A hearty congratulations to Dr. Carol Probstfeld, appointed president of State College of Florida this week in a surprising and abrupt yet welcome action by SCF's Board of Trustees.
In a unanimous vote on an unexpected motion by trustee Craig Trigueiro, the board approved the promotion for the school's vice president of business and administrative services. Probstfeld succeeds Lars Hafner, ousted at the end of October after months of often bitter and divisive public debates over his performance, particularly on financial matters.
Students and faculty became embroiled in the controversy, many siding with Hafner and leaving SCF in disarray.
At the initial stages of a presidential search with a community advisory committee formed and three visioning sessions already held, the board put a sudden stop to that potentially 12- to 18-month process. While one trustee voiced concern over how such a swift action would be perceived in the community, about a dozen speakers at Tuesday's board meeting supported Probstfeld's nomination.
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The advantages are clear and strong. Trustees insist on fiscal accountability and restraint; Probstfeld's financial and business expertise fit that requirement. As Trigueiro noted, those visioning sessions came up with aspirations that matched Probstfeld's qualifications and skills. She had been serving as interim president, which provided further evidence of her capabilities.
Perhaps just as important, Probstfeld knows the school well after serving there for 10 years. She is in a prime position to heel any wounds left over from her predecessor's ouster. Plus, as Board Chairman Carlos Beruff stated, "she has the trust of the staff." These qualities place her in a unique position to move the school forward starting today. This all may be precipitous, but the board acted with confidence and that speaks volumes.
Probstfeld has proven quite capable on her first day as president, reaching out to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in order to patch up a long relationship that became strained during Hafner's tenure. She expressed a commitment to the restoration of their partnership to Arthur Guilford, USF's regional chancellor, and both came away upbeat about a spirit of cooperation.
Kudos to SCF trustees. And kudos to Dr. Carol Probstfeld for such swift action on restoring a vital partnership, one that is very important to the community.