Creating A University: University of North Florida Faculty and Staff Remember 35 Years
by James B. Crooks, Professor Emeritus of History
Reflecting upon the past thirty-five to forty years at the University of North Florida, one is struck by several themes which have emerged over time. One theme reflects an initial opposition to the new university which gradually changed over time. In the beginning, the Jacksonville community did not welcome UNF. At the time, the city was the largest in the nation without a state university. There were no alumni to support it and few wealthy benefactors. Trustees at Jacksonville University opposed its establishment. In the early 1980s, the legislative delegation voted to make UNF a branch of the University of Florida. Officials at Florida Junior College opposed expanding UNF to a four-year institution. Yet the Board Regents and a few community leaders recognized the need. And there were housewives, military veterans, teachers, business men and women, and others who wanted to enroll and pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The negative attitudes changed over time. Gradually the community came to support the university. Adding first and second year students, expanding the curriculum, and graduates working in the community helped bring about that change. So too did the relationships faculty and administrators developed with the local school systems, health care professionals, businesses, governments and the non-profit community. By the beginning of the 21st century, UNF had become a key player in Jacksonville’s growth and development.
A second theme was that UNF developed as a university despite the frugality, some say the stinginess, of the state’s funding over the years. Conditions began to change in the 1990s as private funding began to enhance public dollars, which also increased during this decade of prosperity. Economies of scale also played a part. As enrollments grew, more tuition dollars and state funds supported faculty growth, student services and campus development.
A third theme was the transition from a commuter school to a more traditional residential campus. In the first decade, UNF was a commuter institution with little campus life. Students arrived as if to a shopping mall, purchased their courses and departed. The construction of student housing in the 1980s began to build a campus climate, but the numbers were small. More rapid expansion of enrollments and housing in the 1990s and beyond has produced a more familiar university community.
A fourth theme was the character of the UNF faculty. Almost from the beginning, the enthusiasm of a young, well-prepared faculty recruited from graduate schools across the nation made a difference. They were accessible to students. They encouraged student intellectual growth and development with interdisciplinary programs, hands-on research, service learning, and international travel. It is not too much to say that faculty sought to transform the lives of many first generation, place bound students with limited life experiences. Students became graduates equipped to live in our complex global civilization.
It is to these Founding Faculty that I dedicate this history.
On October 2, 1972, at 7:30 AM, Assistant Professor of Language and Literature Bill Slaughter met his first students in a small classroom to begin a course called, “What is Existentialism?” It was an interdisciplinary combination of literature, philosophy and humanistic psychology, and part of the Leonardo da Vinci Venture Studies program at this new university. He remembered:
My first impression of my students, there were 15 students in this class. Among us: a truck-driver from Sears, the manager of a Seven-Eleven store, two housewives (self described), a night nurse at Baptist Hospital, a would-be radical Episcopal priest (self described), two Vietnam vets, a conscientious objector ( complete with dishonorable discharge) and Conrad Weihnacht, the man who built the Boathouse.
These students were not your average, run-of-the mill undergraduates, but part of the 2000-plus men and women, taught by 117 faculty, who were enrolled at the University of North Florida that first fall term. UNF began as an upper level, and beginning graduate, commuter-university. The average age of the faculty was 29 and the students 31.
Faculty interviewed remembered them as mature, responsible and hard-working. Their efforts compensated for sometimes-less-than-optimum preparation, in part because so many were entering UNF after long absences from the classroom. Thirty-five years later, many of the founding UNF faculty missed those early students. They felt that the best of the current first-year students continued to be very bright, but that too many entered UNF ill prepared, unmotivated and uncommitted for the challenges of a university education.
The campus on opening day reflected the efforts of many Floridians over the preceding decade to establish a state university in Jacksonville–the last city its size to do so in the United States. In From Scratch Pads to Dreams (1981), historian Dan Schafer describes well those early efforts: public apathy toward bringing public higher education to the city, the opposition of Jacksonville University officials to prospective competition, and supporters who preferred a branch of the University of Florida to an autonomous university. State Senator John E. Mathews, Jr., led the effort to secure legislative authorization for the university in 1965. Legislative funding and feasibility planning by the Board of Regents took another three years. Jacksonville City Council members debated site selection: should it be part of downtown urban renewal or a more rural location just beyond the expanding suburbs? Should an upper-level, professionally oriented commuter school be at the heart of a sprawling consolidated city, or out in the boondocks inaccessible to students without cars?
