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Harvard's McCullough Named FSU President

 Richard McCullough has been tapped to be the new president of Florida State University
Florida State University
Richard McCullough has been tapped to be the new president of Florida State University

McCullough is presently the Vice Provost of Research at Harvard University.

Florida State University’s next president is an academic who hails from one of the best schools in the country. Richard McCullough says his working-class background and public school education has prepared him to lead Florida State University into its next phase, as it tries to climb into the top-tier of higher education research institutions in the United States.

McCullough is presently the Vice Provost of Research at Harvard University, but while he may be second-in-command at an elite Ivy League institution his background is firmly rooted in public education with degrees from a community college and a state university.

“That transformed my life... If you ask why I’m interested in Florida State, that’s because I want to be part of helping students and helping them transform their lives. That’s a driving force for me. It’s really personal," he told the school's search committee during an interview last week.

In his interview Monday with the FSU Board of Trustees, McCullough noted he’s a sports fan and said he’s all-in for the school. Athletics, he says, is a big part of the FSU's culture and identity and should be balanced with the schools' academic pursuits.

“I would bring leadership to this like I would bring leadership to anything else, working with the athletic director like you would work with the deans. I think you have to be involved, talking with the coaches like the (academic) department heads," he said.

FSU has a goal of becoming a top 10 university and eventually joining an elite group of schools known as the Association of American Universities, of which Harvard is one of 60-plus members.

“Maybe it is a tall order, but his [McCullough's] vision is somewhere between it's not possible and its magical. It sets a high bar... It’s the passion, it’s the vision. The passion threw it over the top for me," said trustee Bob Sasser.

Faculty members have advocated for an academic to lead FSU. Three of the last four presidents were former politicians, including outgoing President John Thrasher who is retiring. State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s bid for the job was rejected as was an effort to restart the search.

Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of North Carolina, and Giovanni Piedimonte, vice president for research at Tulane University, were the other finalists. Trustees said making the selection wasn’t easy, lauding all three candidates as highly qualified.

McCullough’s appointment is subject to approval by the state university system’s governing board which meets in late June.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.