TAMPA — Frank Brogan, Florida Atlantic University's president and the state's former lieutenant governor, was chosen Friday to chart the future of Florida's universities.
The Board of Governors selected Brogan as chancellor over fellow finalist Roderick Chu, a former Ohio universities chancellor who has more higher education experience but lacks Brogan's familiarity with the minefield of Florida politics.
"Usually, I'm inclined to bring people from outside the system because of their different perspectives," said Ava L. Parker, vice chairwoman of the board. "But in this particular instance, I have to go against what I typically believe."
Board members made it clear they expect Brogan to use his Capitol connections to repair the university system's relations with the Legislature. The tensions date back to 2001, when Republican Gov. Jeb Bush got rid of the Board of Regents that preceded the Board of Governors.
Brogan, 55, served during that time as Bush's lieutenant governor, but during finalist interviews in Tampa on Friday he told board members: "My role in that was limited."
He said he enjoys working with the Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike. "I work both sides of the aisle, and I do believe you can get a lot more done if you have the support of everyone in the process," he said.
Brogan was one of four finalists out of 13 candidates, but by Friday only Brogan and Chu remained. Indiana community colleges leader Thomas Snyder and Florida State University associate professor Steve MacNamara bowed out earlier in the week.
Board members lauded Brogan's successful earlier career in K-12 education. They said the former education commissioner is well suited to bridge K-12 and the state's 11 universities — two systems trying to succeed despite hundreds of millions of dollars in recent budget cuts.
Before he was elected education commissioner in 1994, Brogan worked as a teacher, principal and superintendent in Martin County schools. He ran on the gubernatorial ticket with Bush in 1998 and served as lieutenant governor until 2003, when he took the FAU job.
Brogan earned his bachelor's degree in education from the University of Cincinnati in 1976 and his master's degree from FAU in 1981.
"I wasn't supposed to go to college. In my neighborhood, people didn't," said Brogan, who grew up in Cincinnati and was raised by his mother, a widowed parent with an eighth-grade education. Brogan, the youngest of six children, has a twin brother.
Board members conducting Friday's interviews spent more than an hour with each finalist, seeking their views on the system's needs, strengths and shortfalls.
"Traditional solutions won't work. Higher education here is pressured from within and from without," Chu said, citing "various moves in governance" in "a state that has traditionally underfunded all of education."
Brogan said universities must look to lawmakers and business leaders as "lifelong partners."
"I believe when you're asking for more money from the Legislature … they are looking for a return on investment," he said. "We can remind them that these are not expenditures. These are investments and development opportunities."
The board noted Chu's direct experience overseeing higher education, having worked with the Ohio and New York university systems since the early '90s.
Brogan, though, is adept at the hot potatoes of Florida politics and education. "He has a strong and powerful voice in the state of Florida," said search committee member Shane Strum, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist.
The next step will be to negotiate a salary and benefits package for Brogan, whose total compensation package at FAU is worth more than $490,000. Former Chancellor Mark Rosenberg's compensation, taxpayer and privately funded, was $416,353.
Shannon Colavecchio can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.