On a bright October day in 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States, squinted into the South Florida sun and, in his famous Texas drawl, declared Florida Atlantic University officially open.
For a sitting U.S. chief executive to officiate the dedication of a new regional university was most unusual – but, then, FAU was no ordinary institution of higher learning. From its very inception, FAU was envisioned as the first of a new breed of American universities that would quite deliberately throw off the ivy-covered trappings of the tradition-bound world of academe and invent new and better ways of making higher education available to those who sought it.
Indeed, in his dedication remarks, President Johnson said that America had entered an era “when education is no longer only for the sons of the rich, but for all who can qualify.” Speaking on an outdoor stage before a crowd of 15,000, he called for “a new revolution in education” and said that a fully educated American public could vastly enrich life over the next 50 years.
Seated onstage behind the President as he spoke was an array of Florida’s top political VIPs, including Governor Farris Bryant, U.S. Senators Spessard Holland and George Smathers, U.S. Congressmen Claude Pepper and Paul Rogers, and a banker named Thomas F. Fleming, Jr., who, more than anybody else, was responsible for bringing America’s newest public university to Boca Raton.
In the beginning, there was an airbase – the Boca Raton Army Air Field, to be exact. This facility, one of the few radar training schools operated by the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War Two, opened in October 1942 in the sleepy coastal resort town of Boca Raton. The base, which eventually covered more than 5,800 acres, did its part to help win the war, teaching the relatively new art of radar operation to thousands of airmen, including those who were aboard the Enola Gay on its fateful run to Hiroshima in 1945. By the 1950s, however, the base had outlived its usefulness; the radar training school it once housed had moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, and weeds grew tall around the landing strips that once saw a steady stream of arriving and departing B-17 and B-29 bombers. The war was over, and America was facing new challenges, including the imminent coming of age of the first wave of Baby Boomers. Members of the most economically privileged generation in U.S. history, they were going to seek higher education in record numbers, and Florida’s colleges and universities were in no way prepared for the onslaught.
In 1955, the Florida Legislature authorized creation of a new public university to serve the populous southeast region of the state. The new university would be the fifth in the State University System, joining the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida State University and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and the University of South Florida in Tampa. Community leaders in Broward and Palm Beach counties stepped forward to suggest possible sites, none with more enthusiasm than Boca Raton’s Tom Fleming, who made a convincing case for converting the vacated airbase to this exciting new use.
Fleming was a true visionary who recognized the many benefits a state university had to offer Boca Raton. The son of a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney and bank president, he had arrived in Boca Raton in 1941 to help manage the 4,000-acre Butts Farm, which was owned by the family of his wife, Myrtle, and he often referred to himself as “a bean farmer.” His educational credentials included a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida, where he had been a member of the prestigious Blue Key leadership honorary society, and an MBA from Harvard.
Tom Fleming was successful at everything he did, and everywhere he went he made influential friends. By the time he was heading up the drive to establish the new state university in Boca Raton – under the rallying cry of “Boca U. in ’62” – he had many friends in Tallahassee and Washington who would prove to be powerful allies.
On January 18, 1957, Fleming stood before the Board of Control, which was the body that governed public universities in Florida at that time, and presented his proposal. When one member objected that the 400 feet of beachfront property owned by the city was insufficient to accommodate large groups of collegians, another member replied: “We want to educate them, not give them a bath.” By meeting’s end, the Board had unanimously endorsed Fleming’s idea, disappointing proponents of the other proposed sites.
Next came complex negotiations in Washington to get the federal government to lift use restrictions off the land. Ultimately, the Civil Aeronautics Administration agreed to permit the state to build the university on 1,000 acres of the former airbase, reserving another 200 acres for airport use. Boca Raton Municipal Airport was built on a 200-acre site adjoining the campus and remains in active use to this day.
In 1960, the State Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Education, gave final approval to the Boca Raton site. The Florida Legislature passed the enabling legislation on July 15, 1961. The new university’s opening date was set for September 1964.
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Just one hitch remained: while the state had approved building a new university in Boca Raton, it had provided no funding for planning, architectural design or construction. When Broward Culpepper, chairman of the Board of Control, announced that the local community would have to raise $100,000, Fleming swung into action once again, establishing an Endowment Corporation that solicited contributions from the public under the slogan “Open the Door in ‘64.”
The first donation came from Fleming himself, who pledged one percent of three years’ worth of the pre-tax earnings of the First Bank and Trust Company of Boca Raton, which he headed. The Endowment Corporation raised close to $300,000 in start-up funding for the university, and it is still in service today under the name of the FAU Foundation.
Next came the question of what to name the new university. There was no lack of ideas from official quarters or the public. Names generated through a contest run by the Fort Lauderdale News included Palm State, Peninsula University, Gulfstream University, Kennedy University of Florida, Bryant State (to honor Governor Farris Bryant, a Fleming friend who was an early supporter of the Boca site), Sunshine State and A-Okay University (a reference to a catch-phrase used in the 1960s by American astronauts). The Board of Control resolved the question by adopting the name Florida Atlantic University in 1962, two years before the scheduled opening.
Tom Fleming made a critically important discovery during his long, successful campaign to bring FAU into existence: He realized that state support of all of higher education in Florida was woefully inadequate. In order to remedy this, he became chairman of “Citizens for Florida’s Future,” a committee of the state Chamber of Commerce that sought voter approval of a $75 million bond issue to expand and improve Florida’s junior colleges and universities.
The bond issue passed in the November 1963 election, and President John F. Kennedy praised Fleming by name for this outstanding accomplishment during a speech that month in Tampa. It was the last speech Kennedy made before his tragic trip to Texas. A letter inviting him to take part in the planned dedication of FAU the following year was mailed on the very day he was assassinated in Dallas.
By the time FAU was ready to open in the fall of 1964, Lyndon Johnson was President, and he was campaigning hard against Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. Fleming, who was managing Johnson's Florida campaign, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: He asked him to make the keynote address at the ceremony that would mark the opening of Florida’s newest public university. And that is why the President of the United States was on hand when Florida Atlantic University was dedicated.
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From the very beginning, FAU aimed to be a whole new kind of university, one that would harness broadcast technology to beam classes to students wherever they might be, thus swinging the door of higher education open wider than ever before. In a very real sense, FAU was the first Information Age university. The only problem was that the Information Age itself would not be popularly recognized for nearly four more decades, and the outside technology needed to enable off-campus students to take advantage of what FAU had to offer simply did not exist. It finally began to take shape in the late 1990s, as colleges and universities around the world started offering increasing numbers of courses online and through other methods of distance learning.
The first university buildings to rise among the abandoned wooden structures of the old airbase were the Library, the Learning Resources Building, the Sanson Science Building and General Classrooms South, which featured classrooms shaped like slices of pie arranged around a core containing the most advanced audio-visual resources available in the early 1960s. A few steps away, in Learning Resources, four fully equipped television studios stood ready to broadcast classroom lectures across campus or around the world. The Library featured a technologically sophisticated Media Center, an automatic check-out system and a computer-generated catalog instead of the familiar Dewey Decimal System manual card index.
FAU was one of the first universities in the country to offer only upper-division and graduate-level work, on the theory that freshmen and sophomores could be served by the growing community college system. Even with these enrollment restrictions, the initial student body was expected to be about 2,000, but by September 8, 1964, the scheduled opening day, fewer than half that number had registered for classes. This shortfall was attributed to the campus’ lack of dormitories and dining facilities, South Florida’s inadequate system of highways, the absence of public transportation and the administration’s failure to actively recruit students. Because a feasibility study had indicated that the new university stood in the middle of a region that was home to 30,000 potential students, little or no marketing effort had been made.
Just as FAU was about to open, Hurricane Cleo swept its way up Florida’s east coast, causing $100,000 in damage to the campus and delaying the start of classes by six days. When the wind died down and the flood waters receded, FAU’s charter class of 867 students arrived to begin their studies on a treeless campus marked by a flagpole that was bent like a used pipecleaner. Thus did the academic life of the university get under way, inspired by the motto “Where Tomorrow Begins.”
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During its early years, FAU prospered and grew, led by the steady hand of its first president, Dr. Kenneth R. Williams, who had also been the founding president of Miami Dade College (then called Dade County Junior College). In 1962, two years before FAU opened, he took the helm of an institution with a small but dedicated faculty that quickly became known for outstanding classroom teaching and mentorship of students. These qualities continue to characterize the FAU faculty to this day.
