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Betty Castor Says Genshaft's Successor Will Have To Balance Competing Interests

Mark Schreiner
USF Public Media
USF System President Judy Genshaft delivered her 18th "State of USF" address Sept. 5.

The pending retirement of University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft has started what will likely be a nationwide search for her successor. Genshaft's predecessor - Betty Castor - says that person will have to have equal experience in the academic and business communities. That's because much of the president's time is spent on fundraising.

"It's not only how many students you have on campus or the high caliber of your faculty," she said. "You have got to find a way to feed that institution and the funds as we know, just aren't going to come anytime soon from the state of Florida, unfortunately."

Castor says another challenge will be balancing out the competing interests of branch campuses spread through several counties. The current controversy over revoking separate accreditation for USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee has put a spotlight on that.

Credit Wikipedia
Betty Castor

"It's a multi-county institution," Castor said. "Yes, it's a part of the statewide system, but we do have distinct communities, as we've seen in the last year, with the Pinellas County and St. Pete communities, Sarasota-Manatee, but that's just another complexion that a new leader will have to face."

What brings a smile to Castor's face is that women have been at the helm of USF for 28 consecutive years. Castor was appointed president way back in 1994. She hopes that streak continues.

"It's very unusual," she said. "I can't remember any other Florida institution that has had two females in succession. We're not doing real well right now, as a matter of fact."

Another female head of a Florida university, Donna Shalala, was the president of the University of Miami, a private university in Coral Gables, from 2001 through 2015.

Castor says Genshaft's successor - male or female - will have  a lot of competing interests to balance. 

Genshaft announced her retirement Monday.

“It’s really important to see the university reach all these heights and to move forward,” Genshaft said at a news conference on the Tampa campus. 

“It’s a very, very, very difficult decision – USF is a part of us, it’s a part of our family,” she said, telling reporters and USF leaders and staff in attendance that she had been talking over the plans with her husband and two sons since May of this year.

“Intellectually, it’s the right decision, it’s the right time," she said. "Emotionally, I’m a washrag, I’m a puddle.”

"You always want to leave when things are on a high, and it was my choice, and I believe it's best for the institution, and my family and I think, maybe we can get a day off here and there to travel."

Earlier in the day, she sent an email to USF students, faculty and staff announcing her decision.

“My family and I believe that this is the right time for me to step down from my post as President, effective July 1, 2019. It has been the honor of my professional career to be part of this journey since the year 2000,” she wrote.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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