After 18 years, the University of South Florida will soon be looking for a new president.
Judy Genshaft, who has been president of USF since 2000, on Monday her decision to retire.
Genshaft’s decision to step down will be effective July 1, according to a news release from the university.
In a letter to the USF community, Genshaft said she and her family believe now is the “right time” to step down.
“The University of South Florida is on a trajectory unlike ever before in its history. We are reaching milestones once reserved for universities twice our age. We continue to make groundbreaking strides in research, student success, teaching and community impact,” Genshaft said in the letter.
USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said in a statement Monday that Genshaft has been an “incredible leader” for the USF System.
“We will miss her vision, wisdom, boundless energy and complete dedication to making USF the very best it can be,” Holbrook said.
As for the Sarasota-Manatee campus, Holbrook expects it to continue on an “upward trajectory” following Genshaft’s departure.
“Our USF Board of Trustees also provides outstanding leadership and is committed to each of the three campuses, and our Campus Board at USF Sarasota-Manatee provides excellent guidance and advocacy for our campus. We are confident that USFSM will continue its upward trajectory and continue to play a significant role in contributing to USF’s future success under consolidation and in meeting the needs of the communities we serve,” Holbrook said.
Consolidation in the works
A new president would also be part of the ongoing consolidation of the three USF System campuses.
The Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, signed by Gov. Rick Scott on March 11, required the three campuses in the USF System — University of South Florida Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee — to consolidate their previously separate accreditation under one accreditation by July 1, 2020.
A task force was created for the implementation and is required to submit a report to the university’s Board of Trustees that makes recommendations on identifying degrees within programs, maintaining the “unique identity” of each campus, equal distribution of resources and programs, among other points, according to the university.
The board of trustees is required to submit an implementation plan by March 15, 2019.
The campuses will keep their names and their own regional chancellor and campus board in the consolidation, but no longer will have their own independent accreditation.
Before Scott signed the bill into law, USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor Karen Holbrook told the Bradenton Herald the consolidation, which she preferred to call a “reunification,” was an “exciting move.”
Byron Shinn, chairman of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Board, a USF System trustee and a Bradenton accountant, said in March he was “thrilled” and thought of the change as a “great opportunity for the system to grow.”
But not everyone was as excited about the move. The Tampa Bay Times previously reported some St. Petersburg campus supporters said the consolidation would “turn back the clock” on the campus that worked to be independent, some recalling pre-existing tension between the St. Petersburg and Tampa campuses.
Genshaft’s legacy at USF
Genshaft is credited with bringing USF into national prominence.
Under her leadership, USF was designated a “Preeminent State Research University,” one of just three in the state. Genshaft, an Ohio native, also led a capital campaign that raised more than $1 billion.
USF’s enrollment increased 40 percent while Genshaft served as president and the university’s four-year graduation rate tripled, according to the university.
“I am fortunate to have served alongside our great president and witnessed the leadership she has provided during her remarkable tenure,” said USF Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb in a news release. “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.”
USF is ranked No. 58 in the U.S. News and World Report top public universities in the country, the highest ranking the school has ever had, Genshaft pointed out Monday during a news conference announcing her departure.
“We are in a new era, a new era of pre-eminence and so much more. The progress that we’ve experienced over the past few years remind us what a bull is all about, having the grit, the determination, the tenacity the competitiveness, the boundless energy and optimism to charge into any challenge. That will never change,” Genshaft said. “This is just the beginning of our university’s potential and I look forward to seeing what this new era will bring.”
Genshaft and her husband have been thinking about her retirement since about May, she said, and they plan to stay in the Tampa Bay area.
“It’s really important to see the university reach all these heights and to move forward. It’s a very, very, very difficult decision. USF is a part of us, it’s a part of our family. And intellectually, it’s the right decision, it’s the right time for me and my family. Emotionally, I’m a washrag, I’m a puddle. It’s very, very difficult but it’s the right decision,” Genshaft said.
Right now, Genshaft said she is focused on the next 10 months and a new set of goals she and the Board of Trustees have set.
She hopes her successor shares her passion.
“I hope the next person has the same passion and drive and optimism that I have and will always have for the University of South Florida,” Genshaft said. “I just hope they embrace that vision to see it be all that it can potentially be and even more.”