The university’s first students could pursue bachelor’s degrees in five colleges: Business, Education, Humanities, Science and Social Science. The College of Education also offered master’s degrees in elementary, secondary and higher education, administration, guidance, special education and human behavior.
In April 1965, just seven months after opening its doors, FAU held its first commencement ceremony, presenting degrees to 30 students who had entered as seniors. Because there was no appropriate facility on campus for this event, the ceremony was conducted at the First Presbyterian Church of Boca Raton.
The aggressive construction program that took place during the university’s earliest years saw completion of the three-story Administration Building (which three decades later would be named for Dr. Williams), the Humanities Building, which includes the 504-seat University Theater, and six residence halls, all named to honor Native American tribes: Algonquin, Modoc, Mohave, Naskapi, Sekoni and Seminole.
In the fall of 1965, FAU introduced the nation’s first degree program in ocean engineering. Over the years, this pioneering program has garnered much recognition, including being named a State University System Program of Distinction. Today it is housed at SeaTech, a state-of-the-art research center in Dania Beach, and offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Intercollegiate athletics made their appearance at FAU in 1969, signaling the start of the gradual transformation of the university into a more traditional institution than was originally envisioned. This trend continued in later years with the advent of fraternities and sororities, an annual Homecoming celebration and construction of the University Center, which quickly became a hub of student life.
Every university must have a mascot, and FAU found one on its doorstep: the feisty burrowing owl, a South Florida native that lives and raises its chicks in holes in the ground. Classified as a species of special concern by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the owls dwelling on FAU’s campuses have long been protected from human harassment. In 1971, the Boca Raton campus became an official burrowing owl sanctuary. The university’s teams proudly bear the Owls name.
During Dr. Williams’ presidency, major emphasis was placed on developing the Boca Raton campus, but some outreach efforts were made to other parts of FAU’s large, seven-county service area. Small satellite facilities were established in Fort Lauderdale to the south and in West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce to the north.
When Dr. Williams retired in 1973, he left a university that had made great progress under his leadership. The student body had increased to 5,632, the number of degree programs had expanded from 31 to more than 100, and 13,509 men and women had graduated to become FAU alumni. The stage was set for the next phase in the university’s development.
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President Glenwood L. Creech came to FAU from the University of Kentucky, where he had been vice president of university relations. A courtly Southern gentleman with wavy salt-and-pepper hair and a movie star smile, Dr. Creech was ideally suited to tackle the urgent challenge of increasing financial support for FAU. To encourage substantial private donations, the state had introduced a program that would match every gift of $600,000 made to endow an Eminent Scholar Chair with $400,000 in state funds, boosting the value of the donation to $1 million. Dr. Creech used this leveraging tool with great success, and FAU soon became the state leader in the procurement of these endowed chairs.
Million-dollar Eminent Scholar Chairs established under Dr. Creech include the Charles E. Schmidt Chair in Engineering, the Dorothy F. Schmidt Chair in the Performing and Visual Arts, the Charles Stewart Mott Chair in Community Education, the Eugene and Christine Lynn Chair in Business and the Robert J. Morrow Chair in Social Science.
The Schmidt and Lynn families were to become sustaining friends of the university, demonstrating real interest in its development over the years and making multiple donations of astounding generosity. By 2001, the Schmidts had contributed more than $53 million to FAU, including state matching funds, enriching the life of the university in a host of ways, from establishing an innovative medical education partnership with the University of Miami to attracting legends of the American theatre to FAU’s performing arts program. Occupants of the Dorothy F. Schmidt Chair in the Performing Arts have included director Joshua Logan, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and Tony Award-winning Broadway stars Hume Cronyn and Zoe Caldwell. The Schmidt Family Foundation’s 1998 gift of $15 million ($30 million with the dollar-for-dollar state match permitted at that level) set a record for private donations to public education in Florida. Today the College of Arts and Letters bears the name of Dorothy F. Schmidt, and both the College of Science and the College of Biomedical Science are named in honor of her husband, Charles E. Schmidt.
Eugene and Christine Lynn focused their philanthropy on the College of Business and the College of Nursing, donating more than $32 million over the course of two decades. A former registered nurse, Mrs. Lynn made a $10 million ($20 million with the state match) gift to FAU’s widely admired nursing program in 2001. Thanks to her great generosity and dedication to the college’s guiding philosophy of caring, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is now housed in one of the most beautiful and highly functional facilities of its kind in the United States.
During the presidency of Dr. Creech, the Boca Raton campus began to take on a new look, thanks to his success in getting the state and private parties to donate landscaping to the largely barren former airfield. He asked for and received a $5,000 grant from Tallahassee to plant trees on campus, and he invited the community to help in the beautification effort. Ever the FAU supporter, Tom Fleming responded to the call with six huge ficus trees, which provided deep wells of shade on the lawn in front of the Administration Building until they were uprooted during the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. In the mid-1970s, mathematics professor Jack Freeman organized a work party of students that, with some help from the Florida Department of Transportation, managed to carry out the Herculean task of digging up and moving several dozen full-grown live oak trees from the path of I-95, which was under construction a half-mile west of the Boca Raton campus. These trees took root in several spots, most notably at the south end of the Breezeway where they stand today as Heritage Park.
At the end of his decade in office, Dr. Creech could take justifiable pride in a university that had matured both academically and physically under his leadership. Major additions to campus included the University Center and its 2,400-seat auditorium, the Engineering Building and the 70,000-square-foot Gymnasium. As a tribute to Dr. Creech upon his retirement in 1983, donors funded the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science. That year, as it approached its 20th anniversary, the university had 9,388 students and its alumni base had grown to 30,243. Some big changes lay ahead.
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In July 1983, FAU welcomed the first woman to head a public university in Florida history, Dr. Helen Popovich. For the 18-month period preceding her appointment, she had been the acting president of Winona State University in Minnesota.
One far-reaching change implemented at FAU during her presidency was the addition of freshman and sophomore classes to the student body in 1984. South Florida’s rapidly expanding population had generated strong demand for a four-year university, and FAU answered the call. The university simultaneously maintained its cooperative relationship with all of the community colleges in its service region, tailoring “2+2” degree programs that allowed community college graduates to move on to university studies without facing transitional obstacles.
Dr. Popovich placed special emphasis on adding more minorities to the university’s faculty, staff and student body, and she succeeded in pushing those numbers upward. During her six years in office, the enrollment of African American and Hispanic students increased, and the faculty and administration became more diverse. She also supported the appointment of more women to faculty and administrative positions, and she encouraged creation of the Women’s Studies certificate program.
FAU’s ability to serve Broward County students in their home community took a significant step forward with the opening of the Reuben O’D. Askew University Tower in downtown Fort Lauderdale in 1987. This nine-story classroom and office building, named after a former Florida governor who later joined the faculty for a short period of time, housed programs in business and public administration.
Graduate programs and research activity also advanced during Dr. Popovich’s administration. In 1989, her last year in office, FAU reached the important milestone of $10 million in sponsored research.
When Dr. Popovich left FAU to accept the presidency of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, enrollment stood at 11,743 and alumni had increased to 41,152.
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With the arrival of Dr. Anthony J. Catanese in January 1990, Florida Atlantic University entered a period of rapid growth and development on all fronts. During his presidency the student body more than doubled, four new campuses were built, three dozen new degree programs were introduced and the Owls – including a football team that made its debut in 2001 – began competing in Division I of the NCAA. By the middle of Dr. Catanese’s 12-year term, FAU had become known as the fastest growing university in America, and that was probably literally true.
Formerly dean of the College of Architecture at the University of Florida, Dr. Catanese became president of FAU just as higher education in Florida and around the United States began to get caught in the crossfire of a recessionary economy and changing national priorities. The central challenge he and other educators across America faced was to do more with less: the demand for higher education was soaring as traditional public funding sources were contracting. Despite these challenges, Dr. Catanese embraced an ambitious vision for FAU, driven by his belief that universities had to “run smarter” by adopting some of the principles of private enterprise, including putting productivity standards in place, containing expenses and seeking resource-leveraging partnerships. He succeeded perhaps beyond even his own wildest dreams, presiding over a half-billion-dollar construction program on seven campuses that created more than one million square feet of new and renovated classroom, laboratory and office space.