Finances, space and time dictated a fringe site. Clearing land and building at a smaller downtown location would have cost more, taken longer and further postponed the opening of the university.
Still, designing and building access roads and the original campus also delayed UNF’s opening until October, 1972. Preparing for opening day required extraordinary efforts. Librarian Andrew Farkas remembered his small staff cataloging, carrying and manually shelving 100,000 volumes into the new library, which lacked air conditioning, working twelve-hour shifts in 100 degree heat. In operation, the library staff quickly gained a reputation for its excellent service for both students and faculty. Farkas, a Hungarian refugee from the 1956 uprising, stood out in the university community. His colleague, Kathy Cohen, described him as "energetic, opinionated, but very practical," a person of great and diversified learning.
Opening day found a library (now Founders Hall), an administrative building (now Daniel Hall) and two classroom buildings standing nakedly in an open space surrounded by a woodland of palmettos, scrub oaks and pine trees. Walkways were unpaved. Heavy rains had made much of the campus muddy. Landscaping was nonexistent. Food service came from vending machines. Campus life included wild pigs, deer, turkeys, armadillos, snakes, bears, ospreys and the occasional alligator. Landscape architect Hilton Meadows had an imaginative village plan for linking buildings, landscaping, and paved, covered walkways that would encourage students and faculty to leave their cars parked on the perimeter. But that plan was still to come.
UNF’s people were more impressive than its facilities. President Tom Carpenter, tall, slim, handsome, gracious and always perfectly groomed, looked like he was cast in the role of university president. An experienced administrator, he served as the public face. He oversaw the building program and made the final local decisions on university issues.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Roy Lassiter offered a stark contrast. Of ruddy complexion, cigar chewing, prone to perch his cowboy boots on his desk top, he would amiably offer to enroll the visitor in the new UNF gun club. Behind his cracker veneer, however, was one of the sharpest minds UNF has ever seen. He had been professor of economics and dean of faculties at the University of Florida when Carpenter lured him to UNF “to build a university that gave a first class undergraduate education.”(Schafer, 59)
Lassiter believed that the University of Florida shortchanged its undergraduates with huge lecture classes. He wanted UNF to be classroom centered. Lassiter designed the academic program, established colleges, wrote by-laws, and introduced a governing system for all employees, including maintenance personnel. When the General Assembly of all university employees proved cumbersome, Lassiter gracefully retreated, encouraging Professor Tom Mongar and others to draft a Faculty Association constitution, which was still in use at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Lassiter also wanted to make sure UNF had a racially integrated faculty and student body. One of his top aides, Assistant Vice President Bob Mitchell, was an African American. So was the associate dean of the College of Education and chair of the Department of Vocational and Technical Education. He encouraged department chairs to hire minorities in all disciplines. He succeeded in music, sociology, art, education and business. Sociology professor Eddie Collins found “the white students were very open and welcome….I think the university probably impacted the city in terms of racial climate more than anything that had happened in a hundred years.”
Other African American faculty agreed about the early commitment to diversity. They acknowledged incidents of racial discrimination among students and faculty over the years, but faced little of it themselves.
Female faculty remembered their reception somewhat differently. Historian Dale Clifford found herself:
One of five women in the College of Arts and Sciences. I made it all the way through an undergraduate education and a graduate education without ever having a woman professor, not one. And I think most of us who got our degrees back then could say pretty close to the same thing. So the mere fact that there were five girls for Roy Lassiter to insult, or five women for Will [Ash] to suggest to wear dresses, tells you that they were doing the right thing.
Psychologists Linda Foley and Barbara Bunch got the similar “skirt-please” treatment from their chair, Larry Green. “So Barbara and I of course stopped ever wearing skirts after that,” Foley said. “We wore only slacks.”
