Eyes on the prize: New leaders at Florida universities
Across Florida, five public universities and a handful of state colleges — along with a number of private schools — installed new presidents over the past year or two.
More Than Job Training
Rollins College’s new president believes in the value of a broad-based education that will last a lifetime.
By Jason Garcia
As much of the academic world stampedes into STEM courses and applied degrees, Rollins College and its new president are doubling down on the liberal arts.
“The scope and complexity of the global economy means there has never been a time when a liberal education was more relevant or practical,” says Grant Cornwell, who becomes president of Rollins College on July 1. “The challenge is to continue to convey the value of a Rollins education in a market that has recently tended to reduce the goal of college to job-training, as opposed to the deeper, lifelong, career-enriching practicality of liberal education.”
Cornwell is the 15th president in the history of Rollins, a school of just over 3,000 students that was founded 130 years ago by New England Congregationalists on a bucolic bit of lakefront land in Winter Park. He arrived at the university from the College of Wooster in Ohio, another small liberal arts university, where he’d been president since 2007.
Cornwell, who has undergraduate degrees in both philosophy and biology and master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy, spent more than two decades at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., first as a member of the school’s philosophy department and later as dean of academic affairs and vice president of the university. He and his family — wife Peg and sons Tosh and Kelsey — go sailing every summer; Rollins’ announcement of the hiring included a photo of Cromwell and his sons eating fresh mussels aboard a sailboat in Maine.
Cornwell’s background contrasts markedly with that of his predecessor, Lewis Duncan, a physicist and former engineering school dean who stepped down last year after a 10-year tenure in which he repeatedly clashed with the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences, Rollins’ largest group of professors.
Carol Lauer, president of the Rollins Arts & Sciences faculty, served on the search committee that chose Cromwell and is excited about his arrival.
“Around the country liberal arts are under attack,” says Lauer, a professor of anthropology. “And Grant makes a very compelling case for why the best education is really a broad education in the liberal arts, preparing people for a multitude of careers or jobs they may hold in their lifetimes and to live a good and meaningful life.”
George Hagerty, who became president at Beacon College in 2013, says his priorities include managing enrollment growth, enhancing the school through renovations and new construction, and increasing charitable support for student scholarships. Located in Leesburg, Beacon offers undergraduate degrees to students with learning disabilities and ADHD. Hagerty says his main challenge is balancing cost pressures with the ability of families to pay for a college education. Hagerty was president of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire from 1995-2009. He later was provost at the Hellenic American University in Athens, Greece.
Saint Leo University
William Lennox, a retired Army three-star general and former superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy, has been named the ninth president at Saint Leo University in Pasco County. He succeeds Arthur Kirk, who is retiring after 18 years at the school. Lennox graduated from West Point with a bachelor’s in international affairs and earned a master’s and Ph.D. in literature from Princeton University, writing his dissertation on American war poetry. From 2001-06, he led the U.S. Military Academy, where he managed a $250-million budget and completed a $150-million fundraising campaign with more than $220 million. In 2006, Lennox joined the Washington, D.C.- based aerospace company Goodrich as senior vice president and left in 2012. He has been a member of Saint Leo’s board of trustees since 2008.