Machen announces 2013 departure as UF begins search for new president

Published: June 8 2012

Category:Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida President Bernie Machen announced today his plans to end his tenure next year, saying he expects to continue to lead the university until its governing board completes a search for his successor.

“I will have served as president for almost 10 years, and I have been fortunate to work with many exceptionally smart and dedicated faculty, staff and students,” Machen wrote in a letter to the UF community. “Amid a very difficult period for higher education, we have built a stronger, more dynamic, more forward-thinking university.”

Machen, 68, made his announcement at the UF Board of Trustees meeting in Gainesville. Chairman David Brown said the board would begin a search for the next president this summer, with the goal of finding Machen’s successor in 2013. Machen and Brown will agree on the date for Machen’s departure.

Under Machen’s leadership, UF has greatly expanded its campus, grown its research enterprise and embraced innovation as a core mission. It has become more financially independent and more entrepreneurial-minded. The university has more than doubled its endowment; developed new operations in Gainesville, the state of Florida and the world; and become a higher education leader in sustainability. UF has increased diversity despite the end of race-based admissions – and improved the student-faculty ratio despite six years of budget cuts.

Machen took office as UF’s 11th president Jan. 4, 2004. He plans to remain at the university as a professor after he leaves office.

“This has been the most exciting and productive period of my career, and I feel we have everything in place for a great future,” he said. “There is a time for everything, and I will be excited to move on to the next phase of my life when the university is ready for a smooth transition.”

Machen came to Gainesville from Salt Lake City, where he served for six years as president of the University of Utah. Prior to that, he was provost of the University of Michigan and dean and associate dean of dentistry at Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, respectively.

In his September 2004 inaugural address, Machen promised to expand UF’s research enterprise as part of a new “Era of Discovery” – a vision that would soon change the campus.

A focus on research

During Machen’s tenure, UF added the Nanoscale Research Facility, Emerging Pathogens Institute, Biomedical Sciences Building and UF’s largest research building, the Cancer and Genetics Research Building – four major new facilities that are the cornerstones of nearly 600,000 square feet of laboratories, greenhouses and other designated research space.

These additions helped make UF more competitive in winning research grants, more prolific in extending scientific frontiers and more attractive to prospective faculty hires. From $470 million in fiscal year 2003-04, annual research contracts and grants climbed to $619 million last year.

As Florida’s leading public research university and a national land-grant institution, UF is charged with contributing novel solutions to pressing public problems. Machen focused on that mission during his tenure, creating the UF Water Institute, the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. UF established a research presence at Lake Nona near Orlando, where it is building a biomedical facility next door to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

Machen reorganized the UF Health Science Center, strengthening the ties between UF and the Shands family of hospitals and emphasizing clinical research through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. The Shands Cancer Hospital was completed under his watch.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences experienced increased research funding, increased enrollment in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and gained new extension facilities.

Teaching, research, service … and innovation

As its research operation grew, the university redoubled efforts to commercialize the technologies developed by its professors. Patents and licenses climbed; private venture investment in UF companies soared; and spinoffs such as Xhale, Axogen and Sinmat grew. In 2006, the Milken Institute recognized UF as the nation’s top public institution in transferring research to the marketplace.

Two years ago, UF joined its innovation and town-gown missions in the creation of Innovation Square, a 40-acre research park between campus and downtown. Planned to start in 2013: Innovation Academy, a unique spring-summer program that will eventually enroll 2,000 students pursuing innovation careers and increase student access to the university.

The Florida Innovation Hub technology incubator opened its doors at Innovation Square last fall. In March, the global information technology firm MindTree became the first major company to locate at Innovation Square. MindTree executive Scott Staples said the UF public-private partnership “put Gainesville over the top in our selection.”

A 2011 UF study found UF has an $8.76 billion economic impact and creates more than 106,000 jobs statewide.

Toward greater financial independence

As UF nurtured innovation, Machen sought to make the university more financially independent. He led Florida’s universities in advocating the Florida Legislature for more control over tuition, winning the ability to seek 15-percent annual tuition hikes until tuition reaches the national average. Thanks to that autonomy, UF has offset the loss of one-third of its state dollars over the past six years, blunting $229 million in losses with $140 million in gains from tuition (including a proposed 9 percent increase next school year.)