As the university’s student body passed the 23,000 mark, its faculty expanded to include 895 full-time, tenure-track teachers and researchers, and its degree offerings increased to 137, FAU built new campuses in Davie, Dania Beach, Jupiter and Port St. Lucie. The Downtown Fort Lauderdale campus was greatly enhanced by the addition of the Florida Atlantic University/Broward Community College Higher Education Complex, a 12-story high-tech facility.
FAU’s sponsored research activity increased from $10 million to $37 million annually, and the 52-acre Florida Atlantic Research and Development Park took shape on the Boca Raton campus.
Dr. Catanese led the first capital campaign in the university’s history, and this, too, was highly successful, increasing the assets of the FAU Foundation from $18 million to $150 million.
Especially notable accomplishments of the Catanese years include creation of FAU’s medical education program, in partnership with the University of Miami; introduction of a five-year professional degree program in architecture, based at the Downtown Fort Lauderdale campus; and establishment of the four-year, residential Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College on the university’s John D. MacArthur campus in Jupiter.
When Dr. Catanese left FAU in 2002 to become president of the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, the student body had grown to 23,836 and the university had 78,396 alumni. Through aggressive recruitment of minorities, FAU's student body had become the most diverse in Florida's State University System, with African Americans making up 16 percent and Hispanics 13 percent of the total number of students in attendance.
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On January 31, 2003, by unanimous vote of the university’s Board of Trustees, Frank T. Brogan – Florida’s incumbent lieutenant governor and a 1981 graduate of FAU’s master’s degree program in educational administration – was named the fifth president of Florida Atlantic University.
President Brogan’s return to his alma mater as its president marked the latest development in his career in public education in Florida, which began in 1978 when he became a teacher at Port Salerno Elementary School in Martin County. After serving as a teacher and administrator for 10 years, he was twice elected superintendent of schools in Martin County. In 1995, voters around the state sent him to Tallahassee as commissioner of education. He was elected Florida’s lieutenant governor in 1999 and 2003, leaving the state’s second-highest post early in his second term to accept the presidency of FAU.
President Brogan took the reins of an institution that bore little resemblance to the university that had opened its doors on an abandoned airfield in 1964. By 2003 FAU was able to offer students a selection of 60 bachelor’s degree programs, 53 master’s degree programs, three specialist’s degree programs and 17 doctoral degree programs on seven well-designed and beautifully maintained campuses. Modern residence facilities were available on the Boca Raton and Jupiter campuses, and FAU students were being served through eight colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, and the Colleges of Business, Education, Engineering, and Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs. Additional educational programs were offered by Open University & Continuing Education and the Lifelong Learning Society. In fulfillment of the original vision of the university’s founders, FAU finally was able to make extensive use of distance learning technology, delivering many courses online and via videotape. By 2002, the number of students taking advantage of distance learning opportunities had reached 16,000.
In the aftermath of FAU’s 12 years of rapid expansion, President Brogan placed his focus on bringing added depth and quality to all of the university’s programs and services. He and his wife, Courtney Strickland Brogan, became the first presidential couple to live in the Eleanor R. Baldwin House. The newly built president’s residence on the Boca Raton campus bore the name of a retired Boca Raton public school teacher who made its construction possible with a gift of $1.5 million. Two years after their arrival, the FAU family would grow in a way it never had before as the Brogans welcomed their newborn son, Colby John. From his earliest days Colby John was in attendance at such major university events as commencement ceremonies and the Fall Family Festival, where he joined his parents at the head of a campus parade in the presidential golf cart, “Owl Force One.”
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In accepting the challenge of leading his alma mater, President Brogan said, “I am humbled and thrilled to be selected FAU’s fifth president. My lifetime of public service and commitment to public education continues as we all work together to lift FAU to the next level of excellence.” That mission got off to an impressive start in October 2003 when it was announced that the internationally known Scripps Research Institute of LaJolla, California, had decided to open an East Coast center of operations in Palm Beach County and FAU had been selected to be the research giant's first university partner in Florida. This alliance with the world’s largest non-profit biomedical research organization offered “boundless research, faculty and student partnership opportunities," President Brogan said. It came along at an especially fitting moment in the university’s history, since the State of Florida had recently awarded FAU $10 million to establish the Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology, a research facility dedicated to searching Florida’s coastal waters for sources of new pharmaceuticals that could be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. The mission of Scripps and this new center dovetailed perfectly.
The Scripps announcement triggered wave upon wave of unbridled enthusiasm among Florida’s lawmakers, who could see the dawning of a whole new day for the state’s economy, which had been dependent upon agriculture and tourism for decades. Gov. Jeb Bush likened the arrival of Scripps in Palm Beach County to the opening of Disney World in Orlando and signed into law a $310 million package of financial incentives to seal the deal. The Palm Beach County Commission sweetened the pot with $200 million in additional funding. As 2003 came to a close, FAU announced plans to house Scripps scientists in 10,000 square feet of laboratory space on the Boca Raton campus pending construction of a temporary facility to be built especially for Scripps on the Jupiter campus. With great fanfare, ground was broken for the new $12 million research building in February 2004.
The arrival of Scripps was the linchpin in a trend toward partnerships that had begun at FAU in the 1990s as a way of increasing the university’s involvement with outside organizations and attracting new streams of funding to support the university’s activities, particularly in the research arena. Earlier partnerships had been concluded with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Boca Raton Community Hospital, the North Broward Hospital District, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and the Smithsonian Marine Station, among other major entities. In subsequent years, that list would grow to include three more prominent biomedical research organizations: the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, based in San Diego, California; Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute; and Germany's internationally renowned Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science.
These strategic partnerships were part of a cascade of developments that brought FAU unprecedented recognition in the area of biomedical research. Especially outstanding achievements included Dr. Herbert Weissbach’s work, in conjunction with researchers from the University of Iowa, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania and Germany's Friedrich Schiller University, on the role a particular enzyme might play in treating patients suffering from heart and brain diseases, and Dr. Ramaswamy Naraynan’s patenting of a noninvasive, gene-based method of detecting colon cancer.
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Significant research was also under way in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Dr. William Glenn, one of the nation’s foremost optical engineers with more than 150 patents to his credit, moved forward with the development of the world’s most advanced high-definition television camera. His work was funded by NASA, with a view toward placing the camera aboard space shuttles and the international space station. Dr. Mike Lin, the Charles E. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in Engineering, received a National Science Foundation grant to identify why artificial heart valves sometimes fail, triggering life-threatening emergencies. And at FAU’s SeaTech ocean engineering research center in Dania Beach, the U.S. Navy continued its long-term funding commitment to the development of autonomous underwater vehicles, which have the ability to search for mines and carry out other military missions without putting human lives in jeopardy.
As FAU's student body continued to grow and its research and community engagement activities escalated, the university's economic impact increased dramatically. In 2004 the Office of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness released a report showing that FAU's economic impact on Palm Beach, Broward and St. Lucie counties exceeded $1 billion annually. The university ranked as the largest employer in South Palm Beach County, with more than 4,000 full-time and part-time employees on board, including about 1,500 faculty members.
Throughout the 2004-05 academic year, the university celebrated the 40th anniversary of the day it opened its doors to students in 1964. Festivities got under way in October with a luncheon for founding faculty and staff members. Retirees came from near and far to attend the luncheon and hear President Brogan describe them with admiration as "the founding fathers and mothers of FAU."
The university's 40th anniversary year began with assaults by the first strong hurricanes to hit South Florida since Hurricane Cleo delayed the opening of FAU by six days in the fall of 1964. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne caused millions of dollars in damage to the Broward, Boca Raton, Jupiter and Treasure Coast campuses and destroyed the homes of some students, faculty and staff members. A relief effort was immediately undertaken by the Division of Student Affairs and the Daniel B. Weppner Volunteer Center, resulting in the donation of money, clothing and supplies for members of the FAU community who needed help getting back on their feet. The Caribbean island nation of Haiti, home to many FAU students, was especially hard hit by Hurricane Jeanne. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, some 400,000 people were homeless. Konbit Kreyol, FAU's Haitian student organization, spearheaded a drive to send relief supplies to Haiti through the Deerfield Beach-based non-profit organization Food for the Poor.
