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Machen rescinds retirement as UF president

Cancel the retirement party for University of Florida president Bernie Machen.

He agreed Tuesday to remain at the Gainesville campus at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott and the chairman of the university's Board of Trustees, David Brown.

In a written statement, Machen said he changed his mind about retiring after Scott committed to support his goal of making Florida a top 10 university. Florida is listed 17th among national public universities in annual higher education rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

Machen, 69, had announced in June that he would retire in 2013. He made the announcement shortly after Scott signed a budget that cut funding for the state's universities by $300 million and vetoed a bill that would have exempted Florida and Florida State University from a 15 percent annual cap on tuition increases.

The tuition bill would have provided the state's top two research schools with funding that Machen and Florida State president Eric Barron said they needed to improve their national rankings. Florida's 12 public universities currently have some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.

"Making UF a top 10 university has been my highest priority over the course of my tenure at the University of Florida," Machen said after rescinding his retirement. "Now we stand at a crossroads where we have the potential to make giant strides."

He rescinded his retirement just four days before the board had been scheduled to select a new president on Saturday. A search committee was set to meet on Friday to recommend a slate of finalists.

Machen said he was "so very disappointed" after Scott vetoed the bill on April 27. "This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great state of Florida to have two world-class universities," Machen said at the time.

Scott, who has frequently spoken out against tuition increases, said in a statement Tuesday that he had asked Machen to stay on the job and looked forward to working with him and other state university officials "to realize a new vision for higher education in Florida."

"President Machen has earned a reputation for visionary thinking and has a record as a change agent," Scott said.

Brown said he would suspend the effort to find a replacement that began in July with the appointment of the search committee. "As we prepared for our final round of interviews with outstanding candidates, it became increasingly clear that defining a new vision for higher education in Florida will be front and center in the months ahead," Brown said. "We recognized the need to take full advantage of our very capable president and felt this is not the time for a lengthy transition of leadership."

Machen rescinds retirement as UF president 01/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 11:18pm]
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