Foley remembered salary discrepancies in her department between male and female faculty. There also was a later college dean notorious for his sexist behavior towards women. His actions led to the development of a university policy prohibiting gender discrimination.
A decade later, Kathe Kasten did not encounter discrimination in the College of Education, where the majority of the faculty were women. Indeed, Kasten herself would head the college in the 1990s. There also were women deans in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, and Health, as well as one female university president.
The three founding deans were Jim Parrish in the College of Business Administration, Ellis White in the College of Education and Willard Ash in the College of Arts and Sciences. Tall and slim, Ash had well coiffed silver hair, a sly smile, quiet manner and a creative mind. He introduced the Leonard da Vinci Venture Studies program. Though UNF was an upper level university, Ash believed that students, many of whom had been away from academe for years, needed to supplement their majors with general education courses in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences. But an upper level institution could not offer introductory courses. So Ash encouraged faculty to create upper-level introductory courses that would explore interdisciplinary topics and stretch curious minds. “Venture Studies” added a unique dimension to UNF during the early years.
Also unique was the interdisciplinary Natural Sciences program designed by Ed Healy, and the mathematical sciences major where all students were required to take courses in math, statistics and computer science.
Meanwhile, Ellis White, a dapper veteran from NYU, began building the College of Education by hiring Andrew Robinson as his associate dean. Robinson, the outstanding African American teacher/administrator in the Duval County Public Schools, with an education doctorate from Columbia University, succeeded White as dean in 1976. He was an extraordinary educator, one who had succeeded in the Jim Crow system and moved effortlessly into the state university system. He shared with his faculty a strong commitment to Duval County’s inner city school children. He looked out for his faculty. Tom Healy remembered, “If you needed something, call Andy. He would do whatever he could, give you whatever he had, to help you get through whatever crisis you were in.”
Together White and Robinson selected a diverse faculty from across the country. Many had prior K-12 classroom experiences as well as their doctorates. Robinson often visited candidates in their homes to meet families and observe their lifestyles. White’s mantra underlying the searches, faculty remembered, was, “I want to hire only ‘people of good will.’”
In the College of Business Administration, Dean Jim Parrish was the Alabaman par excellence. Hardly a class, meeting or conversation started without a Bear Bryant football story. Yet Parrish also was a shrewd administrator, having taken two other business colleges through the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation process. UNF’s College of Business became the third, a record number in record time. He too recruited chairs and faculty nationally.
The emphasis during the early years was on quality teaching. As Dean Ash said, “Our students may not enter UNF as well prepared as their counterparts at other universities, but when they graduate we want them to be able to compete for jobs with graduates of Florida, Florida State or anywhere.”
If the faculty was dedicated to teaching, it was also strikingly young, many fresh out of graduate school. The common denominator was enthusiasm, teaching courses, developing curriculum, and working together on committees.
There also were colorful characters. Ken Jennings, a professor of management and marketing in the College of Business, was an excellent teacher and prolific scholar. Students loved him. He was extremely effective in the classroom. Earle Traynham remembered him “helping people achieve things maybe beyond what they thought they could achieve. He had the best record of publishing with students, or getting students to publish on their own.” Colleagues enjoyed his diversity of interests in jazz, baseball, especially the Chicago Cubs, and his “terrific sense of humor.” Steve Shapiro described him simply as “a really great guy.”
Another colorful character was Bill Brown, classical tenor and professor of music, who in years to come would perform with symphonies around the world. Andrew Farkas remembered him as “a one-man show when he walked down the street. He had exuberance, ebullience, an actor’s ability, a socialite’s sociability; he was playing in life a character called Bill Brown.” Linda Foley remembered Brown as “an extremely warm, generous, fun-loving person.” Louise Freshman Brown appreciated Bill Brown modeling for her drawing classes. “He played his slave songs….He didn’t sing, but he played his music. And just the clothes, the way he dressed….He had a presence.” Afesa Adams described him as “immensely talented. He was an effusive, warm personality....He knew who he was and he reveled in that. And he truly was a black man.”
