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Board Member - The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

Posted By Ashley Morales


Dr. Thomas Furlong has served as the Executive Director of the Florida Postsecondary Education Planning Commission, Vice President for Educational Services at Tallahassee Community College Deputy, the Executive Director for Educational Services at State Board of Community Colleges, Senior Vice President of Baccalaureate Programs and University Partnerships at St. Petersburg College, and served as St. Petersburg Colleges’ Interim President in 2010. Dr. Furlong currently serves on the Strategic Plan Committee and Finance Committee at The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS) at St. Petersburg College.

Years in St. Pete

I moved to the St. Pete area in 2001, so 22 years. I grew up in Philadelphia, and after graduating from LaSalle College, I moved to Tallahassee in 1969 to attend grad school at FSU, where I received my Ph.D. in 1976. I lived in Tallahassee for 32 years.

Organizations involved in

I am pleased to connect with SPC again as a member of the ISPS Board and assist the Institute as we work with the Pinellas area and statewide with the other 27 state colleges on strategic policy issues of importance to the colleges and the community.

I am Board member of the Tampa Bay/Canada Chamber of Commerce, working with area businesses and entities of the Canadian government to foster partnership opportunities. The Canada General Counsel in Miami is a leading partner.

I have also served as chair of the Epilepsy Foundation in the Tampa area and as a Board member and Chair of the statewide Florida State College Foundation.

I was fortunate to be a graduate of Tampa Bay Leadership during my early time in the area. It was a great lesson and built many colleagues I still maintain.

What gets you out of bed every day?

Since I am now retired, my family, including my wife and daughters and grandchildren, are my key motivators.

Why St. Pete?

I was serving as Deputy Executive Director of the State Board of Community Colleges when legislation passed to make St Petersburg Junior College the pilot college for studying the offering of workforce bachelor majors. The SPJC Board of Trustees and the college president asked me to come to Pinellas to implement the new law. An early decision was to change the name of the college to SPC in coordination with our accrediting group. From the first admission and the first class in the Technology Management Bachelor major in January 2002, the state now has enrolled 47,000 bachelor majors in workforce bachelor majors, and 90% of those who completed such majors are employed full time. I accepted the position as Senior VP for Bachelor Programs and University Partnerships, and concluded my time at SPC as Interim President.

What is one habit that you keep?

Maintaining my love of family, reading and travel. Trying to get to my gym at Baycare Carillon whenever possible.

Who are some people that influence you?

Senator and Governor Bob Graham. An early career stop for me was as higher education analyst for the Senate Education Committee in Tallahassee, and my Chair was Senator Graham. Bob introduced me to the idea that even if you are a policy analyst, you need to understand the finance side of all issues. Our team always attended our substantive committees but also all finance committees. The approach has worked for me my entire career. I also learned an elected official can also know policy, and work to ensure positive results are at the forefront for his team.
Chancellor Charlie Reed is a former employer during my policy days with DOE, but also a friend and adviser during my entire career. Charlie has passed on, but my work habits and approaches clearly were learned during our time together. Charlie later served as Chief of Staff for Governor Graham and as Chancellor in Florida and California. His team members along the way are still close friends.
Locally, I learned from many SPC leaders, but an individual who stands out to me is Ken Welch, now Mayor of St. Pete. I was fortunate to meet Ken as he assisted SPC on the Finance side for several years and we were in the same group of offices. His care for the community and SPC was apparent, and I learned a lot of Pinellas background stories from Ken. I was so pleased when he ran for and won the mayoral election. St. Pete is fortunate to have such a long-time supporter in this role.

What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?

Community colleges statewide, and SPC in Pinellas, are an amazing resource as they serve students and the community at a low cost and with the highest quality. Workforce bachelor majors like Nursing, Education and Business programs exist at low cost, and the course are designed with local employers to assure grads are hired and perform as needed. The lower tuition rates coupled with scholarship programs make such programs great options for students and their families. Florida state colleges are the best in the nation in assuring AA and AS credits transfer to universities, and now they offer their own bachelor options in workforce areas.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?

A few years ago, after retiring from SPC as Interim President, I was asked to return as Interim Chief Academic Officer as we sought a permanent candidate for the position. Those were a very positive nine months as I worked with President Williams and the deans, faculty and students. We were able to find an outstanding new VP. I then returned to my consulting business as CEO of Bachelor Degree Access Strategies. I continue to do virtual consulting around the state if requested.

What’s next?

While I am retired from full-time employment, I hope to stay involved in the Tampa Bay community with my various boards and other volunteer activities.

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