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USF chief gives lively speech to Rotarians

University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft didn't have to go far for her latest speaking engagement.

The newly inaugurated leader gave a rousing speech to the New Tampa Rotary on Friday extolling the merits of the state's second largest university and her new home in Tampa Palms. She thanked the community for its warm welcome and laughed that her sons' new best buddies are 7-year-old twins named Ben and Jerry.

"It's particularly exciting to be here because this is my Rotary," she told a crowd of about 75 Rotarians and their guests.

"As USF grows so does the community," Genshaft said. "As the community grows so does USF."

The school's sixth president, Genshaft said USF has come a long way in 45 years but has only just begun. Her goal: make USF a premier public university comparable to the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California at Berkeley and UCLA.

That means expanding graduate programs, increasing diversity and building its reputation as a top research institution. It also means improving the lives of students on and off campus.

Like a proud parent, Genshaft rattled off several of USF's accomplishments, including 87 patents that have resulted in 30 new companies. USF's small business development center created more jobs than any other in the state, and its education college produced more teachers, she said.

"I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world," said Genshaft, whose energy and take-charge attitude in her first eight months have elicited praise from colleagues and students.

Rotary vice president Kim Cole applauded Genshaft for attending USF basketball games _ and staying until the end. Rotarian Sherida Ferguson said Genshaft brings leadership and vision to her beloved alma mater.

"I'm just really excited about her stewardship," said Ferguson, a 1975 graduate. "In hearing her speak, it's like she's a CEO of a major conglomerate."

_ Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or