of Virginia. In 2008, he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni at Georgia Tech, and in 2010 the Georgia Tech Alumni Association presented him the Dean Griffin Community Service Award.
In June 2004, Potts retired as vice president and general manager of Rome's Temple-Inland Corporation after 35 years in the industry. He began his career in 1969 with Union Camp Corporation, a Fortune 500 international forest products and paper company, as an engineer at the Savannah pulp and paper mill. He worked his way through operational and management positions, including resident manager of the Union Camp mill in Prattville, Ala., before being named general manager and senior vice president of the corporation in 1992. After 30 years with Union Camp, Potts joined Temple-Inland in 1999.
Always dedicated to serving others, Potts has long been actively engaged with a number of charitable and civic organizations, including the United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the March of Dimes. He has also given over 20 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross.
In 2010, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) awarded Potts with the Herman L. Joachim Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an individual for voluntary leadership and service that has significantly and demonstrably contributed to the advancement of the organization. In 2008, he was honored with Rome's Heart of the Community Award. Potts continues to serve his community though his involvement with the mentoring program “Communities in Schools” and Mercy Senior Care.
Potts is past chairman of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for Wells Real Estate Funds in Norcross, Ga. and J&J Industries in Dalton, Ga.
In 2009, the University System of Georgia's Student Advisory Council (SAC) established the Willis J. Potts Student Advisory Council Leadership Award. The award, named in honor of Potts for his leadership, service, and commitment to University System students, is given annually to a Student Government Association president from one of the system's schools.
Approximately 650 graduates will receive associate, baccalaureate, and master's degrees from the university's four colleges. The Armstrong Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mark B. Johnson, will provide the musical accompaniment. Emily Grundstad-Hall (morning) and Carol Benton (afternoon) will lead audiences in the singing of the national anthem and the university alma mater.