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University of Tampa President Ronald Vaughn named ‘Outstanding Citizen of the Year’

Vaughn has led the University of Tampa since 1995.
University of Tampa President Ronald Vaughn, second from right, received the Tampa Metro Civitan Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award on Thursday.
University of Tampa President Ronald Vaughn, second from right, received the Tampa Metro Civitan Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award on Thursday. [ Amy Hollyfield ]
Published Feb. 6, 2020

TAMPA — He worked as a lifeguard and a barista as a young man and helped put himself through college by selling Sarah Coventry jewelry.

A longtime interest in marketing eventually put Ronald Vaughn in a job that business leaders recall was financially risky.

When Vaughn became the president of the University of Tampa in 1995, the student body numbered 1,500, school finances were shaky and the buildings on the small campus badly needed repair.

In the 25 years since, he has built the university into a bustling hub of 10,000 students who live and study in a collection of modern buildings as well as historic ones on a 110-acre campus and produce an economic impact of more than $1 billion per year.

It was for his leadership of the university along the Hillsborough River across from downtown Tampa that Vaughn received the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award at the governor’s luncheon Thursday at the Florida State Fair.

Tampa Metro Civitan, a local volunteer service club, has given the award to a community leader annually since 1927.

The name of the recipient is kept secret until the luncheon. If the person’s identity gets out beforehand, the award is not given. That has only happened twice — in 1930 and 1938.

Vaughn, 73, attended the luncheon with his wife, Renee. He was surprised and seemed pleased.

“I’ve been coming for many years and normally I’d be sitting out there trying to guess who this is,” he said.

“I have to say we’re fortunate to live in this great community, this great state," Vaughn said. “I’m proud to be here. I’m happy to do whatever I can to help advance our community and of course the University of Tampa.”

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