Despite high faculty morale and responsive students, UNF faced two great problems. Number one was inadequate funding almost from the start, which continued over the years. Vice President Lassiter in a 1972 letter to President Carpenter complained that UNF was being “expected to do more with less resources than any other beginning institution in the history of the State University System.” While UNF had start up funds, they were insufficient. The student body was too small to provide adequate funding based on the state’s full time equivalent (FTE) formulas. With only upper-level and beginning graduate students through the first decade, UNF rarely achieved enrollment goals, which further limited financial support. The university also lacked economies of scale. The campus police necessarily had to be a certain size regardless of enrollments, and in the early years they and other support staff took a disproportionate amount of university dollars. Further, the state legislature was notorious for underfunding higher education, judged by national standards. During the first Arab oil embargo of 1973-75, state revenues declined and so did university allocations. The frustration was state-wide and one important consequence was the unionization of State University System faculty.
At UNF, Steve deLue, Allen Tilley and other younger faculty organized their colleagues over the opposition of Carpenter and Lassiter. Tilley estimated that 90 percent of the faculty on campus voted for it, though the statewide margin was substantially less. The United Faculty of Florida, in negotiating a contract with the Board of Regents, formalized for the first time relations between faculty and administrations. Arbitrary teaching and other assignments were successfully grieved. Sabbaticals, heretofore unknown in the State University System, were introduced. Collective bargaining, however, did not substantially raise salaries due to the limited appropriations of the Florida legislature. Tilley hoped the UNF chapter would build a greater sense of community on campus, but that did not happen. Over the years, union-management relations have ranged from strained to amicable. The union’s confrontational role undercut faculty collegiality at times, but as the university grew, the union remained protective of the rights of UNF’s faculty.
Inadequate funding delayed UNF becoming a complete university. There were no programs in physics, foreign languages or drama. Ancient history, anthropology and many other subjects simply were not taught. Philosophy had one professor and no major program. Faculty hires were not matched by additional dollars to support research or travel to professional meetings. Despite frustrations, faculty remembered the satisfaction of their work with students. They also remembered Florida and Florida State students who felt more challenged taking classes at UNF during summer term. The students particularly appreciated their access to UNF faculty.
Despite limited resources, in the College of Business, Lowell Salter organized the Small Business Development Center, one of eight in the nation. In the early years, when small business owners still confused UNF with Florida Junior College or Jacksonville University, the SBDC expanded by word of mouth. Grateful business owners passed the word to associates. Local banks with small business loans began recommending clients. Success bred success. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, UNF’s Small Business Development Center was counseling hundreds of small businesses each year, with satellite centers in Gainesville and Ocala, serving eighteen Florida counties.
Another innovator in the early 1970s was Betty Flinchum in the College of Education. She came to UNF to teach health and physical education, but had a passion for international travel. In the summer of 1974 Flinchum took her first group of graduate students to study the British Infant Schools with their open classrooms and peer instruction. Other colleagues in her college followed her lead.
In the early 1980s, Flinchum and economist Lou Woods met with the prime minister of the new Commonwealth of Belize (1981) to offer graduate study in the U.S for their teachers and administrators. Belizean undergraduates then followed, enrolling in business, computer science, and arts and science courses, adding diversity to UNF’s student population. In 1985, Flinchum became UNF’s coordinator for international education . She recruited students from other Caribbean countries as well as from Europe, Latin America, later China and West Africa. She felt strongly that bringing international students to campus served not only them, but also enriched the lives of local students learning about other cultures.
Meanwhile historian Tom Leonard in 1993 introduced an undergraduate major in international studies. Other history faculty provided study abroad programs during spring breaks and summer terms for students to travel to Italy, Greece, France, Ireland and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. While Flinchum encouraged student study abroad, Provost David Kline found funds to help make it happen. Marnie Jones, director of the honors program, and Dean Earle Traynham in the College of Business, offered international studies as integral parts of their respective programs. The College of Health sent nursing students to Paris to learn the latest advances in emergency medical services. By the time of Flinchum’s retirement in 2003, one form or another of international education had become a major part of the UNF curriculum.