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Major facilities construction, which had moved forward at an astounding pace throughout the 1990s and into the opening years of the 21st century, continued to transform FAU's campuses. New buildings to house classrooms, laboratories and offices that opened their doors between 2003 and 2008 included, on the Boca Raton campus, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing; the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center; the Marleen and Harold Forkas Alumni Center; Indian River Towers, Heritage Park Towers and Glades Park Towers (state-of-the-art student residence halls); the DeSantis Pavilion, the Sean Stein Pavilion and the Office Depot Center for Executive Education in the College of Business; and the Paul C. Wimbish Wing of the S.E. Wimberly Library; on the Davie campus, the Student Union; on the Jupiter campus, the FAU/Scripps Joint-Use Research Facility, the Harriet L. Wilkes Psychology Building, a new library, a new classroom building and the Maltz Lifelong Learning Center; on the Port St. Lucie campus, the Phase II Expansion Building; and at Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce, the Marine Science Partnership Building. Making good use of FAU's expanding facilities was a constantly growing student body, which surpassed the 26,000 mark in 2007.
As gratifying as this rapid growth was, President Brogan and the Board of Trustees recognized that it needed to be guided by a carefully thought-out strategic plan. The planning effort began in earnest in 2004 with the formation of a task force led by Trustee Nancy Blosser and Jupiter Campus Vice President Kristen Murtaugh. The plan aimed to achieve four goals that aligned with those that had been adopted on a statewide basis by the Florida Board of Governors, plus three additional goals formulated to meet specific needs that existed at FAU. The goals of the university's 2006-2013 strategic plan are:
Development of the plan took about 18 months and benefited from the input of many people, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the outside community. It was adopted by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees on January 18, 2006.
As people around the country and the world became increasingly preoccupied with the threat of global warming, FAU sought ways to become part of the solution. The university's first "green" building was the headquarters facility of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing on the Boca Raton campus, which met the "gold" standard of the U.S. Green Building Council. Shortly after that certification was received, FAU announced plans to build a new home for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the "platinum" level and a new elementary school at the "silver" level. The K-5 environmental magnet school, located on the grounds of FAU's Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, became the first public elementary school in Florida designed to meet "green" standards. The university made public its intention to have every new facility achieve at least the "silver" level of certification.
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In 2007, President Brogan signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which brought FAU into the national campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the middle of the 21st century. That was followed by establishment of the university-wide "Mission Green" campaign, a broadly focused initiative aimed at promoting environmental sustainability through changes in operating procedures, education and community outreach. A Campus Sustainability Committee that included representation by students, faculty and staff was created to address issues related to FAU's global environmental footprint.
The university began to play a high-profile role in the search for clean, affordable energy in 2006, when the state awarded FAU $5 million to establish a second Center of Excellence. This facility, housed at the SeaTech ocean engineering research center on Dania Beach, embraced the mission of harnessing the power of Florida's strong offshore currents, particularly the Gulf Stream, to generate massive amounts of electricity.
Throughout President Brogan's first six-year term, the university grew in ways both conventional and innovative. FAU High School, a dual enrollment program for students with exceptional academic abilities and strong self-motivation, opened in 2004. Two years later, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science was established to provide a home for FAU's medical education program. That was followed by creation of the Graduate College to provide a single resource center for all graduate programs university-wide. In 2008, FAU merged with the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) in Fort Pierce, a leader in marine science and related fields. As a unit of FAU, HBOI changed its name to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
In a multitude of ways, FAU was becoming a force to be reckoned with on both the regional and national levels. This extended to the realm of athletics, as FAU's 18 NCAA Division I teams continued to excel on the field of competition. In 2007 FAU's seven-year-old football team, led by legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger, became the youngest team in NCAA history to be invited to a bowl game. The Owls proved themselves worthy of this honor by beating the University of Memphis 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl and then duplicating the feat in 2008 by defeating Central Michigan 24-21 in the Motor City Bowl– a truly remarkable accomplishment for a new team.
In the fall of 2008, as FAU embarked upon its 45th year of service, enrollment stood at 27,000 students. More than 170 bachelor's, master's, specialists and doctoral degree programs were available to them. With more than 43 percent of its student body classified as minority or international, FAU ranked as the most ethnically and culturally diverse institution in Florida's State University System. In addition to serving its regularly enrolled student body, the university offered education and enrichment to 20,000 men and women of retirement age through the largest university-based lifelong learning program in the United States. The university's expanding research portfolio earned FAU a designation of "High Research Activity" from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With more than 3,000 employees and a regional economic impact in excess of $1.1 billion annually, FAU had become a strong engine of economic growth. Citing his dedicated and effective leadership, in September 2008 the FAU Board of Trustees unanimously awarded President Brogan a second six-year contract, to begin in March 2009.
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As the deepest economic downturn in American history since the Great Depression of the 1930s tightened its grip on the nation, public universities around the country began to experience severe funding shortfalls. FAU was no exception. A series of multi-million-dollar state funding reductions led to belt-tightening measures that included the first layoffs in the university’s history, as 30 employees were let go and 140 unfilled positions were eliminated. At the same time, 45 low-enrollment majors were discontinued, although students who were already on those tracks were permitted to move on to graduation. During the 2009 session of the Florida Legislature, a bill was passed that allowed the 11 state universities to raise tuition by as much as 15 percent, and the FAU Board of Trustees opted to take full advantage of it. This increased the typical FAU student’s annual outlay for tuition and fees by about $500, but need-based financial aid went up at the same time.
Despite the magnitude of the university’s financial problems, faculty and students continued to record noteworthy achievements, including the following:
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On July 17, 2009, the Florida Board of Governors appointed FAU President Frank T. Brogan chancellor of the 11-institution State University System. In naming him to this position of statewide leadership by unanimous vote, board members cited his track record of success as FAU’s president, lieutenant governor of Florida and Florida commissioner of education. “I believe we have someone in Frank Brogan who is ready on day one to lead the State University System in the right direction,” said Sheila M. McDevitt, chair of the Board of Governors. “He has the experience and the good judgment we were looking for in a chancellor. He will help us build a strong relationship with the Florida Legislature and help the Board of Governors lead our universities into Florida’s knowledge-based future.”
President Brogan left FAU to assume his new duties in Tallahassee in the fall of 2009, as the university welcomed the largest student body in its history. Overall headcount of undergraduate and graduate students exceeded 28,000 for the first time. More than 2,700 students applied to live in the residence halls on the Boca Raton campus, a development that provided evidence of the university’s continued evolution as a place where students can immerse themselves in the traditional American college experience. At the same time, the university maintained its historic commitment to serving place-bound commuter students of all ages.
Dr. John F. Pritchett, FAU’s provost and chief academic officer, was named interim president by the Board of Trustees and confirmed without delay by the Board of Governors. Considered an excellent selection to guide the university through the period of transition, Dr. Pritchett had joined FAU in 2004 as provost after serving with distinction in a number of top academic leadership positions at Auburn University. His effectiveness was widely recognized and appreciated at FAU as he led the university’s evolution on many levels, including creation of the Graduate College in 2007 and introduction of a new general education curriculum for undergraduates in 2009.
During Dr. Pritchett’s nine months at the helm of FAU, he presided over one of the most widely publicized events in the university’s history. On Feb. 24, 2010, FAU had the privilege of hosting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet on the occasion of his first visit to Palm Beach County. In anticipation of this historic event, the Peace Studies Program in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters presented Peace Week, a series of workshops, lectures, films and discussion forums for students. The Dalai Lama spoke on “Compassion as a Pillar of World Peace” before a live audience in the FAU Arena and an overflow audience watching via simulcast in the Carole and Barry Kaye Auditorium. The event was covered by a large contingent of print, broadcast and online reporters.
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On March 3, 2010, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. Mary Jane Saunders FAU’s sixth president. Formerly provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State University (CSU), Dr. Saunders began her work at FAU on June 7, 2010. Board of Trustees Chair Nancy Blosser heralded her selection by saying, “We are extremely fortunate to have MJ Saunders leading FAU through what will undoubtedly be an extraordinary time in the university’s history. MJ’s track record of being an effective and productive leader will help to ensure the university’s growth and success.”
