Next SCF president must mend 'partnership' between college, community

rdymond@bradenton.comJanuary 16, 2013 

MANATEE -- The next president of State College of Florida must be passionate about the classroom, have great communication and team-building skills, be motivated to stroll anywhere on campus at any time and be never shy about fund-raising or promoting the college to local civic clubs and businesses.

And, according to one wag at the final presidential feedback session on the Bradenton campus Tuesday night, "Be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

Actually, the crowd of 50 that attended the final of three presidential visioning sessions, including several members of the community, at least one student and many SCF staff and faculty, took the job of coming up with skills and qualities for the next president very seriously.

Interim President Carol Probstfeld, who attended the session, called the selection process, "a pivotal moment in the history of the college."

All seemed to agree that a remarkable person is needed to boost morale after the departure of former President Lars Hafner who had months of conflict with trustees over financial issues.

Tuesday's Bradenton session drew the largest crowd of the three, topping the 30 that attended in Venice on Jan. 8 and the 30 that came to Lakewood Ranch on Jan. 10.

The SCF board members will now meet at 5 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Lakewood Ranch campus to go over a summary of the sessions.

Luci Frith, a faculty member, seemed to speak for many when she stressed the need for the next president to rebuild what she called "the partnership."

"We had a real partnership that has gotten thin around the edges," Frith said. "That partnership is students, faculty, administrators, business owners and the community."

Jane Duke, a department chair in language and literature, said the new president must be "someone respected, respectful, responsive, collaborative, someone with experience in college and the community."

Among many ardent speakers Tuesday, perhaps none was more so than Manatee County Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas.

Nicholas is the stepson of Dr. Sam Neel, the founding president of SCF, which was then Manatee Junior College. Neel is the namesake for the Neel Performing Arts Center.

"I think the next president should have an academic background," Nicholas said. "I also think we should not select someone from inside the school. I fear that if a person from inside was picked, he or she could be perceived as being in the camp or out of the camp of Mr. Hafner, who had those who liked him and those who did not. Someone inside could be a polarizing figure. I think we need a fresh start."

Gloria Tracy, an SCF manager, made several key suggestions including that the next president must be committed to diversity and must be "someone who comes to art galleries, attends athletic games and is involved on campus."

"I would underline that," chimed in Barry Puett, a department chair and professor, who was seated a row up from Tracy in the SCF Nursing Auditorium. "Three nights a week they should be out there in the community. They have to be a social butterfly."

That comment was appreciated by Nicole McDonald, a student who is also on the volleyball team.

"I loved that one," McDonald said. "I think the president should support all student activities."

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