News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Songs have been written about him. Signs bearing his name have been defaced. It is all driven by protests against the new name for Augusta's soon-to-be merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences University ... Georgia Regents University.
Dr. Ricardo Azziz allowed our cameras only into his home for an extensive sit-down interview.
"Is there anything that you would do differently?" we asked.
"Everyday you think of things that you would do differently if you had the hindsight," he said. "I don't know that there are any major issues we would have gone back and done differently."
But who can forget the $45,000 national naming survey? Despite Augusta being at the top of the list it, the city name never made the final cut.
The rejection was a sour note -- to say the least -- for the community.
"There are things that I wish we had done better or differently," Azziz said. "When you have 100 different initiatives, it happens that way."
And thus, the "Save the A" campaign was born.
"You get up and you walk outside and you see your yard covered in 'Save the A' signs ... what did you think?" we asked Dr. Azziz.
"Well, I think a prank is not unexpected," he said. "So that is the kind of thing I really wasn't surprised about."
Signs line Azziz's neighborhood in support of including Augusta in the name of the "New U." It is a true grassroots movement.
"It's perfectly legitimate," he said. "It is the kind of thing that America has been built on, and I don't really take it personally in that regard."
"I have to ask you this because you know people talk about this. Are you passing through or are you here for the long haul?" we asked.
"I'm here for the long haul," Azziz replied.
Azziz says what to call the "New U" is just the beginning.
"And you have an obligation to see this through a period of time. And so I'm here for the long haul," he said. "As I've said to people, if they are thinking they are going to out-wait me, they may be sorely disappointed."
"This is home for us." Azziz went on to say. "This is home for the Azziz family."
The formal name, Georgia Regents University, goes before the Board of Regents in January. Azziz says they will have the final say on the name.
To see all of the clips from the interview, click here to view the playlist: