Dr. Kenneth Harley Breeden, age 77, of Dawsonville, Georgia, passed away December 14, 2018, at his home surrounded by his family. A memorial service will be held in the Ramsey Conference Center at the Hall Campus of Lanier Technical College beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 26, 2019, which would have been Dr. Breeden’s 78th birthday.
Dr. Breeden is renowned as a legacy leader who, working with four governors and in the face of challenges, unified the separately operated “vo-tech schools” around the state into what became today’s Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). In doing so, he created the one-voice reputation of technical colleges as leading players in economic and workforce development, in job training and careers for individual Georgians, and in Georgia’s longstanding acclaim as a great place to do business.
The core of his legacy beganin the earliest years, when something new and challenging needed to be created. In July, 1983, Governor Joe Frank Harris appointed a task force to consider the issue of a unified system of postsecondary vocational programs. He included Dr. Breeden, who had already established a name as Lanier Tech’s president and as an advocate of coordination among the separate schools. The group recommended the creation of a new board.
In December, 1983, Governor Harris created by executive order the Board of Postsecondary Vocational Education, which was referred to by some–and with controversy–as the “third board.” In the following January, 1984, its members were appointed by the Governor,and Dr. Breeden was named as its executive director.With respect to the timing of those events, it is today perhaps of some irony that they preceded by 35 years to the month Dr. Breeden’s passing and memorial service.
Dr. Breeden was at the table with each incumbent governor during all future statutory changes. In 1985, Governor Harris elevated the agency from executive order into law through The Quality Basic Education Act, and in 1988, added adult education to its mission. Along the way, the schools became “technical institutes,” and the agency became the Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE).
During the Miller administration, Dr. Breeden worked with the governor in support of the HOPE Grant for technical institutes as part of the new lottery-funded HOPE program. During the Barnes administration, in 2000, Dr. Breeden handcrafted the language in HB 1187 that authorized the institutes to step up as“technical colleges.” In the Perdue administration, Dr. Breeden brought to TCSG the last of the locally operated schools in completion of the commitment initiated over 20 years earlier.
Along the way, as a prominent state leader under four governors, Dr. Breeden served on countless commissions and councils, economic development recruitment teams, and public education coordinating committees, in Georgia and beyond. His counsel was often sought by governors and legislators, business and industry leaders, and economic developers. His insistence on student success as the foundation of all other efforts was unswerving, and his respected leadership as a professional and as a person earned him a high standing among his colleagues that endures to this day.
Prior to his leadership with the state, Dr. Breeden was president of Lanier Technical College from 1975 to 1984, and was a faculty member, dean, and president of DeVry Institute of Technology in Atlanta from 1970 to 1975. He also worked earlier in his career at the Georgia Institute of Technology as a research engineer, from 1964 to 1970. The earliest step along his professional path was as a draftsman for Westinghouse through a Georgia Tech co-op program.
He received his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University in 1977, his Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1967, and his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1965 with Honor.
His devotion to work never kept Dr. Breeden from being a loving husband and father, from being a surrogate father to many of the family’s friends, and from living life to the fullest. One of his favorite pastimes was to hike trails, spend time on Lake Hartwell, or to travel, even if just a short trip to a town in the north Georgia mountains. Among his happiest recollections was a time when his children learned of their father’s desire to hike the Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail, and all three children gathered their gear and headed to Springer Mountain to join him. Later, the family flew to Maine, and spent time hiking trails in Acadia National Park along the northern Atlantic coastline.
Dr. Breeden is survived by his wife, Gerri Breeden of Dawsonville; son, Kenneth Michael(Barbara) Breeden of Orange Park, FL, and daughter Stacy Breeden (Shannon Lee) O'Quinn of Ridgeland, SC, and son, Matthew Clay Breeden of Brookhaven, GA; grandchildren, Christopher Michael (Sharon) Breeden, and Austin Morgan O'Quinn; sisters, Nancy Faulkner and Carole Dwyer.
The family has requested in lieu of flowers that contributions be made to the Kenneth H. Breeden Scholarship, Lanier Technical College Foundation, 2535 Lanier Tech Drive, Gainesville, Georgia 30507, or to a similar scholarship through the foundation at any of the technical colleges around the state. Dr. Breeden would have been verypleased to have students receive support in his name.
Ingram Funeral Home & Crematory, Cumming, Georgia is in charge of arrangements.