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  1. Opinion

Column: Honoring Judy Genshaft's legacy at USF

OCTAVIO JONES | Times Outgoing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, left, and her husband Steven Greenbaum made a surprise announcement last month on gifting $20 million to build a new honors college.
Published Jun. 11

A 2017 study by the American Council on Education indicates the tenure of American college presidents is getting shorter, falling to just 6.5 years … down from 8.5 years just a decade before. So as she retires, one might ask, "What's behind the impressive 19-year University of South Florida presidency of Judy Genshaft?"

Our two universities have a unique window through which to look at her outstanding history. As partners with USF in the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, a joint economic development initiative founded in 1996 to foster the growth of a high tech economy and the workforce to support it throughout a 23-county region across the middle of our state, we've grown accustomed to her energy, intellect and commitment.

From the day she arrived in Tampa, Genshaft has been a passionate ambassador for our mission. And Tampa's growth into one of the most successful tech hubs in the world is in no small way aligned with her advocacy. But she is more than a cheerleader for high tech. She has built programs that put her students and faculty squarely in the mix with technology leaders, meaning USF students are "workforce-ready" the day they graduate.

She has focused constantly on research, and that commitment has been a major part of why last year USF was named a pre-eminent Florida University. In fact, during Genshaft's presidency, USF's research activity has tripled to more than $568 million in expenditures, positioning USF as one of the nation's top 25 public universities for research. USF also now ranks as America's fifth-leading public university in generating new U.S. utility patents.

The quality of education at USF is constantly being recognized and is a major reason why Florida was again ranked as the top state for higher education for the third year in a row by U.S. News & World Report.

And as if her leadership and accomplishments were not enough, Genshaft and her family just made an enormously generous $20 million gift to help fund a new building for the USF Honors College, which will be named in her honor. And, on the heels of that historic philanthropic gesture, she announced an additional $3 million gift to endow the deanship of the new honors college.

We are sad to see her leave, but grateful that she and her family will remain Tampa residents and that USF has found a highly qualified successor in Steven Currall, who has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

We wish Judy the best and welcome Steve to our partnership.

W. Kent Fuchs is president of the University of Florida. Thad Seymour Jr. is the interim president of the University of Central Florida.

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