Jackson Widener, Jr., former dean of the college of business at Augusta University, died May 30 at the age of 85.
Widener was dean of business for 12 years, retiring in 2005. Prior to joining the institution, when it was known as Augusta State University, he had a 32-year career with Georgia Power.
“I am so very saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Widener. He was an outstanding gentleman who was a great advocate of the Hull College, AU, and the community of Augusta. I am proud to have followed in his footsteps as Dean and hope to continue to build on the great foundation he laid for the Hull College. We honor Jack’s legacy and memory by providing a great business education here at AU/Hull,” said Richard Franza, Ph.D., dean of the Hull College of Business.
A native of Augusta, Widener was born Nov. 26, 1936, and went on to graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Executive Business Management Program at Harvard University.
“Crossing from the corporate world into academe is not easy, especially in administration. Jack quickly learned the landscape and the landmines. He gained the respect of faculty and staff with the passion and professionalism of his outstanding leadership,” recalled Pam Jackson, Emeritus Professor of Accounting at Augusta University, who retired in 2017.
Jackson said Widener is credited with the college of business becoming Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredited.
“When Jack arrived, the college had been striving to achieve AACSB accreditation for years. AACSB designation is earned by less than 5% of colleges of business through a rigorous peer review process. It requires demonstration of high-quality faculty, relevant curriculum, and innovative programs. This translates into manhours and financial resources difficult for a small college of business to find. With his excellent management and organizational skills, Jack led our college to AACSB accreditation with the first few years of his tenure. It was an amazing achievement,” Jackson said.
Emeritus Professor Don Howard said Widener was a consummate leader. “His basis for leadership was honesty, integrity and transparency. Jack was always the cheerleader and champion of us all.”
Widener was a member of Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta and possessed a lengthy history of civic and business activities. Most recently, Widener spearheaded the Heroes Overlook project on the Augusta Riverwalk, a memorial which honors individuals from the Augusta area who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, or the Distinguished Service Cross.
He served as a trustee of Mercer University and as a chairman for the Georgia Railroad Bank & Trust Company, the Augusta College Foundation, the General Aviation Board of Augusta, and the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce.
Widener had been president of the Rotary Club of Augusta, Augusta Tomorrow, the Richmond County Historical Society, and the Shield Club of Greater Augusta.
“Jack was not only a dean who got things done, but he was also collegial, good humored, and compassionate. He often made the rounds to visit faculty and staff to see how things were going in the trenches,” Jackson said. “Jack was a great listener often sharing words of wisdom and a good story which left you smiling. He cultivated a great sense of family and caring within our ranks as well as a professional pride.”