It looks like you're using an outdated web browser. For the best and most secure way to view the ABAC website, please upgrade to the latest version. Close

Tift, Bridges Key Figures as ABAC Celebrates 110th Birthday on February 20

TIFTON – Captain Henry Harding Tift and Dr. David Bridges never met. But the founder of Tifton and the president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College certainly espouse similar philosophies, and both have played pivotal roles in the growth of ABAC, which celebrates its 110th birthday on Feb. 20.

“Whether we like it or not, change is the way to prosper,” Bridges, the longest serving active president in the University System of Georgia, said. “Prosperity for ABAC is defined by producing more graduates who have experienced the life-changing potential that goes along with the ABAC experience.

“Making the lives of young people better was the mission in 1908, and we’re still doing that today. The value of the ABAC experience is absolutely priceless.”

Tift obviously believed in the power of education when he led a delegation of 30 men to Albany on Nov. 23, 1906 to submit a bid in hopes that Tifton would become the site for the Second District Agricultural and Mechanical School.

According to an article in “The Daily Tifton Gazette,” the Tifton bid included $55,000 in cash, free lights, water, and telephone service for 10 years, a sewage system, 315 acres of land valued at $50 an acre, and the timber on the land valued at $4,500. On the eighth ballot, the Tifton bid finally surpassed the bids of Albany, Camilla, Pelham, and Ashburn.

“Of all the investments I have ever made, this school has brought me the biggest dividends,” Tift said of the area high school that opened its doors to 27 students on Feb. 20, 1908.

Tell it Captain. For a total outlay of about $95,700, Tifton became the home to the Second District A&M School, which became South Georgia A&M College in 1924, the Georgia State College for Men in 1929, and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 1933. In 2016, ABAC’s economic impact on Tifton and surrounding communities skyrocketed to $369,874,664.

“Captain Tift and the residents of Tifton invested in the Second District A&M School 110 years ago, and that investment continues to pay dividends in 2018,” Bridges, now in his 12th year as the ABAC President, said.

Both Tift and Bridges shared from their own financial resources for the greater good of ABAC.

Tift gave out of his own pocket $36,400 in cash, the 315 acres of land, the timber rights, and a portion of the lights and water service for the bid in 1906. Among many other contributions to the ABAC Foundation, Bridges and his wife, Kim, committed $20,000 toward a $100,000 fundraising campaign for an ABAC Veterans Enrichment Fund in 2015. After reaching the goal, Bridges announced a $1,000,000 campaign for a veterans’ endowment fund in 2016.

Differences abound between the ABAC of today and the Second District A&M School of 1908. Only male students could live on campus in the early days. Today, around 1,400 students live on campus, and the females outnumber the males in the total ABAC enrollment, which showed 3,394 students from 24 countries, 18 states, and 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties during the 2017 fall semester.

Instead of the 1908 high school curriculum, ABAC now offers 13 bachelor’s degree programs in Agribusiness, Agriculture, Agricultural Education, Biology, Business and Economic Development, Environmental Horticulture, History and Government, Natural Resource Management, Nursing, Rural Community Development, Writing and Communication, and Rural Studies. ABAC also continues to offer associate degrees, highlighted by a two-year degree in nursing which prepares graduates for the Registered Nurse (R.N.) licensure exam.

Visitors looking to find out more about the history of ABAC, including the contributions of Tift and Bridges, can view colorful historic panels in Tift Hall, the main administrative building on the front of the campus. These panels depict the 110-year history of the college in an easy to follow manner in the George T. Smith Parlor, the ABAC History Room, and the Freedom Gallery, all open to the public from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Fridays.

As a part of a giving campaign for ABAC’s 110th birthday, cupcakes and $5 t-shirts will be available on Feb. 20 from 10:30 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. at the fountain between Conger Hall and the Carlton Center.


Printable News Release