Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Education

USF trustees will move quickly to replace president Judy Genshaft

TAMPA — It felt like University of South Florida trustees had to chase the Energizer bunny around, John Ramil remembers, even in the earliest days of Judy Genshaft’s tenure as president. In their first strategy session together, USF’s longest-serving trustee recalled Monday, Genshaft talked about her goal of making USF a top 50 research university.

"There were some snickers in the back," Ramil said. "Within 10 years, we did that. That’s the kind of life she breathed into the university."

As Genshaft announced on Monday that she would step down, Ramil, the retired president and CEO of TECO Energy, was among many local leaders wondering who could possibly fill the shoes of the only leader USF has known in nearly two decades. Ideally, he said, he wants a successor whose No. 1 priority is, like Genshaft’s, student success.

RELATED: USF’s new leader will need political savvy, fundraising skill

He wants somebody full of energy and vision, to build on USF’s rapidly rising reputation. Somebody who understands big organizations — USF has 50,000 students and 16,000 employees across three campuses — and, as a bonus, boasts experience in an academic setting.

"If we can get close to matching that in someone, the university will be in good hands," Ramil said.

Genshaft’s retirement has set in motion a national search for her replacement. And it will move fast, USF board of trustees Chairman Brian Lamb said.

State rules require "transparent, robust" searches for public university presidents. The cornerstone of the process is a search committee, 15 members maximum, which will work with an outside search firm that USF plans to hire shortly.

As board chairman, Lamb gets to assemble the committee. It has to include three trustees — one of whom will lead it — plus a member of the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Lamb says he’ll craft a diverse group that represents students, alumni, faculty, the foundation and the broader region.

He plans to announce members by the end of the week.

Through the end of the year, Lamb anticipates "a tremendous amount of heavy lifting." The search committee will meet often, sketching out job criteria and compensation, consulting with the search firm and reviewing applications.

Top candidates will visit campus in February, he said, and the committee will make recommendations to trustees in March.

Trustees will tap a president-elect and get the pick confirmed by the Board of Governors in the spring. After contract negotiations and other loose ends are tied up, Lamb wants the new leader to start July 1, when Genshaft’s retirement takes effect.

Outside searches can quickly rack up costs.

Just up Interstate 4, the University of Central Florida recently spent nearly $236,000 on a search to fill the void left by its president of 26 years, John C. Hitt — only to appoint Hitt’s second-in-command.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the school, its foundation and athletics association entertained candidates with $180-per-plate dinners, shelled out for consultants and flew in hopefuls from as far afield as North Dakota. The biggest cost of $150,000 went to a recruitment firm.

The search of four months ended in March with the unanimous endorsement of the hometown favorite, Provost Dale Whittaker.

Whether Genshaft’s successor is an academic, or maybe a politician, she said, the decision is out of her hands.

"I just hope that the person that comes in has the kind of passion and dedication to this institution that I’ve had, and that it continues to deserve," she said.

Leaders across Tampa Bay on Monday said they’d like to see a leader who will continue USF’s momentum.

John Touchton, chairman of the board of directors at Tampa General Hospital, said he hopes Genshaft’s successor will build on her success in forging local partnerships. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn praised Genshaft’s relationship with the local business community, such as her "nimble" creation of new degree programs like cybersecurity.

When asked what he’d like to see in the next president, Buckhorn said, "More of the same."

Joel Momberg, head of the USF Foundation, said he wished he could just clone Genshaft.

"But I’m sure she’s the first to say: Find someone better than me," he said.

It was a few months ago that Genshaft started asking Ramil, the trustee, how he had known it was the right time to retire.

She’d been talking with her husband, Steve, and sons Joel and Bryan about the idea since May, when she started to see some long-awaited stars aligning. Academic "preeminence" and an elevated statewide standing were on the horizon. Research dollars and fundraising were booming. USF was on the cusp of landing a much-coveted Phi Beta Kappa chapter — and much more.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: The reaction to USF president Judy Genshaft’s retirement news

Ramil says he told Genshaft that leaders err by lingering too long. She had always wanted to leave on a high note, and watched with pride as those major goals came to fruition. But she stayed quiet through the summer, and recently got a fresh list of lofty goals for the year from trustees.

"The board of trustees did not know of this decision, and I purposely wanted that," Genshaft said Monday. "I wanted the goals to come from them, as though I was going to be here forever."

Last week, she delivered her fall address without so much as a hint of her impending announcement, wanting the message of continued ambition to sink in "without any distractions."

She finally made some emotional phone calls this weekend.

"Intellectually, it’s the right decision. It’s the right time for me and my family," she said Monday. "Emotionally, I’m a washrag. I’m a puddle."

