OAKWOOD - Telling stories and giving gifts, friends, colleagues and former bosses of Lanier Technical College President Russell Vandiver paid homage March 22 to the longtime campus leader and economic development guru.
Kenneth Breeden, who led the school from 1975 to 1984, said that when he heard that Vandiver had been named president in September 2010, he thought "lucky Lanier Tech."
"He knows his business and he knows your customers, which is the business community," said Breeden, who went on to become the first commissioner of the state Department of Technical and Adult Education, which is now the Technical College System of Georgia.
During a reception for Vandiver in the school's student center, Breeden presented Vandiver with a miniature glass sailboat and unveiled a portrait of the white-bearded leader.
"You're a great friend and it's an honor to be ... able to say some words at your retirement," Breeden said. "And thank goodness for the people of Hall County that you stopped by Lanier Tech for 15 to 20 years, or 30 to 40."
Vandiver, 60, spent 37-plus years at Lanier Tech, mostly serving as vice president of economic development.
Over the years, he watched as it grew from a small trade school to a technical college with satellite campuses.
After announcing his retirement in the fall, Vandiver said that among his proudest accomplishments were opening the Dawson County campus and a conference center and new classrooms at the Forsyth County campus.
State officials announced Wednesday that Laura Elder, Lanier Tech's vice president of administrative services, will serve as acting president.
Vandiver thanked Elder for holding the reins until a new president arrives.
"I'm glad [her appointment]happened," he said. "I think that's going to be a good thing."
Elder, along with former presidents Michael Moye and Joe Hill, also attended Thursday's reception, which was mostly lighthearted, with punch, cake and laughter among the 50 or so guests.
But it also hit a serious note, as Vandiver talked at one point about state legislation that would allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
Such a prospect "is very frightening to me," he said.
"I cannot imagine a scenario where you could allow students to freely walk the halls of Lanier Tech with a gun," Vandiver said.
He wrapped the reception up with a more upbeat message, saying, "We're going to have one of the premier schools in the future, going forward."
"Things are in good shape. We've got a bright future in front of us," Vandiver said.