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UT president given warm welcome

David Ruffer admits it: He would rather attend a basketball game with students or listen to a guest lecture as University of Tampa president than sit at his desk pushing papers.

"The nice thing about being the president," he said, is that he's paid to be involved in student life, Ruffer said Friday after being inaugurated as the ninth president of the private university.

Several civic leaders, including Mayor Sandy Freedman, praised Ruffer's accomplishments and welcomed him to the community.

"He is truly an integral part of this community," Freedman said. "Dr. Ruffer has all the proven attributes of a university president. It is not merely window dressing."

With almost every seat filled in the Falk Theater, Ruffer talked about the university's past.

"You can't forget about the past," Ruffer said. "It is the thing that ties us to what we were."

Ruffer said that attitude holds true to any past problems the university has had.

"Those past problems are not ones that are worth worrying about," he said. "You can't let things that happened a few years ago paralyze you."

Ruffer, a biologist, had been president of Albright College in Reading, Pa., for 12 years.

Former UT president Bruce Samson left with a few troubles hanging over the university. Samson righted UT's financial footing after several years of deficits. But some students and faculty criticized his autocratic style.

Michael Lauder, president of UT's national alumni association, said that Ruffer was just what the university needed.

"He's bringing a breath of fresh air to the university that has long been needed," Lauder said.

"He's established a good working relationship with the students," said Gerald Stadler, president of UT's student body.

Wearing his university tie of miniature minarets, Ruffer surveyed the campus and smiled, "It feels good to be here."