Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees Chair Anthony K. G. Barbar accepted FAU President Mary Jane Saunders’ letter of resignation late yesterday, responding with a letter expressing regret and praising her for her many accomplishments.
“On behalf of the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees, I regretfully accept your resignation,” he said in his letter. “The Board respects your desire to return to the faculty, a decision we know you made in the best interest of the University.”
In her resignation letter, President Saunders wrote, “ When I accepted the presidency of FAU three years ago, I did so with a vision to expand upon the excellence of this richly diverse and strong institution with a focus on academics and student success. We, as a campus community, have successfully accomplished these goals.
“There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community. The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the President of FAU. I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family.”
Barbar added that President Saunders showed her dedication through attendance at events on campus and in the community.
“She attended every athletic game, arts performance and FAU-sponsored event that she could,” he said. “Few major community events were held without her involvement. Throughout her time as President, she consistently demonstrated a genuine love for the University, its students and the community. She has been fully committed morning, day and night to the betterment of FAU. We thank President Saunders for her service and dedication to the university.”
President Saunders’ list of accomplishments at FAU is extensive. During her tenure, freshmen applications and enrollment doubled; philanthropic donations significantly increased; the University received a perfect score on the 10-year SACS reaffirmation; the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine was opened; and a number of capital improvements were accomplished, which include the opening of FAU Stadium, as well as new residence halls, classrooms and research facilities.
“The list of accomplishments you made during your three-year tenure is long,” Barbar wrote. “FAU, its students and the region benefited from the strong vision you had for the University’s future – a future you have set in motion.”
In consultation with Barbar, President Saunders is appointing Dennis Crudele, FAU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, as the Acting President, effective immediately. President Saunders will be returning to a faculty position and be assigned a special research project – to assess the feasibility of developing a physician’s assistant program at FAU.
Barbar said he expects to have an Interim President in place by fall 2013. At that time, a search committee for a new President will be formed.
Accomplishments of FAU President Mary Jane Saunders
- Led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation, which earned the University the highest possible overall evaluation and special praise for FAU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, “Distinction through Discovery.”
- Launched the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, including establishing preceptorships with 900 physicians, partnerships with eight hospitals for Med 3+4 clinical rotations, and a consortium with five hospitals for 340 new post-graduate residencies; more than 7,500 applications have been received over a three-year period, enabling the University to select nationally competitive students to fill the 64 slots that are available annually.
- Fostered major donations that total more than $50 million in three years. The FAU Foundation’s endowment was $187.6 million as of March 31, 2013 and assets of the HBOI Foundation currently total $58 million.
- Led the process of creating the 2012-17 Strategic Plan, which establishes FAU’s three signature themes: Marine and Coastal Issues, Biotechnology, and Contemporary Societal Issues.
- Doubled freshman applications from 12,000 to 24,000 in 2011. The incoming class in fall 2012 was the largest in FAU history and had highly competitive SAT and ACT scores. FAU has become the most selective institution in the State University System and the student body has grown to an all-time high of 30,000-plus.
- Balanced budgets of $600 million for three years including FY 2012 with $24.7 million in E&G budget cuts and no PECO funding for FYs 2011-13.
- Created the Center for eLearning to increase the University’s competitiveness in the rapidly expanding online education arena.
- Opened the following new academic facilities in 2011 and 2012 (on time, under cost and LEED-certified):
- Engineering East Building; LEED Platinum; $46.4 million
- Culture & Society Building; LEED Gold; $25.6 million
- Henderson School Expansion; LEED Gold; $6 million
- Davie West; LEED Gold; $36.2 million
- HBOI Link Building Renovation; LEED Gold; $9.5 million
- Innovation Village Student Residence Complex, Phase I; LEED Silver; $99 million (Occupancy 100 percent)
- FAU Stadium; LEED Silver; $63.5 million
- Harbor Branch Research Lab II: LEED Silver; $19.3 million
- Initiated the start of construction of the following facilities in 2013:
- Freshman Residence Hall; $41.7 million
- Expansion of Louis & Anne Green Memory & Wellness Center; $1.8 million
- Parking Garage III; $13.3 million
- Expansion of Centre Marketplace (student dining complex); $4 million
- Expansion of Recreation Center; $1 million
- Grew sponsored research funding from $37.5 million in 2009-10 to $43.2 million in 2010-11 to $48 million in 2011-12, for a three-year total of $128.7 million.
- Established the Center for Teaching and Learning, a multi-departmental initiative to ensure the academic success of every student and provide faculty with teaching tools and resources.
- Launched, with University and business partners, Life Sciences South Florida and MedUTech, two promising new high-tech industry/University economic development initiatives.
- Commissioned study that shows FAU has an economic impact of $6.3 billion annually.
- Outreach to both internal and external constituencies through speeches, meetings with faculty and students, media interviews, op-ed pieces, emails and videos, service on many boards and participation in wide variety of campus and community events.
- Increased outreach to the business community through creation of the Division of Community Engagement.
- Initiated the CEO Community Luncheon Series, which to date has brought more than 60 local business leaders “to the table” to strengthen external relations.
- Led FAU’s 50th anniversary celebration, garnering widespread favorable publicity for the University through campus events, public appearances, media interviews and production of an anniversary book. Events included the “50 on the 50” Gala, a high-profile scholarship fundraiser that ranks as one of the most successful social events in the University’s history.
- Hosted U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Boca Raton campus to deliver a major speech on the economy; this was selected by Boca Raton Magazine as the city’s top event of 2012, and it brought the University widespread local, national and international attention.
- Created President’s Scholarship Challenge Fund with personal pledge; total value of this scholarship program now stands at $625,000.
- Revived awarding honorary doctorates to persons of outstanding achievement and continued awarding President’s Distinguished Service Medallions to special friends of FAU.
- Tightened the University’s relationship with the Research Park, which provides nearly 1,000 well-compensated local jobs and has a regional economic impact of $274 million.
- Moved FAU Athletics into Conference USA.
During President Saunders’ tenure, University accolades included:
- Named 2012 Business of the Year by the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce
- Received 2012 Education and Workforce Development Award from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce
- Online graduate programs in College of Business named a “Best Buy” by GetEducated.com
- FAU repeatedly ranked high nationally for conferring undergraduate and graduate degrees upon minority students in a wide variety of academic disciplines (as reported by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education)
- FAU named to G.I. Jobs magazines of military-friendly schools two years in a row
- FAU ranked 27th nationally for campus ethnic diversity by U.S. News & World Report
- FAU repeatedly named to U.S. Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service
- FAU’s Karen Slattery Educational Research Center for Child Development, Alexander D. Henderson University School, Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition and FAU High School awarded top ratings for the excellence of their educational programs
President Saunders was recognized in the following ways:
- South Florida’s Most Influential Business Women of 2012 by the South Florida Business Journal
- 2013 Ultimate CEO Award from the South Florida Business Journal
- 2013 Champion of Children Award from HANDY (Helping Abused, Neglected, Disadvantaged Youth)
- Invited to join the Business-Higher Education Forum, the nation’s oldest organization of senior business and higher education executives dedicated to advancing innovative solutions to U.S. education and workforce challenges
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