With his re-election to the Manatee School Board just two months behind him, Scott Hopes says a new opportunity is calling.
“You look at opportunities that present themselves and how you can best contribute to your community, region and society,” Hopes said Friday. “You don’t know what your life experiences are preparing you for until they present themselves.”
In this case, a chance to become the University of South Florida’s leader is tempting the longtime Bull, businessman and administrator. Judy Genshaft, who has served as president of the university for 19 years, announced she would retire later this year, prompting the creation of a 15-member search committee tasked with “enormous responsibility.”
“This is a pivotal time in the University of South Florida’s history, and our decision will have a significant impact on the future of the Tampa Bay region,” said Les Muma, the chair of the presidential search committee.
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Hopes understands the importance of making sure USF’s next leader is the best one possible, but that person might just be him, he said.
“I may very well be the best candidate,” Hopes touted. “The search committee will identify some fantastic candidates, but I think my work in healthcare, public service and experience with state agencies has prepared me to be the person to lead USF for the next three to five years.”
There’s no doubt that his background is vast and far-reaching. Hopes has experience as a business owner, registered lobbyist and stints on USF’s Board of Trustees and the School Board of Manatee County, both of which were appointments by former Gov. Rick Scott. He also earned all three of his degrees from USF.
With all of that under his belt, Hopes says he’s ready to take USF to the next level.
“It’s a special time for USF; it really is,” he said. “We’ve got the talent and an exceptional infrastructure. The Tampa Bay region is unlike any other in the state. We have a chance to take it to a higher level and make it the No. 1 university in the state of Florida and the destination university in the Southeast United States.”
Leading the university through its consolidation efforts, maintaining its recent distinction as a preeminent research institution and ensuring that campus expansion efforts stay on track would be some of Hopes’ top priorities. He credited Genshaft with laying the proper framework for someone else to take charge.
“She’s taken it from the commuter university that we knew to a prominent university. It’s just exceptional,” Hopes said of Genshaft’s performance as president. “She not only busted the glass ceiling for women in university leadership, she’s focused on academics and the importance of business relations. But even as important, she’s built the infrastructure.”
Hopes confessed that he’d never actually given much thought to becoming the head of the USF system, but was encouraged by friends and colleagues that he might actually fit the bill. However, with the position in reach, it has “without a doubt,” become a dream job for him.
The 57-year-old school board member acknowledged that the search committee may disagree that he’s the best choice for the job, but as long as that person leads USF to realize its unlocked potential, he’s fine with that, he said.
“First and foremost, I want USF to have the best possible president to follow Judy Genshaft’s two decades of leadership, regardless of who that person may be,” Hopes said.
Following talks with Muma, Hopes says he expects to be nominated into consideration for the job. He is adamant, however, that his role on the school board will not waver in the meantime.
“I’m going to maintain my laser focus on supporting our new chairman, resolving the superintendent’s contract and making us a better district,” he said.
The search committee will present a set of names to the board of trustees early this year. On-campus interviews with candidates will be held after that, and the search committee will announce finalists for the board to consider. A final decision is expected in the spring.