What are the biggest changes you've witnessed at UNF?
What have you learned from students over your years at UNF?
The most important thing I have learned from students is that sometimes they know more about a given subject than me. Therefore never underestimate the student’s capacity and knowledge.
What were you doing just prior to coming to UNF?
I was on the faculty of University of Tehran, [in] Iran.
How have students changed over the last 35 years?
They are smarter and more focused.
How has college education changed over the last 35 years?
College education is more important now than ever before. Studies prove that without a college education a citizen will remain at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, and it would be hard for him/her to enjoy the many benefits that the society offers.
What was your favorite year at UNF and why?
I wish you could have asked “favorite years”, but my most favorite year was 2006 when years of high quality research and teaching together with the contributions of non-profit institutions paid off and I was selected “Prime F. Osborn III Distinguished Professor” at the Coggin College of Business. This event was preceded by a 2005 event at which Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Jones Jr. (former chief executive officer of Barnett Banks of Jacksonville) created a generous endowment in the name of Simin and Reza Vaghefi at the Coggin College to provide scholarships for International Business students to go abroad and learn new things.
How would you describe the physical growth on campus over the last 35 years?
Transfer students have told me, on numerous occasions, that they transferred to UNF because of academic standards and because it is a beautiful campus. Two qualities that are critical to UNF. I hope we can keep it that way.
How will you keep UNF in your life and heart after you retire?
I have spent most of my professional life at UNF and have accomplished a lot so there is a lot to remember.
What special relationships have you formed with students as a result of your tenure here?
Some students are more appreciative than others. Over the years my wife, who retired couple of years ago, and I have entertained guest students from overseas at our house. They have been very special, and we have maintained good relationships with many of them. My wife has had many students who continue their contact with her, admiring her ability to teach them and help them in their research.
What are the biggest challenges on campus today compared to the biggest challenges on opening day, Oct. 2, 1972?
The biggest challenge is to maintain the beauty of the campus while the University is expanding in response to the increasing needs of the region.
How has UNF impacted Jacksonville over the years, and how has Jacksonville impacted UNF?
The University has become a major institution and an integral part of the greater community adding to the attractiveness of Jacksonville as a major metropolitan city in the Southeast USA. The diversity of the city and businesses that have established their headquarters here and demand high quality professional education for their families and staff has definitely impacted the University in its mission and scope/scale of educational offerings.
How did you find out about the opening at UNF?
My major professor, Dr. Harold Wein, at Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State suggested that I should try this experience.
What made you decide to come to UNF?
Sunshine and the newness of the institution. The fact that I could create things like the International Business Program that I helped create at a time when nobody thought it was something that we should be concerned about.
What do you remember about the first day of classes?
The most important thing that I remember is that there were a few confused administrators and students, and it was hard to keep students focused on quality education. They just wanted to have a degree.
What kept you at UNF for so many years?
In 1986 Vice President John Bardo recruited my wife, Dr. Simin Vaghefi, a first-rate teacher/scholar, to create the Nutrition Program at the College of Health. She enjoyed the challenge and worked at it indefatigably and with great enthusiasm. Although we had offers from many universities, none had jobs for both of us and therefore we decided to do the best that we could for UNF and I believe we succeeded in achieving this noble objective. She created the nationally accredited Nutrition Program at the College of Health [now the Brooks College of Health], and I helped create the International Business Program at the Coggin College. Both programs have been praised for their coverage and relevance.
Is there one event that’s most memorable for you during your time at UNF?
Yes, there is one and that is when I asked a student where he came from? Given the fact that early on most students came from Duval County, when the student said he came from North, I was ecstatic that finally we have students coming from out of state and especially from the North. And when I insisted to know where in the North, and he said he came from Fernandina Beach, all that excitement melted away and I decided that we needed to broaden the students’ horizon. That moment was the beginning of developing the International Business Program. Dean Edward Moses realized the issue and he helped us start it.
What is the best thing (or things) about working at UNF?
The best things about working at UNF are the size and intelligent incoming students, the face-to-face interaction that I enjoy and students have told me about many times in their evaluations and written comments. This unique feature should not be compromised. President Delaney’s strategy is to differentiate UNF from other state universities and that is a remarkable objective.
What people do you remember the most during your years, and why are they so memorable?
The person that I have always admired and will continue to do so is Dean James Parrish, the founding dean of the Coggin College of Business. I believe he was the most remarkable and respected dean we have ever had in this college. He was humble, with integrity and honesty, and the most egalitarian dean the College has ever had. He never excluded anyone for any reason. He was a king among equals, to quote the ancient Greek King Agamemnon in the “Iliad” by Homer. The unfortunate thing is that the University failed to recognize the tremendous contributions that Dr. Parrish made (over 15 years) to the growth, viability, depth, and strength of the University. I may suggest that it is not yet too late to do something about this.
Any humorous times you recall, and why were they so funny?
The funniest event that I remember is when the College of Business organized a canoeing event in front of the Boathouse, and Frank McLaughlin got stuck in the middle of the water and had a hard time getting out of it.
What have you done during your time at UNF that you are proudest of?
In addition to numerous research and teaching awards, I have published in the most important international quality journals that have brought a lot of recognition for the University. When your conference presentation is picked up from the Internet by the Financial Times of London, and they call you and request you to write an article on the subject of your conference presentation to appear in the Financial Times, there is a lot to be proud of. That article, co-authored by Dr. Louis Woods, was printed and has been reprinted in five books during the last five years.
What are the biggest changes in your personal life while you have been working at UNF?
My personal life could not have been so gratifying without the dedication and central role that my sweet wife Dr. Simin Vaghefi plays in our family life. She and I raised two wonderful children, now a young woman and man, Shireen and Jubeen.
They both graduated from Coggin College in accounting and finance, respectively. Thanks to my wife, who has been the pillar of love and care in my family, we have raised a healthy family and both of our children are married and very successful in their personal and professional life. They give us every reason to be proud of them. I consider their accomplishment in society the most significant aspect of our personal life. They have given us a few handsome and intelligent grandchildren. They all motivate us to enjoy them and continue to remain part of their personal life.
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