“I am humbled and thrilled to be selected as the next president of FAU,” Dr. Saunders said. “It is such an honor to have the opportunity to lead the university to its next level of excellence, accomplishing great things together with the university community.”
A scientist in her own right and an academic administrator with great depth of experience, Dr. Saunders holds both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston University. Leadership positions she held at CSU include director of the Biomedical Health Institute and professor in the department of biological, geological and environmental sciences. In addition, she was the founding dean of CSU’s second largest college, the College of Science. Prior to going to CSU, she was a program officer and deputy division director at the National Science Foundation, director of the Institute of Biomolecular Science at the University of South Florida and an assistant professor in the Botany Department at Louisiana State University.
A strong proponent of civic engagement, President Saunders encourages outreach of all kinds by members of the University community. In her inaugural address, she spoke of the responsibilities of universities to become “stewards of place,” a theme that is central to her presidency.
Dr. Saunders arrived at FAU at a pivotal moment in the university’s history. The surge of growth on all fronts that got under way in the 1990s was continuing, and new frontiers were being crossed. In 2011, as FAU marked the 50th anniversary of its establishment by act of the Florida Legislature in 1961, developments the founders had never dreamt of were becoming reality. The nation’s newest medical school, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, went into operation on the Boca Raton campus with an inaugural class of 64 students selected from a field of 1,500 highly qualified applicants. The opening of the university’s long-awaited football stadium took place on October 15 and included the unveiling of a statue of Howard Schnellenberger, the team’s founding head coach. On the evening of October 29, President Saunders and her husband, Dr. George Newkome, hosted FAU’s 50th anniversary gala at the stadium. The black-tie event was supported by 257 individual and corporate sponsors and attended by more than 850 people, making it one of the most successful events of the social season. A fundraiser for student scholarships, it generated more than $230,000 for the President’s Scholarship Challenge, which Dr. Saunders had established several months before with a lead pledge of $50,000.
First and foremost a champion of students’ interests, she is dedicated to helping them achieve their academic goals. One of her first initiatives at FAU was the establishment of the Center for eLearning, which was up and running within a year of her arrival. By Spring 2012, more than 7,000 students were enrolled in online courses – a 29 percent increase over the year before. In addition, President Saunders actively supported establishment of the Center for Teaching and Learning, a “one-stop shop” that integrates all of FAU’s academic support offices, including the University Center for Excellence in Writing, the Math Learning Center and the Center for Learning and Student Success, which oversees a wide variety of Learning Communities, the Supplemental Instruction program and tutoring services.
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A strong supporter of university-based research, President Saunders said this in her inaugural address:
“As a scientist, I take great pride in leading an institution that is a fully engaged, productive participant in the most advanced discoveries of our time, and whose researchers are making truly important contributions to the future health and well-being of the people we share this planet with and the planet itself. Discovery and creativity of all kinds will continue to be encouraged, valued and rewarded at Florida Atlantic University.”
One of the first major research-related developments to take place during her presidency occurred shortly after she arrived in the summer of 2010, when the U.S. Department of Energy gave FAU’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology the designation of the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC). The first national research center to be based at FAU, the SNMREC focuses on the development of technologies to generate energy from ocean currents. In the fall of that year, researchers from FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science were among the scientists who received a $10 million grant from British Petroleum to investigate the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest such disaster in the history of the petroleum industry, the accident began with an explosion on an offshore rig that killed 11 workers and led to the discharge of an estimated 4.9 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf over a three-month period. The participation of FAU’s marine experts in the damage assessment process that followed received national publicity, culminating in a series of reports by NBC’s Kerry Sanders, who accompanied Harbor Branch researchers on dives in a mini-submarine.
During President Saunders’ first year in office, new buildings valued at more than $300 million opened on FAU’s campuses. She officiated the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Innovation Village, a student apartment complex that offers 1,216 upper-division and graduate students amenities that include an outdoor pool, sand volleyball courts, barbeque grills, a fitness center, a convenience store, a computer lab, “smart” conference rooms and a multi-purpose activity center. With the opening of Innovation Village, the total number of students housed on the Boca Raton campus rose to 3,713, with another 288 students accommodated at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College on the Jupiter campus. Other major new facilities included, on the Boca Raton campus, FAU Stadium; Engineering East; the Culture and Society Building, which includes the all-digital Living Room Theaters, and the Henderson School expansion (to accommodate FAU High School); on the Davie campus, Davie West; and at Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce, the newly built Research Lab II and the totally renovated Edwin A. Link Building. All of these buildings were designed to meet at least the silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council, and some of them aimed even higher. The Engineering East building achieved the highest possible LEED rating – platinum – becoming the first academic building in southeast Florida to earn this distinction.
As new facilities came online, FAU’s enrollment was surging. The spring of 2011 saw an explosion of applications for admission from students of traditional college age. Seniors graduating from high schools in all 67 Florida counties as well as from out of state flooded the Office of Admissions with more than 24,600 applications – more than double the previous year’s total. Similarly, the number of students applying for housing on the Boca Raton and Jupiter campuses hit a record high. It was clear that a sea change was under way, one that was redefining FAU as an institution that held strong appeal for undergraduates seeking the classic American college experience, complete with clubs, fraternities, sororities, social activities and, of course, the excitement of attending football games in an on-campus stadium.
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This process was just part of the transformation that was taking place; FAU was also undergoing rapid development as a center of innovative research. By the end of President Saunders’ second year in office, faculty researchers were carrying out work funded by $48 million in outside grants. Some of their discoveries received international attention, such as the finding by Dr. David Lewkowicz of the department of psychology and his research associate, graduate student Amy Hanson-Tift, that babies learn to speak, in part, by reading the lips of the adults around them. Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti of the department of physics triggered excitement among her fellow astrophysicists worldwide when she developed a method of detecting dwarf galaxies in outer space by tracking their gravitational ripples.
The university continued to be a vibrant center of cultural activities, as the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters and the FAU Libraries presented a kaleidoscope of public events including concerts, plays, dance performances, exhibitions and festivals. Special favorites included the annual Summer Festival Repertory Theatre presented by the department of theatre and dance and concerts by the award-winning Klezmer Company Orchestra.
Sports fans also found much to cheer for at FAU. The baseball team won Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships in 2010 and 2012. Several FAU football players were drafted by NFL teams, including Rusty Smith (Tennessee Titans), Rob Housler (Arizona Cardinals) and Alfred Morris (Washington Redskins). Another stand-out player, Lestar Jean, signed onto the Houston Texans as a free agent. Running back Morris became the first FAU alumnus to score on the professional field of play when he ran for two touchdowns in his first Redskins game. FAU fans around the country watching on television were thrilled when he flashed the “Owl eyes” victory sign – a gesture made with both hands that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever attended an FAU football game.
The university’s name was turning up with increasing frequency in national rankings. U.S. News & World Report included FAU’s School of Public Administration on its 2012 list of Best Graduate Schools. The same publication ranked FAU 27th in the country among all major universities for campus diversity. With 46 percent of its student body classified as minority or international students, FAU had long been recognized as the most diverse institution in Florida’s State University System, but the 2012 U.S. News & World Report ranking was the first time such recognition had been accorded on a national level. The magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education repeatedly commended FAU for its high graduation rates of Hispanic and African American students. And, for the third year, FAU’s Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service was included on the U.S. President’s Honor Roll for Community Service.
That president himself – President Barack Obama – came to FAU on April 10, 2012 to deliver a major economic address. He spoke to a national television audience from FAU Arena, telling a capacity crowd of students and community supporters that one of his priorities was to continue government support of education. Other nationally known figures who spoke at FAU in 2011-12 included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; U.S. Ambassador Robert “Skipp” Orr, a 1976 history graduate of FAU; Princeton University Professor Cornel West; and Dr. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who received the Nobel Prize for discovering HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
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High honors were received by many faculty members, including the following:
FAU students also distinguished themselves in a host of ways. Cassidy Henry and Autumn Siegel, both graduates of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, won Fulbright Scholarships to work and study abroad. Edith Nagy, a summa cum laude graduate of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, won a coveted National Science Foundation Fellowship valued at $126,000 to pursue her doctorate at FAU. Students in the Diplomacy Program in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters won the Outstanding Delegation Award at the Model United Nations in New York, and FAU’s team of ocean engineering students won first place for agility in the European International Submarine Race held in Gosport, England.
