The Brogan Years (2003-2009)

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:

  1. Access to and production of degrees
  2. Meeting statewide professional and workforce needs
  3. Building world-class academic programs and research capacity
  4. Meeting community needs and fulfilling unique institutional missions
  5. Building a state-of-the-art information technology environment
  6. Enhancing the physical environment
  7. Increasing the university’s visibility

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:

  • Dr. Charles H. Hennekens, the first Sir Richard Doll Research Professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, presented data at the American Heart Association’s Annual Scientific Sessions meeting indicating that aspirin increases the release of nitric oxide in the human body, which may decrease the development and progression of plaques leading to heart attack and stroke.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute with a five-year, $22.5 million funding award. Harbor Branch and the University of North Carolina Wilmington were named co-managers of this multi-institution consortium.
  • Harbor Branch scientists received $2 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue the development of underwater laser imaging technologies that could help secure U.S. coastal waters and ports.
  • FAU High School celebrated the graduation of the largest class in its five-year history as 18 young scholars received their diplomas. The graduates included several National Merit finalists, a student with a perfect SAT score in mathematics and a 16-year-old who was FAU High’s youngest-ever graduate. A few months later, ground was broken on the Boca Raton campus for an innovatively designed classroom building that will provide a new learning environment for FAU High School students and middle school students attending the A.D. Henderson University School. It is scheduled for completion in July 2010.
  • FAU continued to distinguish itself as the most racially, ethnically and culturally diverse institution in Florida’s State University System. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranked FAU 12th nationally in conferring bachelor’s degrees on African American students and 26th nationally in conferring bachelor’s degrees on Hispanic students. These statistics applied to the 2007-08 academic year.
  • An outreach program to prepare high school students from medically underserved communities for careers as physicians marked a successful first year. The program, an initiative of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, began in 2008 with a cohort of students from Lake Worth High School and was slated to expand to Boyd Anderson, Dillard, Coconut Creek and Blanche Ely high schools in the fall of 2009.
  • Ground was broken on the Boca Raton campus for a classroom and office facility that will house a technologically advanced motion picture complex to be operated by Living Room Theaters, Inc., which donated $1.5 million toward its construction. The $19 million facility is being built to the silver LEED standard and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010. It will be the first all-digital movie complex on a U.S. college campus.
  • Dr. J.A. Scott Kelso, FAU’s Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar in Science, and his colleagues in the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences published a breakthrough study exploring the dynamics of human-machine interaction. Their work introduced the concept of Virtual Partner Interaction (VPI), opening up the possibility of exploring and understanding a wide variety of interactions between minds and machines. VPI could be the first step toward establishing a much friendlier union of man and machine, and perhaps even creating a different kind of machine altogether.
  • FAU’s Human Powered Submarine Team won first place for speed and second place in the overall competition at the 10th International Submarine Race held at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division in Bethesda, Maryland. The FAU ocean engineering students built and piloted Talon 1, a one-person, propeller-driven submarine, reaching a speed of 6.298 knots. The competition attracted 21 teams from around the nation and the world.
  • Laura Daniels, a student in the School of Architecture, designed the prototype for a new generation of Broward County Transit bus shelters. Her innovative design includes solar panels to run the information system, alert passengers to bus arrival and provide power to provide light in the evening. Broward County Transit hopes to have the prototype built and installed at selected locations throughout the county by the end of 2010.
  • FAU’s department of music presented the world premiere of Encircling Skies, the latest composition by the internationally acclaimed American composer Libby Larsen. One of the world’s most performed living composers, Ms. Larsen was in residence at FAU in 2007-08 as the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar.
  • FAU’s Klezmer Company Orchestra (KCO) won two major awards from Just Plain Folks, the world’s largest grassroots music organization. KCO’s CD “Beyond the Tribes” was named Best Klezmer Album for 2009, and the group’s “2nd Avenue Hoedown” took Best Klezmer Song honors.
  • The Max Planck Florida Institute finalized an agreement to locate permanently on a six-acre site adjacent to Scripps Florida on FAU’s Jupiter campus. Plans call for the internationally known biomedical research giant to occupy a 100,000-square-foot laboratory facility and carry out collaborative research and educational efforts with the university. The facility is expected to open in the fall of 2011.
  • FAU’s Daniel B. Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service was named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.
  • Dr. Marc Kantorow, professor of biomedical sciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, received a grant renewal of $1.6 million from the National Institutes of Health to investigate natural eye repair systems that could be used to treat age-related eye diseases.

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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.