Search committee unanimously recommends United States Senator Dr. Ben Sasse as sole finalist for University of Florida’s 13th president

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The University of Florida Presidential Search Committee has unanimously recommended United States Senator Dr. Ben Sasse as the sole finalist for consideration by its Board of Trustees who will select the 13th president of the University of Florida.

Dr. Sasse has had a distinguished academic career, earning a PhD from Yale University and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University. Dr. Sasse spent five years as the president of Midland University, where he is widely credited with transforming the institution. Prior to that, Dr. Sasse had a varied and impressive career in academia and the private sector. Dr. Sasse’s passion for teaching started at Yale University and continued as a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to winning the Egleston and Theron Rockwell Field best dissertation prizes, he is also the author of two New York Times best-selling books.

“This is right for the University of Florida, right for the state of Florida and right for the Sasse family,” said Rahul Patel, chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.”

“He has worked tirelessly for decades to empower people to accomplish their goals, placing education at the forefront of his lifelong service to this great nation. Having taught at the University of Texas, and served as a college president, Ben’s experiences are also deep and broad — from healthcare and technology to history and philosophy. His vision, humility, integrity, incredible personable nature and deep concern for humanity are all traits that will serve the UF community exceptionally well. This is the right moment for such a gifted public servant to lead the Gator nation into the future.”

The recruitment process was exhaustive and included outreach to more than 700 leaders within and outside of higher education. Ultimately, the Search Committee focused its attention on a dozen highly qualified diverse candidates. Nine were sitting presidents at major research universities, and seven were from AAU universities. Sasse was the unanimous choice of the UF Search Committee.

“The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” said Dr. Sasse. “It’s the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state — and its board, faculty and graduates are uniquely positioned to lead this country through an era of disruption. The caliber of teaching and research at UF is unmistakable, carried out through the core principles of shared governance and academic freedom. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work alongside one of the nation’s most outstanding faculties.”

Sasse also spoke about the role of the University amid a rapidly changing economic, civic and educational landscape.

“The single biggest challenge our nation faces is the radical disruption of work,” he said. “Technology is changing everything about where, when, why, what and how Americans work — and so it's changing our homes, neighborhoods and communities too. Lifelong work in one sector will never again be the norm for most Americans, and therefore lifelong learning must necessarily become the norm for most Americans. Higher education is going to need to change and grow — and rethink its forms — again and again.”

The UF Board of Trustees will now officially consider Sasse as the finalist recommended by the Presidential Search Committee. Following their evaluation, the Board may then name the next president, subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors.

“The University of Florida is one of the nation’s top five public universities for the second year in a row, but we have a lot more to build,” said Mori Hosseini, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Our economy is rapidly evolving and UF graduates will lead the nation. We need a transformational leader to guide our strategic planning to prioritize among the spectacular opportunities before us in this time of growth and change.”

“I am grateful to the Search Committee, thankful for the engagement of the UF community that helped inform this search and thrilled with the unanimous recommendation for Dr. Ben Sasse as our next president. I am excited to take this recommendation to our Board of Trustees for its consideration and for Ben’s upcoming visit to campus where our community will have the opportunity to meet and share their vision of the future with him.”

Next Steps

Dr. Sasse will visit campus on Monday, October 10, 2022, to meet with students, faculty and other members of the University community.

Participants are invited to submit questions online at https://presidentsearch.ufl.edu/ask-a-question/ ahead of the sessions through the UF Presidential Search website, on which logistical information will be posted.

Following the campus visit, participants will have the opportunity to share feedback online through the UF Presidential Search website. This feedback will be reviewed by the UF Board of Trustees prior to interviewing the finalist at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, in Emerson Hall.

The campus visit and Board of Trustees candidate interview will also be livestreamed on the UF Presidential Search website.

Additional quotes from select Search Committee members:

Dr. David Bloom, chair and professor, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, former Faculty Senate chair: “Ben Sasse will be a truly transformative leader for UF to help take our great university to the next level. He possesses truly unique qualifications for this position and is someone that we the faculty will genuinely be excited about. He has a strong academic pedigree and experience as a leader in higher education. His time at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and his service in the U.S. Senate provide him with a perspective that will help navigate resource development and bring people together.”

Dr. Lisa Lundy, professor and undergraduate coordinator, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication: “What distinguished Ben Sasse from my perspective was the emphasis on innovation for UF at every level, from our national impact to a single student’s experience in and out of the classroom. Ben also uniquely appreciates the importance of UF to help advance the well-being of all Floridians.”

Dr. Duane Mitchell, Phyllis Kottler Friedman professor, Department of Neurosurgery, College of Medicine: “Ben Sasse brings to the helm of our university an outstanding educational background and a wealth of experience and visionary leadership in academia, industry and government. His deep understanding and inspirational view of how to address opportunities and the challenges ahead in the future of education, research and health care are compelling assets that Ben Sasse will convey as the next president of the University of Florida.”

Laura Rosenbury, dean of Levin College of Law; and Levin, Mabie & Levin professor of Law and affiliate professor, Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research: “Ben Sasse has long been a principled advocate for higher education. He embodies academic freedom with his deep commitment to engaging with people across difference. I am excited for Ben to lead UF’s diverse and innovative community.”

UF News October 6, 2022