TALLAHASSEE — A search committee on Tuesday selected AT&T Florida president Marshall Criser III to become Florida's new state university system chancellor.
Criser, 55, has been the front-runner to replace former Chancellor Frank Brogan all along and now the Board of Governors will be asked to make his hiring official next week.
The committee's vote was unanimous and several board members sat in on Tuesday's interviews. The group spent about an hour each with Criser and three other finalists before comparing notes.
Members quickly focused on Criser as the favorite.
"I am pleased that this group, all four of us, are thinking of the same person," search committee chairman Mori Hosseini said. "And he's wonderful; we have a great choice."
Criser will resign from his job overseeing 14,957 AT&T Florida employees to supervise a staff of fewer than 60 at the Board of Governors. He will have indirect control of the state's 12 public universities, coordinating efforts among these institutions and representing their interests to the governor and state lawmakers.
"I'm honored that the search committee would give me that support," Criser said while driving home to Miami from the interview in Orlando. "I am excited about the opportunity."
Criser has worked for AT&T or one of its predecessor companies his entire career. He also serves on the Florida Chamber of Commerce board, the Florida Council of 100 and the Enterprise Florida board.
He promised to step down from any positions that appear to conflict with the new job. That will include his current role as vice chairman of the University of Florida Board of Trustees.
The Board of Governors chose not to spend money hiring a firm to help with its search for a new chancellor after Brogan stepped down Sept. 30 to take a similar job in Pennsylvania.
Eighteen people applied, and the search committee named four finalists last week.
The others: J. Bruce Rafert, provost and vice president for academic affairs at North Dakota State University; James "Jim" Purcell, the state university system leader in Louisiana; and Marshall "Mark" Drummond, former provost of the Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates.
During his interview, Criser talked about feeling called to a career in higher education even as he found success as one of the state's most visible business leaders. Though he does not have an advanced degree, he earned the support of faculty representatives across the state, said Manoj Chopra, a professor at the University of Central Florida and a member of the search committee.
One concern some members voiced about Criser was whether he will show a bias toward UF, his alma mater and the school where his father served as president during the 1980s.
Would he be willing to wear garnet and gold when Florida State University plays in the national championship football game, a member of the committee asked in jest.
Criser said he takes the concerns seriously but feels he has shown a willingness to work with all of the schools.
"Look at my record in what I have done, both as a business leader and specifically what I have done with my work in the Higher Education Coordinating Council," he said. "While I am proud of my alma mater, I also have had the opportunity to get to know and to observe great programs that all of our universities offer."
Still, Criser said, he likely won't be wearing garnet and gold on Nov. 30 when rivals FSU and UF face off in Gainesville.
Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or [email protected]