Our usual sparkling early November weather was on display Sunday though a bit cool, but Sandra Stone enjoyed a warm reception from the crowd on her first day as the new regional chancellor at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
The annual Brunch on the Bay scholarship fund-raiser attracted the usual power brokers, higher education stakeholders and other interested parties to the outdoor dining extravaganza featuring top chefs from the two counties.
Stone, appropriately dressed in USF's green and tan colors, appreciated the amicable welcome from the crowd of 1,000. "Amazing food, amazing people, amazing place. Everyone was welcoming to me, I couldn't ask for a better place to land," she told Herald reporter Richard Dymond during the brunch.
She moves up from her post as vice president of academic affairs at Dalton State College in the city of Dalton in north Georgia near the state's borders with Alabama and Tennessee.
We're especially pleased she and husband Tony chose to reside in Manatee County -- at one of the Bel Mare Condominiums on the Manatee River in Palmetto. "We love Riverwalk and being on the Manatee River," Stone told Dymond. Downtown Bradenton's young destination park has yet another admirer.
The 59-year-old Stone replaces Arthur Guilford, who retired in July after leading the university to a number of ground-breaking and precedent-setting accomplishments. USFSM, once purely an upper-division transfer school, is now a true four-year institution after admitting its first freshman class last fall.
This community now reaps benefits from the collaboration between USFSM, State College of Florida, New College and the Ringling College of Art and Design, which Guilford helped establish after years of estrangement and competition. Stone embraces this spirit to expand opportunities to students and share resources.
The president of the USF system, Judy Genshaft, cited that in September when Stone's appointment was announced: "Sandra Stone's experience, enthusiasm and collaborative spirit will help guide USFSM toward further excellence and strategic growth. Her contributions will surely have an impact on the entire USF system and the region we serve."
Stone echoed that in her remarks: "Anything that we can do that will open opportunity for students and collaboration for higher education is important. I've done a lot of collaborative work in Georgia." She also intends to review the university's programs and consider adding new ones to serve the community's needs, a key strategy that other institutions follow.
That bodes well for a region once mired in political battles among these institutions, particularly between SCF and USFSM. Thankfully, those days are long past.
Stone arrives with some knowledge of this region since her husband is a graduate of USF-Tampa, and he urged her to apply for the chancellorship. She carries impressive credentials with bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of West Georgia' a doctorate in sociology from Emory University and a post-doctoral certificate in organizational behavior from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.
A hearty welcome, Dr. Stone. As you discovered on Sunday, this entire community holds true to Bradenton's motto of "The friendly city." We look forward to a rich and rewarding relationship.