Fort Lauderdale, 70, President, Nova Southeastern University
Ferrero gets credit for -- among other things -- leading the way in developing the Fort Lauderdale school's Library, Research and Technology Center. It's perhaps the largest public/private use library on any campus in the U.S. Named to run Nova in 1998, Ferrero switched careers from a high-profile trial law practice and has provided significant leadership for the entire private university sector. A former captain in the Marines, he's widely recruited to serve on every imaginable blue-ribbon panel from legislative research efforts in Tallahassee to the Orange Bowl Committee.
Pensacola, 49, Director
Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
Ford has created an air of prestige at an upstart institution that basks in his reputation -- and recently stepped out from under the University of West Florida umbrella to become an independent, non-profit with a statewide reach. Ford has authored more than 100 nationally recognized papers on artificial intelligence and amplifying the performance of the brain -- and written seven books on the subject. His talents have even brought NASA knocking to obtain Ford's research help on an information technology project that earned him a medal from NASA in 1999.
Orlando, 63, President, University of Central Florida
A native of Houston with a doctorate in psychology, Hitt was named president of UCF in 1992. Since then he's broadened his clout beyond his own rapidly growing campus to become one of the most influential university presidents in the state. Today, Hitt runs a burgeoning campus with an enrollment of 41,000 full- and part-time students in Orlando. One marker of his influence: When he got a $93,000 pay raise in 2003, hiking his salary to $295,000, it set off a round of major compensation increases for university presidents throughout Florida.
St. Petersburg, 64, President, St. Petersburg College
Kuttler is perhaps the most entrepreneurial college president in the state, building what was St. Petersburg Junior College into a four-year, degree-granting school with a huge, diverse range of programs. Kuttler, always animated, has a nose for the limelight: He's on a first-name basis with Russian President Vladimir Putin after leading an educational seminar in the other St. Petersburg. Earlier in his career, he served as an educational adviser to Presidents Carter and Ford. A graduate of Stetson University's College of Law, he has been president of SPC since 1978. He was selected as the nation's most outstanding community college president in 1998 by the National Association of Community College Trustees.
Miami, 64, President, Florida International University
"Mitch" Maidique has taken his institution to a higher level of prominence. The Harvard MBA, MIT Ph.D. and high-tech entrepreneur was named to run FIU in 1986. Under Maidique, enrollment has more than doubled to 34,000. FIU also established a law school -- the first public law school in south Florida -- and achieved a prestigious ranking among U.S. News & World Report's list of the 100 best public universities.
Miami, 60, President, Miami-Dade College
Padron is credited with transforming the multicampus institution he took over in 1995. His tenure has included a re-engineering of the school's financial and administrative systems, a major factor in M-DC's achievement of sharply raising its fund balances during the last few years -- even as state-provided resources declined. Despite a 23% enrollment rise to 163,000 under Padron, M-DC has managed to increase graduation and retention rates and the number who move on to four-year schools.
Tallahassee, 53, Professor, Florida State University
Fresh out of graduate school in 1978, deHaven-Smith won the top award for the best paper at the Southern Political Science Association's annual convention. That was the start of a nationally recognized career in political science -- and status as an expert on Florida. Appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles to the Local Government Commission II in 1996, he was launched into the national spotlight by the 2000 presidential election. DeHaven-Smith, who has written eight books on Florida politics and is working on his ninth, has lowered his profile somewhat in recent years but is still a respected source for perceptive analysis on everything from demographic trends to voting behavior in the state.
Robert A. Holton
Tallahassee, 60, Professor, Florida State University
In 1994, Holton and a group of organic chemists created the first synthesized version of paclitaxel, a compound found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree that has cancer-fighting properties. Taxol is marketed and manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb for the treatment of ovarian, breast and other cancers and has helped more than a half-million people. Taxol has generated more than $300 million in royalties for FSU and Holton. He continues to work on creating cancer-fighting drugs and has created two spinoff companies -- The Molecular Design and Synthesis Research Foundation and Taxolog Inc. -- to move his research from the lab into pharmacies around the world.
Sarasota, 52, Director/Senior Scientist
Center for Shark Research at Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory
Hueter is one of the world's leading experts on sharks, skates and rays, with more than 25 years' experience and 70 published articles on the subject. A media favorite after shark attacks, Hueter has been interviewed by almost every national network and has been featured in National Geographic. Hueter heads up the Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, which was created by Congress in 1991. He is one of just six academics in the nation to be appointed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel, which recommends management strategies for Atlantic billfish, tunas, swordfish and sharks.
Melbourne, 40, Professor, Electrical Engineering
Florida Institute of Technology
Murshid is reinventing the way information moves through fiber-optic cables. His Spatial Domain Multiplexing has made it possible to quadruple the amount of information sent through each cable. In practical terms, his discovery allows telecom companies needing to boost capacity to forgo laying more cable, an expensive process.
Eric Van Stryland
Orlando, 57, Dean, College of Optics & Photonics, UCF
Van Stryland is one of the world's top experts on optics and photonics, an area of science that deals with the generation, detection and use of light. He won a $10-million grant from the state to create the Florida Photonics Center of Excellence at UCF. Van Stryland has received funding through the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense consistently over the past 25 years to continue his research in nanophotonics, bio-photonics, advanced imaging and 3-D displays, and ultrahigh bandwidth communications.