Machen also led the UF Foundation in securing record support for UF from private donors. UF’s endowment has more than doubled during his tenure, increasing from $585.7 million in June 2003 to $1.295 billion in June 2011. Foundation officials will announce this year the successful conclusion of the five-year, $1.5 billion Florida Tomorrow capital campaign.

Among other buildings, major donations have renovated Ustler Hall and built Hough Hall, Pugh Hall, the Levin Advocacy Center and the Harn Museum’s Cofrin Asian Art Wing. All told, campus gained more than 2.8 million gross square feet in new construction since 2004. Buildings now under construction will push the figure to more than 3 million square feet.

Support for faculty and graduate students

Even as budget cuts reduced resources, the university worked to create new opportunities by directing resources to faculty and graduate students. In 2009, UF devoted $10 million to the Jump Start initiative to hire new faculty in areas of critical need. Funded through new tuition dollars, Jump Start has brought on board 71 new faculty members.

Machen spearheaded the Faculty Challenge and Faculty Now initiatives to support faculty. Today, UF has 292 endowed professorships and 2,774 endowments overall, up from 170 and 1,608, respectively, in 2003. Machen steered more university money into graduate student scholarships. And, the university began offering GatorGradCare health insurance, with 4,500 graduate assistants signing up.

UF’s graduate enrollment has grown during Machen’s tenure. Master’s enrollment increased 28 percent, from 5,663 students in 2004 to 7,228 students last year. Doctoral student numbers rose 8.5 percent, from 4,426 to 4,803.

Diversity, undergraduate life and campus culture

A hallmark of Machen’s presidency has been his work to maintain racial diversity after Florida abolished race-based admissions with the One Florida plan.

In 2006, Machen began the Florida Opportunity Scholarship program, which pays tuition and room and board for students who are the first in their families to attend college and whose families earn less than $40,000 annually. The program has since helped more than 2,300 students attend UF, with 870 graduating to date. Seventy-eight percent of Florida Opportunity Scholarship students are minorities.

Because of the scholarship, stepped-up recruiting in schools with large minority enrollment and other measures, black enrollment has remained at or above the 2004 level of 7.4 percent, while Hispanic students rose steadily from 10.7 percent in 2004 to 14.2 percent in 2011.

Machen’s support for diversity has not been limited to students or race. He hired UF’s first female police chief and first female engineering dean. The university also began offering health insurance for domestic partners during his tenure.

A sustained campaign against binge and underage drinking has been a hallmark of student life during Machen’s administration. The university formed the Community Alcohol Coalition, began requiring all students to take an online alcohol-education seminar, and instituted many new safety measures and programs. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education recognized UF as a national model for substance abuse prevention.

Student applications have soared, topping 29,000 for the 2012-13 class. Students have more opportunities to interact with faculty, with the student-faculty ratio declining from 22.7 to 1 in 2004 to 20.5 to 1 in 2011 despite the $229 million in state budget cuts. And students graduate UF faster, with the four-year rate rising from 55 percent to 65 percent.

Athletics has been a special highlight of the past eight years, with the Gators winning 10 national titles: Two in football, two in men’s basketball, two in men’s track and field, one in men’s indoor track and field, two in women’s tennis and one in women’s swimming and diving.

Prepared for future challenges

In his emphasis on research and graduate programs, Machen built on UF’s existing strengths. He also set into motion his own fundamental transformations of the university.

He made sustainability a UF cornerstone, hiring the first director of sustainability, infusing efficiency or waste-reducing goals into university affairs and committing to an annual “report card” measuring progress. Results include a popular bus system, some of the “greenest” buildings in Florida and a new sustainability major with its first graduates this spring.

Even as the university amplified its impact locally with the creation of the East Campus, it expanded its global footprint, launching the UF Beijing Center for International Studies. It opened its doors to more international students. Since 2004, international students have increased 50 percent at UF to more than 4,000.

From major new research facilities to a healthy endowment to a diverse and global student population, UF is a stronger university. But Machen noted there is still ample opportunity for progress. While its low tuition puts it at a disadvantage, UF benefits from its status as the leading public university in the bellwether state of Florida, he said. Its campus is uniquely comprehensive, and its faculty, staff and students are accomplished and dedicated.

“We face a lot of external challenges, but what matters most is our internal strength and health as an institution,” he said. “In both our commitment and our capacity to be a premier center of higher learning, UF has every advantage, and that will be a great help to my successor.”


Aaron Hoover,
Janine Sikes,, 352-846-3903

Category:Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories