Regents Chair Speaks at Winter Commencement

COLUMBUS, Ga. – University System of Georgia Board of Regents Chair Willis Potts will be the keynote speaker when Columbus State recognizes its most recent degree recipients during the university’s winter commencement on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbus Civic Center.

Jack Key, Willis PottsThe ceremony also will include the presentation of an honorary doctorate of humane letters to James W. Key, better known as Billy Key.

Key has been a member of the Columbus State University Foundation Board of Trustees for more than 20 years and has served for many years on the Athletic Fund board as well. 

A Columbus native, Key combined a professional career in banking with active community services through a variety of organizations, including the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and the Rotary Club. He’s served as president of each of those groups, as well as the Junior Achievement of Columbus, the Independent Bankers of Georgia, the Green Island Country Club and others.

Key is also an accomplished and widely recognized golfer, having won numerous tournaments and amateur championships. In 1961, he came in second at the Western Amateur, losing by one stroke to Jack Nicklaus. His golfing career continued after he reached “senior” status, and in 1990, he was ranked by Golf Digest as the No. 2 senior golfer in the country.

He’s been active with the U.S. Golf Association, the U.S. Seniors Golf Association and the Southern Golf Association, where he’s been a board member for 22 years. He’s a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

“Billy Key is one of the most respected local civic leaders of his generation,” said CSU President Tim Mescon. “He has been an enthusiastic and effective supporter for Columbus State University, tremendously helping its students, its athletic programs and its future.”

Another ally for Columbus State University over the years is Willis Potts, chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities.

Potts was appointed to the Board of Regents in 2006, two years after retiring as vice president and general manager of Temple-Inland Corp. in Rome, Ga. His 35-year career in the international pulp and paper industry included service as chair of the Paper Industry Management Association and as chair of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry. He also is active with the Floyd County March of Dimes, Mercy Senior Care in Rome, the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce and the mentoring program Communities in Schools.

Potts earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with highest honors from Georgia Tech and completed the University of Virginia Executive Program.

Seating for CSU commencement guests and rehearsal-instructions for graduates begins 4:30 p.m. For more information, go to