Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

University system needs a star

I'm thinkin' Jeb Bush as our next state university system chancellor.

You don't like that one? Then I'm thinkin' Bob Graham.

Still no? Then Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and Clinton Cabinet secretary. Or T.K. Wetherell, president of Florida State University.

Why all this thinkin'? Because of the report last week that one long-shot candidate might be Carl M. Kuttler Jr., president of St. Petersburg College.

Here's what I think about Kuttler as Florida's university chancellor:


You bet. Sign him up. Put him in charge of Florida's higher education.

Florida's university system needs a supernova leader now. Enough with the polite academic-types.

We need a chancellor who makes news by opening his or her mouth.

We need a chancellor who will charm 11 university presidents into line, sweet-talk the Legislature, fight with passion for students and faculty, and be a red-hot media force.

We need a chancellor who will chop off the right guy's head when it has to be done, and who will jump out and take a bullet himself when that has to be done, too.

Can you even name Florida's last university chancellor? How about the one before that? Or the two before that?

No disrespect to any of 'em. But enough with the qualified-academic-types. It is time for a real (bleep).

The last dynamic, out-front chancellor we had was a decade ago under the old Board of Regents. His name was Charlie Reed, and he was — this is praise — just a heck of a good politician.

I want a chancellor who can schmooze and tell jokes with legislators and make them beg to give more dough to the schools. I want a chancellor who is curing cancer and at the same time convincing the idjits that we need Shakespeare, too.

Okay, here's why I like Kuttler. Because he knows how to build. He built St. Petersburg College into an empire. He makes partners. He schemes. Museums and nurses and teachers and oddball partnerships spring up behind him as he walks past.

Most of all, he wants to give as many Floridians good four-year degrees as he can.

Absolutely, he has drawbacks. Enemies, too. The dissenters say he plays favorites and runs the joint like a king, that you're either on the inside or you're not. He's also 69, which maybe is a factor, maybe not. Also, there would be some sniffing over hiring a community-college guy as the university chancellor.

But I don't care.

I want Jeb or Bob Graham. That would be great.

Oh, man, the faculty unions would go bat-crazy at Jeb! But that's okay. He might make everybody take some stupid test, but that's okay too.

I'd like to see a bunch of state senators get all puffed-up and smug and try to bully him, the way they like to sneer at chancellors.

Jeb would kick their butts. They would fear him. That's not a bad thing.

So, give me Bush. Give me Graham. Give me Kuttler. Give me Shalala. Give me Wetherell, who will tell you what you can do to yourself and make you laugh while he does it.

Heck, give me Alex Sink, the state CFO. Give me Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida. Give me Bernie Machen from the University of Florida.

Give me a name.

University system needs a star 03/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 16, 2009 9:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Wing of Channelside Bay Plaza being demolished to make way for Water Street Tampa


    TAMPA — The developers of Channelside Bay Plaza originally wanted the name to include "Garrison." That would have fit, in a way, because the complex turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    Demolition of the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza is underway, with a big chunk of the building expected to come down today.
  2. City Council candidates weigh in on noise ordinances, pier reconstruction


    ST. PETERSBURG — Residents of Bayfront Tower Condos peppered City Council candidates Tuesday night with questions about noise ordinances, road repairs and the multi-million-dollar plan to rebuild the pier.

  3. What you need to know for Wednesday, Oct. 18


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    Twenty years after it opened, part of Channelside Bay Plaza will get demolished, with a big chunk coming down today. [Luis Santana | Times (2010)]
  4. Can you eat a jack-o'-lantern? And other thoughts on cooking with whole pumpkins


    The pumpkin is sweating, and so am I.

    I've got my knife an inch into the watermelon-sized orb, which is staring at me all like, "I'm too cute to be dinner!"

    Pumpkin with farro, cranberries and walnuts is good hot or cold.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council candidates share some political views, disagree on fundraising


    ST. PETERSBURG — Two first-time candidates aim to replace Jim Kennedy as the District 2 representative on the City Council.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless, who are running for the District 2 seat. They appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]