University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft said Monday afternoon that retirement was “a very, very, very difficult decision” that she and her husband reached several months ago. The school, she added, “is a part of us, it’s a part of our family.”
Genshaft’s announcement – that she will step down effective July 1, 2019 – was made early Monday in a letter to the USF community, USF Board of Trustees and Florida Board of Governors.
Later, she told a room full of reporters that the USF system’s recent accomplishments, including its designation as a preeminent university, gave her a high note upon which to exit.
“And intellectually, it’s the right decision,” she explained. “It’s the right time for me and my family. Emotionally …,” she added, “I’m a washrag.”
She said she and her family intend to remain in the Tampa Bay area.
The Ohio native became president in 2000, at a time when USF had a graduation rate (for the full four years) of just 20 percent; in 18 years, the number has risen to 60 percent.
Student housing in the USF system – which includes campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee – has doubled under Genshaft’s leadership, to approximately 6,500.
The school has become one of the nation’s top 30 public universities for research. In 2001, USF listed $172 million in research expenditures; the current amount is $568 million.
In last week’s fall address, the 70-year-old Genshaft – who did not hint at the time that her retirement was in the air – praised the USF research community. “This is the eighth year USF has ranked in the top 20 globally,” she said. “We are also now ranked in the top 16 percent nationally for facilitating university startups – with 10 startup companies in the past year alone.
“And we are home to the globally recognized National Academy of Inventors, which now has more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning 250 institutions worldwide.”
Most significant was the designation, in June, of the University of Florida as a preeminent university, an elite group that includes just the University of Florida and Florida State University. As a preeminent research university, USF will receive an additional $6 million in annual funding.
A Catalyst reporter – somewhat tongue-in-cheek- asked Genshaft during Monday’s press conference whether the dust-up over USF’s recently-unveiled new logo (students and alumni roundly criticized it on social media) had caught her attention.
“We’ve been following this with great rigor,” the president replied, “and we’re getting different types of reactions. But we’re listening to everything, we’re taking it all in, and the kind of response we’re getting also is that it’s a great, great, exciting logo.
“Some are tweaking about whether or not the color is the right color. We’re taking that all in. We always listen to our metrics. So … stay tuned.”
USF, which was founded in 1956, is the only metropolitan university in Florida to be granted preeminent status.
In her fall address (read it here), Genshaft documented the impressive list of university accomplishments. “We, USF, have arrived,” she announced.
Genshaft’s tenure was not without controversy. She fired women’s basketball coach Jerry Ann Winters; leader of USF St. Petersburg Bill Heller; computer science professor Sami Al-Arian (who had suspected terrorist ties); Robert Daugherty, dean of USF’s medical school; football coach Jim Leavitt; and Sophia Wisniewska, regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg.
In her final act as president, during last week’s address, Genshaft introduced the university’s new academic logo – and the design immediately drew the ire of students and alumni on social media.
Yet her accomplishments were many, vastly outweighing the controversies and tough decisions.
Brian Lamb, chair of the USF Board of Trustees, praised Genshaft in a statement. “I am fortunate to have served alongside our great president and witnessed the leadership she has provided during her remarkable tenure,” he said. “We are performing at a higher level than ever before, making a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida, and none of it would be possible without the visionary leadership of Judy Genshaft. Her legacy will be felt for generations to come.”
Serving more than 47,000 students, the USF System has a $1.6 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion and was awarded a record $413.6 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2013. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.
This is an updated version of a story published earlier.