The Saunders Years (2010-2013)

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:

  • Dr. Nwadiuto Esiobu of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science was among 13 scientists from American universities who were named 2011-12 Jefferson Science Fellows by the National Academies of Science. She spent a year in Washington, D.C., serving as a lead science advisor in the U.S. Secretary of State’s Global Food Security Initiative.
  • Dr. Talitha LeFlouria of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters contributed to the PBS documentary “Slavery by Another Name,” which examined the illegal practice of debt enslavement of African Americans after the Civil War and continuing until World War Two.
  • Dr. Scott Kelso, FAU’s Eminent Scholar in Science, was named a 2012 Fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists – the oldest and most prestigious honorary society in the field of psychology.
  • Dr. Charles Hennekens of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine was declared one of the most notable “science heroes” in the history of the world for his discoveries linking aspirin to cardiovascular health. He is credited with saving more than one million lives worldwide by preventing premature deaths from heart attack and stroke.
  • Dr. Joseph Ouslander of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine was selected to receive the American Geriatrics Society’s highest honor – the 2012 Nascher/Manning Award.

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:

  • Enrich the educational experience
  • Inspire research, scholarship and creative activity
  • Increase community engagement
  • Leverage resources – financial, technological, physical and human

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:

  • Dr. Joseph Ouslander of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Dr. Ruth Tappen of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing received over $1.7 million in funding from various sources to further their research on ways to reduce re-hospitalization of nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating disorders.
  • Dr. Michael Brady of the College of Education was awarded a five-year grant of more than $1.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education for his project titled “Mentor-Lead: Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders for Special Education Faculty Roles.”
  • Dr. Shirley Pomponi of FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute received over $1 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund the fourth year of a program that focuses on the development of advanced underwater technologies, exploration and research of frontier regions of the Eastern Continental shelf and improved understanding of deep and shallow coral ecosystems.
  • Dr. Andrew Oleinikov of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine received a total of nearly $1 million in two grants from the National Institutes of Health supporting his research on vaccines to combat severe malaria and the discovery of pathways through which maternal anemia is transmitted.
  • Dr. Erika Hoff of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science received a $630,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to support her study on early dual language development in children from Spanish-speaking families.
  • Ms. Susan Skemp of the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center received $592,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the installation of a small-scale ocean current turbine test berth in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. This important project got the green light from federal environmental authorities last summer. The first test berth is expected to be in place early next year, advancing our effort to become the first university in the world to demonstrate the feasibility of generating energy from ocean currents.
  • Dr. Xavier Comas and Dr. Brian Benscoter of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science have been awarded more than $570,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to study carbon cycling and climate change in the Greater Everglades.
  • Dr. Daniel Reyes-Guerra of the College of Education received nearly $500,000 from the Florida Department of Education for continued curriculum development of his innovative principal preparation program, which aims to place highly effective leaders in low-performing schools. This partnership project with the School Board of Broward County is based on the Davie campus.

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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:

  • A $2.5 million gift from the estate of the university’s longtime friend and supporter Thomas Chastain.
  • A $500,000 gift to FAU Stadium from ADT Security, which also donated a large clock that has been mounted on the south exterior wall. The clock was originally installed at Boston’s Fenway Park during that iconic facility’s 99th anniversary year in 2011.
  • A $250,000 gift from Trustee Dr. Jeffrey P. Feingold and Mrs. Barbara S. Feingold to renovate the Board of Trustees Room, which is being named in Dr. Feingold’s honor.

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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