All of the pre-K through 12 schools affiliated with the College of Education earned “A” ratings for the 2011-12 school year. Additionally, six students in the 24-member graduating class of FAU High School were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, with three of them receiving commendations and three named finalists – a truly extraordinary achievement for a class of that size.
FAU was clearly growing on all fronts, but a daunting challenge was also taking shape: public funding for universities was shrinking nationwide as state governments sought ways to cope with the worst recession since the 1930s. In the spring of 2012, the Florida Legislature cut funding for the State University System by $300 million, apportioning $24.7 million of that amount to FAU. The deepest in a series of cuts taking place over a period of several years, this reduction required a comprehensive examination of the ways in which the university was fulfilling its mission, with the goal of identifying areas in which efficiencies could be increased and costs reduced. President Saunders led a task force that worked intensively on these issues. An appeal for input from faculty, students and staff brought in hundreds of suggestions about ways to increase cost-effectiveness. Ultimately, the decision was made to suspend operations at the Port St. Lucie and downtown Fort Lauderdale campuses – locations where enrollment had been historically low – and to require the SeaTech ocean engineering research center in Dania Beach to support itself entirely through outside grants. In public statements, President Saunders stressed that FAU maintained its strong commitment to serving students on the Treasure Coast and in Broward County. Academic programs that had been offered on the two campuses that were slated to close were moved to other campuses, and students enrolled in those programs were provided with advising services designed to keep them on track toward graduation.
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The university is moving forward within the framework of the 2012-17 Strategic Plan, which focuses on the following four goals:
Included in the plan is the ongoing development of FAU’s three signature themes – Marine and Coastal Issues, Biotechnology and Contemporary Societal Challenges. These are areas in which faculty researchers and scholars have achieved recognized expertise and which present valuable niche opportunities for FAU.
To enrich the academic environment at FAU, a Quality Enhancement Plan is being developed that will greatly increase undergraduate involvement in research and scholarly inquiry. “We feel certain that this important initiative will bear impressive fruit in the near future by helping our undergraduates understand and participate in scholarly activities side by side with our talented faculty,” President Saunders said. “This is the university experience.”
Another major initiative focuses on strengthening the university’s ties with business and industry to reinforce FAU’s role as an engine of economic development in South Florida and statewide. A study conducted in 2012 by Dr. William Stronge, professor emeritus of economics, and Dr. Khi Thai, director of the School of Public Administration, set FAU’s annual economic impact at an impressive $6.3 billion. “To a great extent, the future of our university depends upon the rapid expansion of mutually beneficial relationships with business and industry,” President Saunders said. “We can – and should – look to the local business organizations that share our vision of building a prosperous future for South Florida through education, research, cultural enrichment and innovation.”
The university’s importance as a productive member of the business community began to get recognition in 2012, when the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce named FAU the Business of the Year. A few weeks later, the South Florida Business Journal included President Saunders on its list of the Most Influential Business Women of the Year.
FAU began the 2012-13 academic year with the largest enrollment in its history, topping 30,000 students. “This record-breaking fall enrollment provides strong evidence that students of all ages are recognizing the extraordinary value and experience that Florida Atlantic University has to offer them,” President Saunders said. “We welcome them all and assure them that their success will always be FAU’s top priority.”
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The university’s overall effectiveness received a resounding vote of confidence when a visiting team of evaluators from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) gave FAU the highest possible rating – a distinction achieved by very few institutions. The team had no recommendations to offer about further actions that needed to be taken to qualify FAU for full 10-year reaccreditation. The evaluators had special praise for the university’s Quality Enhancement Program, titled “Distinction through Discovery,” an ongoing initiative led by Dr. Donna Chamely-Wiik of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.
Faculty members achieved numerous distinctions, including two Fulbright awards that allowed Dr. Douglas McGetchin, associate professor of history and director of the Peace Studies Program in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, and Dr. Carmen Cañete Quesada, associate professor of history in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, to teach and conduct research in India and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
Dr. Jeffrey Morton, professor of political science as well as founder and director of FAU’s award-winning Diplomacy Program, received the prestigious Foreign Policy Association Medal of the World Leadership Forum. Others who have been so honored include President Bill Clinton and Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright.
Dr. Kevin Wagner, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the department of political science, was named an Academic Fellow on the study of terrorism by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He went to Israel for an intensive course that focused on strategies democracies can use to defeat the worldwide terrorist threat.
Dr. Vladimir Kulic, assistant professor in the School of Architecture, was named a 2013 Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies, a unit of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The fellowship supports his project titled “Building Between Empires: Yugoslav Architecture in the Cold War Networks.”
Dr. Raphael Dalleo, associate professor of English, was named a Scholar-in-Residence by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This award included a grant of $30,000 for the six-month residency period.
Dr. Kate Detwiler, assistant professor of anthropology, was part of a research team that discovered a new species of African monkey in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was just the second new species of African monkey discovered in the last 28 years, and it generated widespread publicity in both the scientific and popular press worldwide.
Associate Professor of English Ayse Papatya Bucak received not one but two highly prestigious literary awards – the PEN/O. Henry Prize, which is the nation’s most sought-after award for short fiction, and the Pushcart Prize, which is given annually to recognize the best work published in the small press. Ms. Bucak was honored for two of her short stories, “The History of Girls” and “Iconography.”
Dr. Herbert Weissbach, distinguished research professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, was named a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. This very high honor was accorded to only 98 scientists nationwide. Dr. Weissbach’s research focuses on understanding the role of oxidative damage in the aging process.
Dr. Josephine Beoku-Betts was one of eight women statewide who received achievement awards from the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. She was honored for her tireless work as director of FAU’s Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, which led to its ongoing development even in the face of severe budget cuts.
Dr. Fred Fejes, professor of communication and director of graduate studies in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, received the Roy F. Aarons Award for contributions to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. This is an award that is presented annually by the GLBT Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Dr. Fejes was recognized for the important contributions that he has made to education and research on GLBT issues over a period of 20 years.
Dr. Rhonda Goodman, assistant professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, received three high honors. In addition to being selected as FAU’s 2013 Distinguished Teacher of the Year, she was named the Palm Healthcare Foundation/Palm Beach Post Nurse of the Year and the Palm Healthcare Foundation Educator of the Year.
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Students also distinguished themselves in a host of areas. Nursing master’s degree recipient Usar Suragarn won a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the Philippines on palliative care for terminally ill patients. She became the third FAU graduate to win a highly competitive student Fulbright award in recent years. Her college, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, received the 2013 Award for Excellence in Holistic Nursing Education from the American Holistic Nursing Association.
The spring 2013 cohort of graduating Accounting Scholars achieved 100 percent employment with leading accounting firms at starting salaries that averaged more than $55,000.
The Diplomacy Program, based in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, received its seventh consecutive major award since 2007. In 2013, the group received the Distinguished Delegation Award for its participation in the Model United Nations competition in New York City, and event that attracted more than 6,500 university students from 65 countries.
FAU’s Human-Powered Submarine team added to a long string of victories by winning first place for use of composite materials at the 12th International Submarine Races held at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The team also set the record for fastest female pilot – ocean engineering major Jennifer Frame. The submarine races were introduced by FAU in 1989 and have grown to include participating teams from all over the world.
Marcus Bright, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public Administration, was chosen to speak at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, sharing the podium with a stellar cast of civil rights leaders and government officials, including President Obama. Marcus told the crowd of more than 150,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial that education is the premiere civil rights issue of the 21st century.
James Martin, a 2012 graduate of FAU High School and 2013 summa cum laude graduate of FAU, carried out an internship in molecular biology at Princeton University under Dr. Eric Weischaus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for discoveries concerning genetic control in early embryonic development. He was subsequently hired to work as a student assistant in Dr. Weischaus’ laboratory.
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Despite the ongoing nationwide economic downturn, FAU’s researchers were able to win $33 million in grants from outside sources. Here are some of the top awards:
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For the first time in several years, the university was able to avoid increasing tuition and fees in 2013. This was the direct result of the Legislature’s restoration of the previous year’s deep budget cut of $24.7 million. Another welcome development made possible by the improved funding was reversal of the decision to close the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus. While many programs traditionally housed there were moved to other campuses, the School of Architecture and the executive master of accounting program in the College of Business continued to be based in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Two important university-wide projects got under way in 2013: the Agora Project and the FAU Human Rights Initiative. Agora is a Greek word dating back to ancient times that refers to a place where people gather to do business and discuss ideas. The Agora Project Task Force, led by Dr. William Trapani of the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, is focusing on promoting civil, respectful dialogue among people in the university community who hold widely differing views on a broad range of issues.
