September 2007 • Vol. 86: No. 4 : Cover Story

About Michael F. Adams

For Adams, the road began and continues in the South, with a short detour through the Midwest.

He was born in Montgomery, Ala., on March 25, 1948. He spent the first through ninth grades in Atlanta, Albany and Macon. At 15, he moved to Chattanooga with his family, as his father climbed the corporate ladder at Kraft Foods.

The next few decades were a whirlwind of getting an education—both in and out of the classroom. He earned a speech and history degree at David Lipscomb College in Nashville, where he met his wife. He then earned a master’s degree in communication research and a doctorate in political communication from Ohio State. He parlayed those degrees into a five-year job as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Howard Baker. He had a run for Congress in 1980, and then he went to work as deputy commissioner of economic and community development for Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander for a few years.

It was then that he jumped into education administration. He became vice president of university affairs and a professor of political communication at Pepperdine University. While there, in 1984, his parents moved back to Atlanta. His sister was living there, as well.

In 1989, he became president and professor of government for Centre College, a small liberal arts school in Kentucky. He stayed for eight years. When he tossed his hat into the ring for the UGA job, it was the last day to apply.

“My whole mentality was in [doing] some kind of service,” he says. “My mother wanted me to be a minister, and I didn’t think that fit me full time.”