Storied Athletic Director Shares Legacy of Leadership

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Georgia Tech has long been lauded as the breeding ground for the NCAA’s Life Skills, an effort modeled after Tech’s Total Person Program to equip college athletes with skills to help them be successful long after they retire from sports. 

The father of the Total Person Program, Homer Rice, spoke May 15 to a room of Tech alumni, athletes, employees, and friends at an event hosted by the Georgia Tech Business Network. The former athletic director brought copies of his book, Leadership Fitness, as he does whenever he speaks to a group. 

“My father was a Methodist minister, and I asked him if I had to be a minister too. He said I could be a minister in any field, so sports has been my field,” Rice said. “Giving out the book is part of my silent ministry.”

Rice spoke about some of his personal methods from the book and how to be an effective, positive leader. He also uses his book to teach current Tech students about this topic in an elective course by the same name. 

The 88-year-old newlywed — he recently wed a longtime friend — exudes positivity in both philosophy and practice. He talked about one of his practices, the “attitude technique,” and how it shapes who you are.

“You become what you think, so you have to replace negative thoughts with positive ones,” he said. “It’s very simple, but you have to work at it.” 

One trademark of his leadership style is giving others the space they need to grow.

“I believe in other people, and I always believed in giving my people the freedom to do their jobs,” he said. “I’d ask, ‘What do you need?’ — then get out of the way.”

Rice served as Georgia Tech’s athletic director from 1980 to 1997. He took a $62,000 a year pay cut to come to Tech from the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was head coach, but made the establishment of the Total Person Program his mission with the move. 

Under Rice’s leadership, Georgia Tech won the 1990 national championship in football, had nine consecutive appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament, and won three consecutive ACC basketball championships. Rice is also credited with developing the women’s athletic program, raising $100 million for facilities, and increasing athletics fundraising from $700,000 annually to $5 million. 

From one athletic director to another, Rice credited Tech’s current leader Mike Bobinski as a model of positive leadership. Rice also acknowledges Bobinksi and President G.P. “Bud” Peterson in the “Tracking Positive Leaders” chapter of his book.

Though his tenure as athletic director ended in 1997, Rice has never truly left Tech. In addition to the leadership elective course, which he has taught 12 out of the past 19 years, Rice continues to be involved at Tech as chair of the Lee Candler Fund, which supports the Total Person Program. He chooses not to stray too far from the Institute.

“I’m on call if ever I’m needed.”



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Kristen Bailey
  • Created: 05/26/2015
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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