The FAU Human Rights Initiative is a multi-disciplinary undertaking that’s aimed at building on the success of the Peace Studies Program that was established in 1999 by FAU benefactor Barbara Schmidt. The new initiative focuses on uniting people throughout the university to develop the themes of human rights, peace and social justice through research, curricular expansion and community outreach. Its ultimate goal is the establishment of a Center for Peace and Human Rights at FAU. The director of the project is Dr. Michael Horswell of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.
Enrollment hit another high in the fall of 2013 as 30,759 students registered for classes. The university also welcomed its largest-ever freshman class, consisting of 3,492 first-time-in-college students enrolled on the Boca Raton campus and at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College on the Jupiter campus. The ribbon was cut on Parliament Hall, the first student housing facility at FAU to have a faculty member in residence. Parliament Hall – so named because the collective term for a group of owls is “a parliament of owls” – provides state-of-the-art housing and dining amenities to 614 freshmen. The faculty member in residence is Dr. Charles Dukes, an associate professor in the College of Education. Despite receiving no construction funds from the state, the university was able to build the $41 million project through bonds secured by student housing fees.
Other major projects completed in 2013 include additions to the Centre Marketplace, the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center and the Recreation and Wellness Center as well as construction of a much-needed third parking garage on the Boca Raton campus.
The FAU Foundation brought in $18 million in donations that benefited students, faculty and programs throughout the university. At the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year on June 30, the foundation’s endowment stood at $189.3 million.
Major gifts included the following:
The College of Education received gifts totaling $180,000 from best-selling author James Patterson to award scholarships to students who intend to pursue careers as reading teachers. Mr. Patterson was awarded an honorary doctorate at FAU’s spring 2013 commencement ceremony.
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For the second consecutive year, FAU was the statewide administrator for the Troops to Teachers Program. And – again for the second year in a row – FAU was named a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine.
The Weppner Volunteer Center for Civic Engagement and Service was named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the fifth year in a row. Once again, the Center had a very productive year, sending thousands of students into the community to donate their services to a wide variety of good causes. Their academic service-learning and volunteer activities totaled almost 176,000 hours.
On May 13, 2013, Dr. Saunders stepped down from the presidency, retaining her rank as a professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs Dennis J. Crudele, a veteran administrator with 26 years of service at FAU, was unanimously appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve as the university’s interim president. He brought a great deal of experience to the challenge of leading the university through a period of transition. As Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs he oversaw many departments and functions of the university, including human resources, the FAU Police Department, the university budget office, business services, the university controller, the purchasing department, administrative technology support services and business/auxiliary services. He also was executive director of the FAU Finance Corporation and he served as liaison to the Audit and Finance Committee of the FAU Board of Trustees.
“FAU is in good hands with Dennis Crudele,” said Anthony Barbar, chair of FAU’s Board of Trustees. “He has my full support, as well as that of my fellow trustees. We know he will serve as a strong, thoughtful and decisive leader during our search for a permanent president.” That process got under way on September 25, 2013, with the first meeting of the Presidential Search Committee.
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Interim President Crudele served for 10 months, moving the university ahead on many fronts. Notable developments included accreditation of the first residency program sponsored by the Graduate Medical Consortium (GMC), an alliance linking FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine with five leading Palm Beach County hospitals. The first residency program, in internal medicine, is based at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, with participation by Bethesda Hospital East and Delray Medical Center. Full accreditation of the program was granted by the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Within five years, the GMC plans to have more than 400 residencies in place at the university’s partner hospitals, which include St. Mary’s Medical Center & Palm Beach Children’s Hospital and West Boca Medical Center.
With the growth of the Boca Raton campus came traffic problems on its main access route, Glades Road. By the early 2000s, Glades Road had the dubious distinction of ranking as the most chronically congested road in Palm Beach County. Relief was set in motion on January 13, 2014, when Interim President Crudele took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for a new I-95 interchange designed to channel both northbound and southbound traffic directly onto campus. The $66 million project was expected to take three years to complete and include construction or refurbishment of 13 bridges and creation of a ramp network connecting I-95, Spanish River Boulevard and Yamato Road.
The university recorded an important advance on a different front when the FAU-based Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) was given the green light by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to move ahead with plans to install the world’s first ocean current turbine test site. BOEM’s finding that installation of the turbine array on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf would pose no significant environmental threat was critically important to further development of the project. The mission of SNMREC is to develop ways to harness the power of Florida’s strong offshore currents to generate clean, renewable energy for use on land. SNMREC is funded by almost $20 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Florida and private companies.
On a related note, FAU and its partners in the “Go SOLAR-Florida” are collaborating on a two-and-a-half-year U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II project. They will work together to develop ways to reduce market barriers, lower non-hardware related installation costs and provide access to financing options for homeowners who wish to tap into solar energy.
Edith Stern, the youngest graduate in FAU history, returned to her alma mater in the fall of 2013 to accept an Alumni Talon Award in recognition of her many achievements as a computer engineer and inventor. A child prodigy, Ms. Stern received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from FAU in 1968 when she was 15 years old. She went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics at Michigan State University and had a long career with IBM. She has been issued 126 U.S. patents and in 2012 she received the Kate Gleason Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Other distinguished visitors to FAU in 2013 included legendary Washington Post investigative journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who addressed a capacity crowd in the Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium. “Inside the White House from Nixon to Obama: A Conversation with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein” was presented within the framework of FAU’s enormously popular Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency. In previous years, symposium speakers included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Daniel Ellsberg of “Pentagon Papers” fame.
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On January 17, 2014, at the conclusion of a national search, the FAU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. John Kelly the university’s seventh president. Dr. Kelly came to FAU from Clemson University, where he held a succession of leadership positions over a 28-year period. As vice president for economic development he was one of Clemson’s three mission vice presidents, with wide-ranging responsibilities that included policy setting, strategic planning, hiring strategies, communication and budgeting. He oversaw 12 campuses and centers in a variety of South Carolina locations, supervised more than 900 employees and managed an annual budget of $90 million. As executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute, he built a highly collaborative team to educate students and direct research in energy systems.
Dr. Kelly also headed Clemson University Public Service Activities, a statewide agency with outreach programs in 46 counties. In this role, he directed Clemson’s Undergraduate Service Learning program, oversaw a broad array of specialized centers and institutes and was co-leader of the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development.
Active on the national level, Dr. Kelly has served on the boards of the Administrative Heads Section of the National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges (now the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities) and the American Distance Education Consortium.
He began his academic career in 1982 as an assistant professor in the department of horticulture at Texas A&M University. Three years later, he went to Clemson, rising through the ranks to become professor and department head by 1991. He was named vice president for public service and agriculture in 1997 and vice president for economic development in 2010.
Dr. Kelly holds three degrees in horticulture – a bachelor’s degree from Clemson and both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
“Today marks a great day in the history of FAU,” said Anthony Barbar, chair of FAU’s Board of Trustees. “We are proud of our selection of Dr. Kelly as our leader, and we are confident that his vision will guide FAU to its next level of greatness.”
Dr. Ronald Nyhan, president of the University Faculty Senate and a member of the Board of Trustees, told the Palm Beach Post that he was “tremendously impressed” by Dr. Kelly. “He is an individual who comes to us not just with experience, but with concrete ideas about where we can go.”
“I am privileged to have been selected as the next president of FAU,” said Dr. Kelly. “ This is a great university. I’m here for the long term.”
To say President Kelly hit the ground running would be an understatement. He arrived at FAU in March 2014 and immediately began meeting with key groups and individuals, including elected officials, business and civic leaders, university donors and friends, and members of the news media. He announced a plan for the first 100 days of his presidency under the following guiding principles:
At the conclusion of his first 10 weeks in office, he announced several additions to his executive leadership team, as well as some key appointments. Dr. Gary Perry, former dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, was named provost and vice president for academic affairs. Stacy Volnick’s title was changed from vice president for administrative affairs and chief of staff to vice president for administration and chief administrative officer. Dorothy Russell was named vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer. Two new vice presidencies were created and filled by colleagues of high achievement who had worked beside President Kelly at Clemson. Peter Hull was named vice president for public affairs and Jorge Calzadilla became vice president for public affairs. This reshaping of the administrative structure underscored President Kelly’s determination to streamline the organization of FAU’s leadership team and strengthen the university’s outreach to external constituencies.