Another innovation beginning in the 1970s was the College of Education’s attempts to reach at-risk students in the public schools. Generally, colleges of education prepared young people to teach in suburban settings, much like the ones from which most students came. Under the leadership of Dean Andrew Robinson and his successors, UNF took a different approach.
Robinson began with a federally funded Teacher Corps project for the children of migrant workers, and later their parents, in Hastings, a rural settlement south of Jacksonville. His successor, Carl Ashbaugh, developed a program in Jacksonville’s inner city elementary schools where professors worked directly with teachers and their students. The effort attracted national attention. An AT&T Foundation grant supported UNF establishing an urban professional development school, one of the first in the country to focus on public education in lower income neighborhoods. Ashbaugh’s successor, Donna Evans, expanded the concept, with a federal grant and later state funding, secured with the help of Senator Betty Holzendorf. All College of Education students engaged in urban internships prior to the traditional practice teaching experience. While Evans ruffled faculty feathers in the process, Assistant Dean Cheryl Fountain, a prime mover in this effort, found that most students, after initial hesitation, profited from the urban experience. The University of North Florida/Duval County Schools Urban Professional Development Partnership became an integral part of the college's curriculum continuing to attract national recognition into the 21st century.
Another barrier that UNF education faculty encountered was that inner city children were unprepared for entering kindergarten. Professor Janice Wood and others began focusing on school readiness for five-year olds. The Florida Institute of Education, on campus under the leadership of Cheryl Fountain, assisted with the planning of curricula and statewide performance standards for pre-school programs. This effort led to the development of Early Learning Coalitions across the state beginning in 1999, and the construction of a rating system to identify quality programs. The challenge of transforming education for at-risk youngsters from pre-K through high school remained, but FIE, the College of Education and UNF continued to look for answers.
Meanwhile in the COAS, the lone philosophy professor, Bob Loftin, began to make his mark. Colleagues remembered him as an extraordinary character. He wore unconventional clothes, even for the 1970s: colorful T-shirts, baggy walking shorts, hiking boots or red, white and blue tennis shoes. He spoke with a deep Georgia drawl, no cosmopolitan Atlantan he. He loved to teach, in the classroom or on the deck of the UNF Boathouse overlooking the lake. His tendency for the dramatic included tossing his watch into the Boathouse Lake to accentuate a point.
Loftin also had a passion for the environment. He taught courses in field ornithology. He took students onto the campus nature trails (which he had helped to build) for first hand observation. With Ray Bowman and others, Loftin founded Sawmill Slough Conservation Club. It began to build a much needed sense of community at this commuter university, and took advantage of the natural beauty of UNF’s one thousand acre campus which was predominantly wilderness. The club quickly attracted students, their families, and other faculty. They took weekend canoeing trips to area rivers, Okefenokee Swamp and the Everglades. They became involved with environmental causes, opposing the Cross Florida Barge Canal, phosphate mining in Osceola Forest, construction of the Dames Point Bridge, the Loop Road and a campus golf course. They endorsed bicycle paths in the community, provided nature trail guides and welcomed Earth Week festivities onto the Campus. As a result of their efforts, the U. S. Department of Interior in 1978 designated the campus trails a National Recreational Trail.
If UNF was not yet a complete university at the end of the 1970s, its students, faculty and staff had established a foothold in the Jacksonville community. The university prepared teachers for First Coast classrooms, employees and managers for area businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies, and students for graduate and professional schools. On the one hand the major thrust appeared to be training participants for the area workforce. Yet in the College of Arts and Sciences, something different was taking place.
Faculty offered new ideas and different perspectives in Venture courses, small seminars, and interdisciplinary major programs. Students were receptive. New and progressive ideas began to filter into the conservative, provincial local culture.
