'Gator Nation' ecstatic over 12th University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs

GAINESVILLE — A graduate of Miami Killian High School who went on to become provost of Cornell University was chosen to become the 12th president of the University of Florida Wednesday morning.W. Kent Fuchs expects to begin Jan. 1 pending approval next month by the state Board of Governors.

Fuchs — pronounced “Fox” — and New York University Provost David W. McLaughlin were interviewed Wednesday morning for the top post at the state’s flagship university. But 59-year-old Fuchs’ enthusiasm and Ivy League connections won out.

“He clearly stood out as a true academic leader,” trustee Chairman Steven Scott said during a press conference to introduce Fuchs to the “Gator Nation.”

Unlike rival Florida State University, UF insisted on hiring a candidate with a strong academic background. After a controversial search, FSU hired state Sen. John Thrasher as its president last month. He is expected to take office in November, making a base salary of $430,000.UF’s search was much quieter. Trustees approved his hiring unanimously and without any discussion Wednesday. There was no public comment before trustees chose finalists or made their final selection.

Scott indicated during the press conference they had been in contact with Fuchs for some time, even though his name didn’t surface as an applicant until late in the process.

Fuchs grew up in South Florida. His two younger brothers and stepmother still live in the region, according to UF.Killian Principal Thomas Ennis said the entire school community was “ecstatic” to learn an alumnus would be leading the state’s flagship university.

“He will certainly join a long list of proud graduates who come back and serve as role models for our students, not just professionally, but socially and culturally,” Ennis said.

Fuchs called the UF job a homecoming. He said he will soon add more orange and blue to his wardrobe. He and his wife, Linda, will move into a brand new $3.1 million presidential mansion on campus. She, too, has connections to South Florida having taught at The King’s Academy, a private school in West Palm Beach.

“I’m so excited and enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of this university,” he said. “It is an amazing place and we’re so pleased that we have this opportunity to be a part of your community.”

Fuchs’ base salary is expected to be in the $500,000 range annually, though with bonuses and other benefits it could reach $1 million.He has served as Cornell’s chief administrative officer for six years. One of the people he hired, and later used as a reference on his application to UF, is Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum.

He has also worked at Purdue University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fuchs earned a doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1985, a master of divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1984, a master of science from the University of Illinois in 1982 and a bachelor of science in engineering in 1977 from Duke University.

UF President Bernie Machen is retiring in December.