Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna

From 1994 to June 30, 2013, Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna was President of The University of West Georgia. When he retired, he was the longest-serving University President in the State (public and private).  The following accomplishments are shared ones, and reflect the work of hundreds of others.

During Dr. Sethna’s tenure as President, the institution saw transformative change from a College to a State University to a Ph. D -granting SACS Level VI University (this is SACS’s highest level).  The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia recently approved a sector change to a Comprehensive University with a mission to be a world-class academic institution.

The University has a total budget of ~$150 Million, ~1,200 employees, and impressive physical facilities. It has its own bus service, its own police force, its own zip code and post office, and has all the trappings of a small city. During his tenure, land holdings increased by 70% and now stand at 645 acres, one of the largest in the state’s public university system.  Academic standards increased several times and enrollment increased by ~50% to ~12,000 students. 

Almost 40 new buildings were added during Dr. Sethna’s tenure at UWG, and more square footage was added than every other President combined since the institution started in 1906, at an investment of ~one third of a billion dollars.

During his tenure, UWG awarded more than 33,000 degrees, more than every other Presidential administration combined in the institution’s 107-year history. The endowment was increased to more than 10 times its 1994 level.

Among other things, UWG is nationally known in academic debate and undergraduate research.  UWG has won two national championships in academic debate, and in the past 5 years, has beaten Harvard four times.  In the past 15 years, UWG has beaten every university in America 8 times in undergraduate research papers at the National Collegiate Honors Council and has won four first prizes in the past decade at the National Social Sciences Association – 3 of the 4 have been from Dr. Sethna’s class; he taught a course each year as President and ~40 student teams from his class were selected for national presentations.  He was elected Honors Professor of the Year by the students of the Honors College.

Dr. Sethna has also served two terms in 1999-2000 and 2006-07 (each 12-15 months long) on an interim basis as Senior and then Executive Vice Chancellor for the entire University System of Georgia. He had functional responsibility for approximately 260,000 students and 10,000 faculty members, in all 35 public institutions in the State, including four Research Universities, 15 Comprehensive Universities, and 16 Two-year and State Colleges, in the following areas: Academic Affairs, Planning and Policy Analysis, the Office of Information and Instructional Technology, and (in 2006) Fiscal Affairs for part of the term.  In addition, as Executive Vice Chancellor, he had line responsibility for all 15 Comprehensive Universities, in which these Presidents reported to him. 

As Tom Peters said, the best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders: Dr. Sethna has helped develop, mentor, and/or give opportunities to two sitting Deans, two sitting Provosts, another sitting VP, and two sitting Presidents (both of whom came from other states to Georgia at his invitation). He has also appointed two Vice Chancellors during his System Office role.  The list is longer when one includes protégés who went on to serve in major leadership positions at universities in other states.

Dr. Dr. Sethna N. Sethna is the first known person of Indian origin to become President of a U.S. University.  He was also the first person of any ethnic minority to become president of a college or university in Georgia other than a historically black college.

He has received personal Resolutions of Commendation from the Governor of the State of Georgia, the Senate, and the House of the State of Georgia, and from the State of Georgia Board of Regents, and has been named among the 100 Most Influential Georgians six times.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has also awarded him several other honors.  It named him a Regents’ Professor – the first Regents’ Professor in all of the 107-year history of the University of West Georgia, and named him President Emeritus.  Earlier, the Board awarded Dr. Sethna the prestigious Cornerstone Award, which is not an annual award, but is given occasionally.  In 2012-13 UWG was named the Customer Service institution of the Year, and Dr. Sethna the Customer Service President of the Year.

He has been presented the Key to the City to two cities in Georgia, and the City of Carrollton named a day as the Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna Day.  He has had hundreds of media appearances to his credit based on his academic work and his administrative contributions, including national TV appearances such as the CBS Early Show with Bryant Gumbel and CNN’s American Stories

The Advanced Academy of Georgia has named their signature Leadership Award after him; and the Honors College has created a new award for undergraduate research named after him. The Rotary Club has presented him with two high honors: A new award created to honor excellence in the professions – he and two others on the same day, were the first ever recipients of this award, and in addition, at a subsequent meeting, he was honored with the Paul Harris Plus One Award (for which his Rotary Club made a $1,000 donation to Rotary International in his honor).

Dr. Sethna has also earned a large number of academic honors.  Perhaps most unique is his record of being nationally recognized for instructional innovation by the Decision Sciences Institute seven times

He has published a book, Research Methods in Marketing and Management, by Tata McGraw-Hill. In addition, he has published 69 papers (30 of them since becoming UWG President), several case studies, and obtained externally funded research from the U.S. Department of Energy, IBM, AT&T and others.

Dr. Sethna is a Distinguished Alumnus of the two most prestigious higher education institutions in India/Asia: IIT-Bombay and IIM-Ahmedabad.  It is estimated that no more than a handful of people hold both these honors.

Dr. Sethna has been an invited speaker at hundreds of meetings, and at universities in many U.S. states and foreign countries, including the University of Oxford in England; he has also been the keynote speaker at various corporate forums.

He has been a Fulbright Professor and has taught at some of the most prestigious institutions in India including IIM-Ahmedabad, IIM-Calcutta, XLRI-Jamshedpur, Bajaj Institute – Bombay.

In addition to many financial contributions to The University of West Georgia, Dr. Sethna has made personal financial contributions to every other USG university and college.  He also regularly contributes to a large number of charitable causes in the United States.

In addition, Dr. Sethna has set up, from entirely personal resources, a Trust fund in India from which he donates to education of children.  He personally sponsors the education of eight girls and boys at an orphanage school in Lonavala, Maharashtra.  In addition, he has raised thousands of dollars in the U.S. from his friends and supporters which have been sent to this same orphanage to help the orphans with the purchase of computers and solar safety lights.  He will spend his summers from 2014 onwards teaching Science and spoken English to approximately 100 orphaned and abandoned children at this school.

Dr. Sethna contributed several hours of interview to Legacy. Take a look at his highlight as part of the Legacy team here.