This year, East Georgia State College is celebrating its 50th anniversary and also welcomed a new president to lead the college.
Newly installed EGSC President Dr. David Schecter, 56, was born back when the school, now with a main campus in Swainsboro and additional locations in Statesboro and Augusta, was still in the idea phase. As early as the mid-1950s, leaders in Emanuel County began urging state leaders to create a two-year college in the area. Following a study to determine the need for more such colleges, in 1970, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved six possible locations, including Swainsboro, with the stipulation that each county with a prospective site would provide the land or property for a new campus and the funding for constructing and furnishing the initial physical plant.
Emanuel County citizens agreed and in September 1971 voted for a bond issue of $2.1 million to underwrite the cost of a new college, while the local Board of Education provided a 207-acre wooded site within the Swainsboro city limits. Three months later, the Board of Regents gave its final approval for Emanuel County Junior College, and construction began that same month.
With temporary headquarters at the Swainsboro National Guard Amory, the school’s charter class of 167 students began fall classes in 1973, and by 1974, the Swainsboro campus was complete, welcoming students for the 1974–75 academic year.
More than a decade later, the University System of Georgia determined the term “junior” should be removed from the names of all of its two-year institutions, and Emanuel County Junior College was renamed East Georgia College in 1988 — the same year the initial $2.1 million bond to construct the school was repaid. After earning state college status in 2012, it underwent a second name change, officially becoming East Georgia State College.
EGSC expands to Statesboro
For over half of its 50-year history, EGSC has had a presence in Statesboro, beginning in 1997 with headquarters in the Harvey House on Georgia Southern University’s campus. In 2011, a new facility was constructed on Highway 301 to hold classes and administrative offices for Statesboro-area students and faculty. The following decade saw tremendous growth, and in early 2022 — the same year that Schecter was named sixth president of the college — its Statesboro headquarters relocated back to Georgia Southern’s campus, where it is now housed in the Nessmith-Lane Building.
“It’s really a win-win for the students and faculty and staff because being on (Georgia Southern’s) campus … allows them to access the library more easily, … to walk to the gym, to tutoring,” Schecter said. “We love being on that campus, and we know our students appreciate the proximity to everything that Georgia Southern offers.”
In 2021, EGSC partnered with GS to develop the Bobcat to Eagle (B2E) program, which provides its students an easy transfer pathway directly to Georgia Southern. EGSC students can take classes on the Statesboro campus, and after completing 30 credit hours in the program while maintaining a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, they can opt to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program at GS.
“Our students are immersed in the Georgia Southern atmosphere of a larger university, but they still get to experience the small class sizes and benefits of EGSC,” said Harley Smith, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at EGSC and an alumnus of the school. “With our Bobcat 2 Eagle program, students can easily transfer over to Georgia Southern after spending time with us at EGSC, getting prepared and ready for the larger university atmosphere.”
That’s the approach Smith took with her own college education, spending two years at EGSC before enrolling at Georgia Southern, and she appreciated the opportunity to become accustomed to a larger campus while still enjoying a more intimate classroom setting.
“My favorite thing about EGSC during my time as a student was the small class sizes and the connection I had with my professors,” she said. “They really took time to help me transition from high school to college so I could be successful.”
EGSC welcomes Dr. David Schecter
Adopted at birth by parents Linda and Phillip, Schecter, 56, is a native of Florida, but his education and career have moved him all around the country. During the recent investiture ceremony celebrating his official installation as sixth president of EGSC, held at the college’s Swainsboro campus, Schecter talked about himself and his love of music, sports and poker.
“Mom and Dad taught me how to read, but they also, along with my Aunt Tiny, taught me a love of all card games that’s never gone away,” he said. Referencing a photo shown on screen during his speech, Schecter said, “There’s a poker rack and a bunch of chips in front of me, and we must’ve just gotten through a session with my Aunt Tiny, who taught me everything I knew for years about card games.”
During his very first visit to EGSC, Schecter said he fell in love with the school.
“I spoke to students and just had a wonderful vibe that this could be a good fit and a place I hoped I could do some good and work hard for a community that I was just learning about, and I was very excited to learn more about,” he said.
That feeling was solidified when he saw the Bobcats’ athletic facilities.
“You might not know, but there is a nickname for this town (Swainsboro) and this sign is on our baseball dugout — ‘Swainsvegas.’ I knew I was home when I saw that sign.”
In fact, his love of casino games was the inspiration behind the school’s most recent Casino Night fundraiser and silent auction benefitting the East Georgia State College Foundation, which provides educational and financial support while advocating for its school’s diverse student population.
In Schecter, EGSC welcomes a president who loves what he does, especially “getting to know our students and some of their families and the excitement that they feel about going to college.”
“Many of our students are first-generation students; they may think they aren’t ready for college, so seeing them get to graduate is exciting,” he said.
Schecter says he and East Georgia State College aren’t just looking to help students with their education but also their needs, their confidence and their adaptability. At his investiture, he named some of the things he has found especially important during his short tenure at the college, which include the opening of the school’s Bobcat Pantry “and the work we’re doing to support students’ basic needs, like food and housing insecurity.”
His enthusiasm about EGSC is palpable when he discusses the school, its programs and its goals. In fact, when asked to share his top priority as leader of the school, he struggled to give a singular answer.
“My number one goal since I started is to boost enrollment and student retention, and making sure we are building up the school as much as we can to serve as many students and families as we can in our area,” he said. “That’s really goal numbers one, two and three.”
He values the relationship between EGSC and its surrounding community, and he encourages students to be actively involved by offering up opinions when they have an issue or need help with a decision.
“I think the number one thing that sticks out to me about Dr. Schecter is how available he is to faculty, staff and students,” Smith said. “He takes time to meet with each group and wants to hear their concerns and their thoughts and ideas. He wants everyone to have a seat at the table, so to speak, when decisions are made.
“He hosts open meeting times for anyone from the college to come and speak with him. He hosts town halls for faculty and staff to be informed on a variety of topics. He is involved with our student groups and wants to make sure they have a voice,” she continued. “These things are so important, and I think they make a great president. When a president takes the time to try to understand an issue or make a decision by putting themselves in another person's shoes, it shows that they really care about the institution and the people that make the institution what it is.”
In addition to these goals, Schecter and EGSC are looking to enhance the school’s offerings by proposing the addition of another four-year degree.
“We will be asking the University System of Georgia for consideration of expanding our associate degree in business to a bachelor’s degree in business,” he said, adding that the decision to go the business route was reached after much in-depth research into various possible programs and degrees.
As Schecter embarks on a new year with new goals as president, East Georgia State College and its surrounding community are excited to welcome him to the Peach State — including its deer population. In fact, Smith said, as soon as he moved to Georgia, a deer greeted him by running into his car!
“While we may be used to this activity in our area, Dr. Schecter was not and is now very cautious on the roads,” she said. “He always makes sure to tell people to ‘Watch for deer!’ when they leave the office.
“When I arrived at work a few weeks ago, a deer was actually near Dr. Schecter's parking spot on campus. Since we like to joke about the deer incident, I took a photo and sent it to him,” she said. “I wanted to make sure he knew a deer was waiting for him.”