TALLAHASSEE — Frank Brogan knew his time as chancellor of Florida's state university system was drawing to a close, but even he didn't know he would be leaving his post or the Sunshine State so soon.
On Wednesday, Brogan accepted a similar job in Pennsylvania and will start work Oct. 1. Coupled with the abrupt resignation of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett last week, Florida is now without permanent leadership at its two top education posts.
"His service will be greatly missed by education leaders throughout the state," Gov. Rick Scott said of Brogan in a prepared statement. "I have no doubt, however, that he will continue working to provide families with more opportunities, so they can live their version of the American Dream."
In Pennsylvania, Brogan will oversee a 14-university system that does not include four prominent state schools — Penn State, Temple, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University — and that has about a third as many students as Florida's.
The position is the highest-paid job in Pennsylvania state government, but Brogan, 59, will take a pay cut; he will make $327,500 compared to his current $357,000 base salary.
The task of finding a new chancellor rests with Florida's Board of Governors, the majority of which are appointed by the governor. Chairman Dean Colson said he isn't sure when he will name an interim leader or launch the national search to find a replacement for Brogan, who has been chancellor since September 2009.
"Selfishly, I'm going to miss him," Colson said. "I think we worked well together. He cares deeply about the system, and he works effectively in the state."
Brogan's contract with the Board of Governors is up in about a year, and he would have been forced to leave any state position by August 2015 because of his participation in the state's deferred retirement program.
When Pennsylvania officials came calling, he decided it was a perfect fit.
"I have no designs on retirement in the traditional sense," Brogan said. ". . . I enjoy being a chancellor and want to continue being a chancellor."
Because of the deferred retirement plan, Brogan will leave Sept. 30 with a hefty one-time payment — $622,109 — and begin collecting benefits. Together, that income will still be about $102,000 less than the $1.1 million lump sum he would have received if he stayed on the job through 2015.
Brogan has spent nearly all of his adulthood in public service in Florida. After selling insurance for a couple of years in South Florida, he became a teacher in Martin County and rose through the ranks to principal.
He was elected Martin County's superintendent, then ran successfully for education commissioner.
That drew the attention of Jeb Bush, who was running for governor in 1998 and asked Brogan to join the ticket. Brogan spent four years as lieutenant governor before leaving to be president at Florida Atlantic University.
He became the state university system chancellor in 2009 during a time of rocky relationships between the Board of Governors and the Legislature. During his first year on the job, Brogan negotiated an agreement where the board dropped its part in a lawsuit against the state in exchange for new laws clarifying the board's authority.
"We have the direction, we have a focus and, I think, some very exciting times ahead in our higher education system," House Speaker Will Weatherford said Wednesday. "And I think chancellor Brogan deserves a tremendous amount of that credit."
Brogan also navigated the system through the economic downturn and accompanying cuts in state funding, which caused many universities to increase tuition.
"Frank led the state university system during a time when Florida's public universities faced some of the largest cuts in its history," said Ava Parker, the interim leader of Florida Polytechnic University and former chairwoman of the Board of Governors. "Under his leadership in those difficult times, the system was still able to educate thousands of additional students, provide more focus on STEM education and develop a long-term plan for the continued improvement of Florida's already outstanding universities."
The Pennsylvania system — which comprises Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester — voted unanimously in January to keep the search process secret for the first time in 31 years, so the announcement Wednesday came as a surprise to many in Florida.
"I have come to know you all as respected colleagues and friends," Brogan wrote to Florida's Board of Governors, shortly after the news broke, explaining the secrecy of the search prevented him from discussing the new job sooner. "Together, we have gone into battle to fight for good public policy, and have come through victoriously on so many occasions."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Tia Mitchell at [email protected]