The first major initiative undertaken by President Kelly was creation of a new strategic plan, one that would guide FAU steadily upward along a 10-year arc to 2025. His vision was clear: “Florida Atlantic will pursue, with unbridled ambition, the intention of becoming the country’s fastest-improving public research university.” To gain a thorough understanding of the university’s people, culture, programs and challenges, he and Provost Perry spent four months meeting personally with all 60 academic departments and student-related units on FAU’s six campuses, spending two to three hours with each group. The purpose was to engage in thoughtful dialogue about conditions at the university and to hear unfiltered commentary from faculty, staff, administrators, students and other stakeholders. The overwhelming impression that President Kelly took away from this “listening tour” was that FAU was filled with “hidden jewels” and it was his job to make sure those jewels were polished to a high shine and displayed on the national stage. He brought a fresh, new perspective to FAU, and his optimism had an energizing effect on many in the university community. In September 2014 he delivered his first state of the university address to a packed audience in the Kaye Auditorium. Here is an excerpt from that speech:
What can we do to help this university reach its full potential? What’s our responsibility for you and for the generations that have passed through here and the generations yet to come? What can we do that constantly adds value to the FAU brand? . . . How do we work so that we know what we’re doing strategically? . . . Having a good strategy to get there is essential, and I think we can develop that kind of strategy together.
People both inside and outside the university soon learned that President Kelly was serious about working collegially to take FAU to ever higher levels of achievement and recognition. He reached out to a broad range of stakeholders seeking input to the strategic plan, which was completed in the spring of 2015 and presented to the Board of Trustees under the title The Race to Excellence. It received unanimous Board approval on March 24, 2015, and is in effect at the time of this writing.
At the heart of the plan are Pillars and Platforms, with Pillars being programs that benefit society by creating knowledge and Platforms describing scholarly activities that support the Pillars.
The plan identifies the following core Pillars, all of which represent areas of special strength at FAU:
Platforms include scholarly activities falling into the following broad categories:
A major funding challenge faced the university shortly after President Kelly’s arrival. In 2014, the Florida Board of Governors introduced a new, performance-based funding policy for the state’s 12 public universities, ranking them on the basis of a points system. FAU scored low overall because of poor performance in two areas: the freshman retention rate and the six-year first-time-in-college graduation rate. There was an argument to be made that as an institution serving a predominantly commuter student body, with more than 70 percent attending part-time, FAU should not be held to the same standards as universities with traditional full-time, residential student bodies. In fact, previous FAU administrations had offered this “apples and oranges” response when faced with criticism about low retention and graduation rates, but these metrics had never before been directly tied to funding. Faced with a $7 million reduction of the university’s budget, President Kelly led the charge to put programs in place that would fast-track improved performance. Strategies included hiring 26 new academic advisers, making advising services more accessible to evening commuter students by offering them in parking garages on the Boca Raton campus (an innovation that made page one news locally), introducing a “JumpStart” summer program for incoming freshmen to help them get off on the right track, developing detailed plans of study called “flight plans” for lower-division students, creating a bachelor of general studies degree and launching a campaign dubbed “Major KnOWLedge” that encouraged students to declare majors early in their college careers, thus giving them a specific academic focus. These and other changes yielded impressive results in a very short period of time. Within just one year, FAU’s metrics had improved so dramatically that the $7 million was restored and the university qualified for $11.3 million in additional performance-based funding. President Kelly was quick to share credit with members of the FAU team who had made major contributions to the turnaround, saying “Our ascent in the rankings is a wonderful achievement – and a just reward for the dedication of so many people. Everyone associated with FAU should be proud of what we’ve achieved during the last year.”
In addition to leading FAU’s reversal of fortune in the State University System rankings, President Kelly was active on other fronts. He reached out to some of the world’s most accomplished biomedical research organizations to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. The most exciting of these initiatives was a renewed relationship linking FAU with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, both of which built major research facilities on FAU’s Jupiter campus a few years before President Kelly’s arrival. While engagement between FAU’s faculty and student researchers and the world-class scientists at Scripps and Max Planck had been frequently discussed and some partnership activities had been undertaken, the full potential of the three-way alliance was not clearly defined until March 2015, when principals of the organizations came together in a news conference to announce a new focus. President Kelly, Scripps Acting President and CEO James Paulson and Max Planck CEO and Scientific Director David Fitzpatrick pledged to work cooperatively to establish a one-of-a-kind education program that would allow FAU students to work side by side in state-of-the-art laboratories with some of the world’s leading scientific researchers, including Nobel Laureates.
“This initiative comes from the core of economic development,” President Kelly said. “FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will solve real-world problems and take strides to improve human health. We will create the knowledge economy of the future. Moreover, we will provide students unique scientific research programs that will be the envy of the world.”
The university also forged important new partnerships with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Nansen Neuroscience Network in Norway.
Early on, President Kelly said he intended to recruit “game changers” to FAU’s faculty, and he lost no time in fulfilling that pledge. Among the university’s new hires were Dr. Daniel Flynn, a renowned breast cancer researcher who joined FAU as vice president for research; Dr. Jason Hallstrom, a computer scientist who invented small, wireless devices capable of remotely tracking a wide range of environmental and human health conditions; Dr. James Galvin, an internationally known expert on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia; and Dr. Gregg Fields, holder of seven U.S. patents who was named chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. President Kelly welcomed them all as heavy hitters with the ability to put FAU on the national stage.
In the fall of 2014, the university presented two high school expos on the Boca Raton campus to introduce students living in Broward and Palm Beach counties to FAU. Thousands of potential FAU freshmen and their parents attended these day-long events, which culminated with free admission to a football game in FAU Stadium. This presidential initiative was promoted with the highest professionalism by FAU’s creative services and marketing teams. Their efforts won a Collegiate Advertising Award, a national honor.
As the 2014 holiday season approached, FAU received a truly remarkable gift: a $16 million donation from the Schmidt Family Foundation to build a state-of-the-art facility on the Boca Raton campus to help student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the playing field. The gift – the largest single donation in FAU’s history – provided initial funding for the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence. It will offer enrichment opportunities to all students, including those who are not part of the university’s intercollegiate athletics program.
Speaking on behalf of the Schmidt Family Foundation, longtime FAU supporter and 1970 alumnus Richard L. Schmidt said, “The Foundation believes Florida Atlantic University — our university right here in Boca Raton — is poised for greatness. As a community, we understand that to compete at the highest levels, in and out of the classroom, students must have access to premier facilities.”
The complex, to be constructed adjacent to FAU Stadium, is expected to include a student-athlete academic and leadership center as well as strength and conditioning equipment, sports medicine services, health and wellness centers and an indoor training facility.
President Kelly said the Schmidt Family Foundation’s overwhelming generosity will help FAU gain national recognition as a great university. “With a main campus less than two miles from some of the country’s most pristine coastline, FAU has enormous potential and will become an irresistible draw for the best and brightest students,” he said. “We’re going to play to win — and that means in the classroom and on the field.”
In the spring of 2015, President Kelly led the university’s 112th commencement ceremonies, which celebrated the graduation of the largest class in FAU’s history – 3,268 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the first 53 students to be awarded M.D. degrees by the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. All of these new physicians got residency matches to continue their medical education in specializations of their choice, including some who were bound for prestigious Ivy League institutions such as Yale University’s New Haven Hospital and Brown University’s Rhode Island Hospital. Additionally, FAU’s College of Medicine was awarded full accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs in the U.S. and Canada. The college’s recently launched residency program in internal medicine received more than 4,700 applications for the 36 available positions.
By the summer of 2015, as President Kelly set off for Germany to meet personally with the highest Max Planck officials, it had become clear that he was prepared to pursue his vision for FAU with a well-planned course of action. His unwavering commitment earned many allies for him and the university as it generated excitement among students, faculty and staff. The feeling was growing that great things lay ahead.
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