October 3, 2023

Women Leaders

Bullish: Profile of USF President Judy Genshaft

USF President Judy Genshaft will retire next year after moving the school to ‘pre-eminent' status.

Amy Martinez | 10/26/2018


Genshaft considers the large gains in student graduation rates among her greatest achievements.

When her tenure began 18 years ago, only one in five freshmen who entered USF that fall graduated within four years. Derisively, USF was said to stand for U Stay Forever. Over the past decade, the school has raised admissions standards, hired professional academic advisers and overhauled the financial aid system to help more part-time students study full time. The results: USF’s four-year graduation rate has reached 60%.

Genshaft’s push to improve student outcomes coincided with a change in state expectations for the universities. Historically, as Florida’s population expanded, the state Legislature rewarded public universities financially for simply enrolling more students. Five years ago, it adopted performance standards, measuring student graduation rates, research dollars and national rankings, among other metrics. Schools that achieved “pre-eminent status” would receive additional funding.

Initially, the University of Florida and Florida State University were the only schools to qualify for pre-eminent status. In June, USF became the third, entitling it to $6.15 million in new and recurring funding.

A little more than a month later, the school got more good news when the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society, accepted its long-standing membership request. Only three other public universities in Florida — Florida International University, FSU and UF — have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.

Meanwhile, construction is under way on a $156-million building for USF’s medical school in downtown Tampa — the centerpiece of a planned $3-billion mixed-use development by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik [“A Major Stake in Downtown,” page 54]. Vinik gave USF the land, which puts the medical school closer to its primary teaching hospital, Tampa General. Genshaft believes the downtown location will help make USF a pillar of Tampa’s cultural and economic life — another of her goals.

Genshaft also is known for pitching in on efforts to attract more businesses to Tampa Bay. Homans recalls that when Bristol-Myers Squibb was considering expanding to Tampa in 2014, Genshaft met with executives in a USF conference room. The company has since opened a large local office.

“Any major pitch where I am, she’s there, too,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “The talent pipeline coming out of USF is so important to these companies. If it’s not their top priority, it’s a close second.”

In spring 2018, Genshaft began talking privately with her family about retiring. In September, on the same day that USF learned it had moved up 10 spots, to 58th, in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of the best public universities, Genshaft announced that she would retire in July 2019. “I’ve always believed in leaving when you’re on a high,” she says.

Shortly beforehand, she gave a heads-up to Tampa philanthropist Frank Morsani, the namesake of USF’s Morsani College of Medicine. “She just felt it was time,” he says. “When you’ve been punching the clock for 18 years, you’re ready to look at the sunset a little differently.”

Genshaft’s tenure has lasted nearly three times as long as that of the average college president. “She’s done a great job,” says Florida Board of Governors Chairman Ned Lautenbach, a Naples investor and former IBM executive. “She gets out and makes things happen. She puts the right people on her team, puts the right programs in place and drives the right results. It’s all about results.”

Genshaft says she and her husband will remain in Tampa. She has no plans other than more travel. She’s already visited dozens of countries.

She says she won’t play an active role in selecting her successor, and she declines to weigh in on whether USF’s next president should be an academic or politician. Her only hope, she says, is that her successor shares her passion and optimism for USF.

“I just love the university,” she says. “All I care about is that the university keeps moving forward.”

USF President -- Judy Genshaft, 70

  • Years in the job: 18
  • Hometown: Canton, Ohio
  • Pay: $1.1 million in total compensation in 2016-17
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in social work and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and master’s and doctorate in school counseling and counseling psychology, respectively, from Kent State University
  • Family: She and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, a marketing consultant, have two adopted sons, Joel, 24, a graduate student in applied behavior analysis at USF, and Brian, 21, a student at Hillsborough Community College.
  • Hobbies: An avid cyclist, Genshaft also enjoys traveling, going to the theater and visiting art museums.


  • Fueled by $568 million in annual research activity, USF earned 116 patents last year — the most of any public university in Florida. USF spends more than $1.5 million a day on research, more than three times as much as when Genshaft started her tenure.
  • USF’s endowment has nearly doubled from $254 million in 2000-01 to $480 million today. Earlier this year, USF completed its $1-billion “Unstoppable” fundraising campaign. Only two other public universities founded since 1956 have completed $1-billion campaigns.
  • USF’s four-year graduation rate is now 60%, up from 20% in the early 2000s. Freshmen entering USF have average SAT scores of 1283 and weighted GPAs of 4.09.
  • Genshaft also has overseen nearly $2 billion in construction projects over the past 18 years, including a new residential “village” with five dorms, a recreation facility and dining hall at the main campus in Tampa. About 6,300 students now live on the Tampa campus, up from 3,037 in 2000. A new building for USF’s medical school and heart institute is scheduled to open next year.


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