Seldom does any institution of higher learning experience such extreme highs and lows in such a short time as has Columbus State University over the past couple of days.
The university announced Monday that TSYS, the Columbus-based international credit card processor, has made the largest contribution ever to the institution's prestigious Turner College of Business -- a $5 million gift.
CSU said in a news release that about half the money will be used to create a TSYS Cybersecurity Center for Financial Services, with an endowment to attract top faculty and fund scholarships and research. Another $2 million will create an endowment for programs in information technology, and the rest will support other academic and athletic programs as well as the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum.
This generous gift comes in the wake of the January announcement that CSU was one of seven University System of Georgia institutions chosen to develop a cybersecurity and info tech consortium.
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Aside from establishing the new programs, the TSYS gift also contributes a big chunk toward the university's record $100 million First Choice Campaign, which has now reached $65 million.
Yet even as CSU celebrates this happy news about its future, the university family also mourns the passing of two people of major importance to its past and present success.
Retired banker, philanthropist, environmentalist, preservationist, World War II veteran and historian James Kyle Spencer, who died Sunday at 88, was one of Columbus State's most generous supporters. It was Spencer who would finance the university's purchase of a 1913 house in Oxford, England, which became the home away from home for CSU students participating in a scholarship program at Oxford University -- a program Spencer also supported.
Another of Spencer's important contributions to the university is a collection of historic maps dating back to colonial America. Historian and former CSU professor John Lupold called the maps "a very, very significant collection and a real important addition to the CSU archives."
Not long after Spencer's passing, the community learned of the death of longtime CSU basketball coach and athletics director Herbert Greene, who suffered a fatal heart attack Monday night.
Twenty-eight years of Greene's 42-year coaching career were spent at Columbus College/CSU, 23 of those as AD. In that time, he compiled records that successors will be hard pressed to approach. In 25 seasons as men's head basketball coach his teams posted a 481-240 record. His teams had 16 seasons of at least 19 victories, and played in nine NCAA tournaments. His resume as AD includes 48 conference championships and five national championships.
To say it has been a bittersweet few days for Columbus State University is inadequate to the circumstances. Suffice it to say both the happy news and the sad evoke immense gratitude.