September 19, 2021
Succession: The search is on for UCF's next president

John Hitt took over as president of UCF in 1992.

Central Florida Roundup

Succession: The search is on for UCF's next president

Jason Garcia | 12/28/2017

After a quarter-century on the job, University of Central Florida President John Hitt revealed in October that he will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Presiding over the search for Hitt’s successor is Marcos Marchena, an Orlando attorney who chairs UCF’s board of trustees.

One question the school will confront is whether to pick a president from academia, as the University of Florida did, or someone from politics, a la Florida State’s John Thrasher. Marchena says academic experience will be crucial. (One politician who had been interested in the job, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, decided not to apply.)

“We need someone, I believe, that has, in addition to many other qualities, experience in academia,” Marchena says.

Hitt has said that his decision to retire was motivated, in part, by the risk that UCF might lose Provost Dale Whittaker, who has become Hitt’s top deputy since coming to UCF from Purdue University in 2014. Whittaker was a finalist for the presidency at Iowa State University earlier this year before withdrawing his name from consideration.

The school’s next president will not need experience as a university president, Marchena says. “I think you’re going to see a decent number of candidates that either have presidential experience or provost-level experience.” He also says UCF intends to make its decision without guidance from Hitt. “He’s not supposed to throw his weight behind his candidate. John clearly understands that,”

Marchena says. “Our expectation is that we will not seek John’s counsel on this one issue.” Marchena says UCF hopes to have between three and five finalists by early February — and a selection by mid- to late-March. “Whoever comes in is going to need to understand that she or he is standing on the shoulders of a giant,” Marchena says.

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