UGA legacy began with a Pontiac and a proposal
June 7, 2024
Author: Cal Powell  | 706-542-6402  | More about Cal
Contact: Stephen Kuzniak  | 706-389-4196  | More about Stephen

Bill Kuzniak eased his dark blue Pontiac LeMans into the parking lot behind his girlfriend’s quaint two-story home facing Stegeman Coliseum.

He had two things on his mind: one, he was hoping to avoid getting another parking ticket.

“I got several while I was parking over there,” he said, laughing.

The other was proposing to Ann, his girlfriend of eight months.

It was the summer of 1969. Vietnam was still raging.

Bill and Ann were both finishing up school, Bill as a graduate student in business administration, Ann in consumer economics. He was set to leave for Fort Bragg the following day for an ROTC summer camp.

“It wasn’t anything I had thought out or made up a speech or anything like that,” Bill said. “We were just sitting in the car behind the home management house. I think we knew for a while we were going to get married. I just thought it was good timing.”

Ann said yes. Bill eventually saved up enough for a ring, and they got married the following summer.

Their union resulted in four children and 12 grandchildren. Counting immediate relatives, including Bill’s mother and their children’s spouses, the Kuzniak family has 17 degrees from the University of Georgia.

“The university is a big part of our family,” Ann said.

It all goes back to that parking lot outside House C, one of four 1930s-era home management houses attached to what was then known as the School of Home Economics. Ann spent a year there as both an undergraduate and grad student.

At the time, home economics students were required to spend a quarter managing the houses, overseeing operations like budgeting, cleaning, preparing meals and hosting dinners.

“It was like a practicum, and you were graded on everything,” Ann said. “You planned the meals, bought the groceries and kept up with the money, and it was to the penny. If you had 76 cents left over for your week, you turned it in.”

Even five decades later, Ann still has vivid memories of the experience.

There was Mrs. Jenkins, the faculty member in charge of all four houses. The residents had to invite her for dinner regularly, and Jenkins also had the privilege of dropping by unannounced.

“She was a real stickler,” Ann said.

Then there were the roommates. Most homes housed eight students – all females, of course – which occasionally made for some unique interactions.

“The girl I had to cook for was a Yankee, so one morning we had farina” she said, laughing. “I had never heard of farina. I thought it was dog food. Then one time for Sunday dinner, she had chicken backs. There’s no meat on a chicken back! Just weird stuff. It wasn’t my cup of tea.”

Still, Ann said she uses the skills she learned back then almost daily, as her grandchildren will attest when she makes them set the table.

“You learned a lot, and it was a very practical thing because you managed all the different aspects of running a home,” she said.

Ann completed her graduate degree in home economics in 1972. She and Bill then settled in Dalton, where Ann enjoyed a 27-year career as a UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Whitfield County.

Now retired, the Kuzniaks enjoy traveling and visiting their four children, all UGA grads, three of whom met their spouses while at the university.

Their eldest granddaughter, Elise, will represent the fourth generation of Kuzniaks to attend UGA when she arrives in the fall.

In 2016, the Kuzniak’s youngest son, Stephen, was hired as a part-time financial planning lecturer in Ann’s alma mater, now called the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, adding another layer to the family’s long UGA legacy.

“When I was finishing my Ph.D., my major professor asked me what I was going to do after I graduate,” Stephen said. “I told him I’ll teach anywhere in the world as long as it’s in Athens, Georgia. He said ‘Well, that’s going to limit your options in academia.’ I said, ‘That’s fine. I love it here.’ This place is a huge part of our lives.”

During a renovation project last year, Stephen’s office was re-located a few hundred yards from Dawson Hall to House C, one floor above where his mother lived over 50 years ago.

His window faces south toward Stegeman Coliseum, overlooking a spot where one summer night sat a man and woman in a 1968 Pontiac LeMans.