Ever on brand, she wore green eyeliner and a silver USF pin on her lapel as she spoke to a crowd of reporters and school leaders at a news conference Monday. Thunder boomed outside the Patel Center on the Tampa campus, and USF leaders rose in a standing ovation.

When it comes to her future plans, she says, stay tuned as she figures that out — though she promises she won’t be leaving the area.

"My mind has not mentally left any inch of the University of South Florida," she said. "I’m going to lead this institution forward until July first as though I’d never leave."

She wants to raise $100 million. She wants an even stronger freshman class next year. She wants even greater research expenditures, building on this year’s record high of $568 million.

"I’m going to try to wrap up everything I possibly can," she said. That includes the blueprint for the consolidation of the USF System’s three universities.

But some goals she’ll likely leave to her successor, like joining the elite Association of American Universities, a Who’s Who of the nation’s best schools.

On Monday evening, trustees took some time on a conference call to praise the outgoing leader.

"The students love you," Stephanie Goforth said.

"You’ve taken us everywhere that we’ve dreamed of going," Jordan Zimmerman said.

"She has built a platform so that if we hire the right person our future can be nothing but bright," Les Muma said.

Then they dove into the plans for what — and who — comes next.

Times staff writers Richard Danielson and Justine Griffin contributed to this report. Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

 
Comments
Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

Ernest Hooper: HCC helps light the way for those on life's winding paths

After he graduated from a Maryland high school, Rickey Murray had a number of opportunities awaiting him at a number of four-year institutions.He eyed the University of South Florida, applied to Florida International University and considered Virgini...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
School buses, technology updates and teacher recruitment on Hernando schools legislative agenda

School buses, technology updates and teacher recruitment on Hernando schools legislative agenda

BROOKSVILLE — Busing concerns, security technology updates and teacher recruitment efforts could headline the Hernando County School District’s concerns in Tallahassee next year. As the district’s legislative picture for 2019 sha...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco-Hernando State College leader Robert Judson dies at age 77

Pasco-Hernando State College leader Robert Judson dies at age 77

Robert Judson, who spent a decade as a community college president, died Monday afternoon. He was 77.In 1994 Judson took the helm at Pasco-Hernando State College, then called Pasco-Hernando Community College. He became the college’s second president ...
Published: 09/17/18

Pasco Letters to the Editor for Sept. 21

Re: Pasco deal for teachers another 'slap on the face' | Sept. 7 letterKenny Blankenship’s recent letter to the editor confirms why he is a social studies teacher and not a math teacher. Like the Tampa Bay Times, Pasco County Schools has a fac...
Published: 09/17/18

Pasco Schools employees union seeks tax referendum to support pay raises

The president of Pasco County's school employees union is calling for a referendum in which voters can decide whether to increase local property taxes so teachers and staff can get raises."USEP feels that the burden for coming up with additional...
Published: 09/17/18
Betty Castor would head up spending oversight if voters approve school sales-tax hike

Betty Castor would head up spending oversight if voters approve school sales-tax hike

TAMPA — Betty Castor, long-time educator and former president of the University of South Florida, will head up a committee charged with ensuring responsible spending of a sales-tax hike for Hillsborough public schools improvements if voters approve t...
Published: 09/17/18
Palm Beach County mayor charges sexism, says school body-shamed her daughter over ripped jeans

Palm Beach County mayor charges sexism, says school body-shamed her daughter over ripped jeans

A West Palm Beach teen’s slightly exposed knee was too much for her male classmate’s hormones to handle, according to Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay.In a Facebook post Thursday, McKinlay went on a self-styled "mom rant." She said her teenag...
Published: 09/14/18
Pinellas Technical School welcomes students

Pinellas Technical School welcomes students

SEMINOLE — The county’s first full-time technical high school recently opened its doors to students.Pinellas Technical High School, 12611 86th Ave. N., welcomed nearly 200 incoming freshmen, as well as 150 returning upperclassmen. These older student...
Published: 09/13/18
After graduates were forced offstage, UF changed commencement. Nearly 10,000 signed a petition to protest.

After graduates were forced offstage, UF changed commencement. Nearly 10,000 signed a petition to protest.

GAINESVILLE —The controversy started in May. During commencement at the University of Florida, family members and friends booed as an usher used physical force to rush more than 20 dancing graduates across the stage. It didn’t take long for the video...
Published: 09/13/18
With a college fair geared to black students, Shorecrest Prep reaches for more diversity

With a college fair geared to black students, Shorecrest Prep reaches for more diversity

ST. PETERSBURG — Janiece Simmons wasn’t expecting much when she arrived at Shorecrest Preparatory School last year for its inaugural fair for historically black colleges and universities.She wandered through the 20-some tables, taking a pamphlet here...
Published: 09/13/18