ST. PETERSBURG — A leading expert on the history of the Spanish colonial experience in Florida was named Thursday to a new endowed chair position at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, the third such position in campus history.
Professor J. Michael Francis will join the school on Aug. 1, holding the new Hough Family Endowed Chair in Florida Studies.
"I look forward to introducing students to the rich but often neglected history of early Florida," Francis said in a statement.
Colleagues praised Francis, who comes from the University of North Florida, as one of the brightest and most serious scholars of Spanish Florida.
He has more than two dozen state, national and international honors, including research fellowships at the Library of Congress and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar named him one of two historians on the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission because of his expertise in early-Florida history.
He is an author, contributing editor and curator of a traveling exhibit called "Imagining La Florida: Ponce de Leon and the Quest for the Fountain of Youth," which will open in Miami next year.
His appointment comes as Florida prepares to observe the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's expedition.
"I am grateful for the generosity of the Hough Family for an endowment that will benefit generations of students,'' said Frank Biafora, USF St. Petersburg dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.