A test of the new university’s commitment to academic freedom came in 1973. Richard Bizot taught a literature class including Jerzy Kosinski’s novel, Steps, which had won a National Book Award. A student described the book as “a bunch of pornographic trash,” and refused to read it. Bizot replied that it was required in the syllabus. The student and her mother called President Carpenter. He called Dean Ash. The Dean met with Bizot, not to challenge his authority, but rather curious to know what had happened. Bizot, who had met Kosinski the year before, knew that Kosinski was national president of P.E.N., an organization concerned with academic freedom. With administration support, he arranged an amplified telephone interview with the author. Students prepared questions and Kosinski discussed issues in his book. As Bizot remembered, “There were some shocking things in the book…but what happened was he ended up…charming the socks off the student who had complained. Not only had he made himself clear, she understood. So we resolved it in a wonderful way.”
In socially conservative Jacksonville and in a state university system known for its political interference and micromanagement from Tallahassee, this support for academic freedom signaled a positive beginning for the new university.
The first phase of the university’s history ended with the departure of the Founding Fathers. Vice President Lassiter left for the Tennessee State University System in 1977. President Carpenter became president of Memphis State University in 1980. The deans, White, Ash and Parrish, retired in 1976, 1978 and 1984, respectively. In hindsight, the departure of Lassiter and his replacement by the 34-year old John Minahan, a philosopher and academic administrator from SUNY-Buffalo in 1978, marked the beginning of major changes for UNF, particularly in the College of Arts and Sciences. Initial impressions of Minahan were very positive. The new vice president came from a more traditional higher education background, and was strongly committed to the liberal arts. What he saw in UNF’s College of Arts and Sciences, however, did not please him. Instead of teaching advanced courses in their disciplines, a portion of the faculty were advising students half time. Others were teaching Venture courses which Minahan considered insufficiently rigorous. By replacing faculty advisers with career counselors and shifting instruction from Venture to major courses, departments could strengthen their major curricula.
The faculty reaction was mixed, though initially supportive. The College of Education already had begun to shift to career counselors to meet changing state curriculum requirements. Faculty in the humanities incorporated favorite Venture courses into their disciplines. Others were glad to see the program go so they could put greater emphasis on their major programs. Yet part of the initial creativity in the college also was gone.
Minahan also brought to UNF a greater emphasis on scholarship as a criterion for tenure and promotion. Some faculty, particularly in the College of Education, saw this shift as changing the rules under which they were hired, which had emphasized teaching and service. But others across the university recognized scholarship as integral to their profession, though funding for it was problematic and assessing it for tenure and promotion an ongoing challenge.
Perhaps most important, Minahan saw the great need to increase enrollments to gain additional state funding, an issue about which Lassiter had become increasingly aware. Upper-level and graduate enrollment growth simply was too limited. Minahan learned about the efforts of Florida International University and University of West Florida to add first-and second-year students. President Carpenter supported him and Minahan began to lobby in Tallahassee for UNF.
Unfortunately the enrollment expansion plan got caught up in Florida state politics. In an omnibus bill passed in 1980, the legislative leadership wanted to merge the University of Florida with UNF, abolish the Board of Regents, raise faculty salaries and have UF’s Shands Hospital take over the financially troubled University Hospital in Jacksonville. Carpenter and Vice President for University Relations and Development, George Corrick, lobbied against the merger as contrary to the best interests of Jacksonville, but the bill passed both houses. Only Governor Bob Graham’s veto in June, 1980, stopped the merger and continued the autonomous life of the fledgling UNF. The veto, however, also stopped the addition of lower division for four years. (Schafer, 144-148)
Carpenter had meanwhile left UNF that summer and Education Dean Andrew Robinson replaced him as interim president. He too wanted lower division, plus dorms, intercollegiate athletics and a downtown center to grow the university. Corrick led the lobbying effort in Tallahassee, again over the opposition of Jacksonville University and local business leaders. Progress was slow. The arrival of a new president, Curtis L. McCray, in 1982, gave needed impetus to the effort. In the following year, the BOR authorized the lower division. The first freshmen arrived on campus in September, 1984.
By this time Minahan was gone. He had begun to change the character of the university, particularly in the Arts and Sciences, with the curriculum and the expectations of faculty performance. At the same time he alienated many faculty, some by the changes, but more by what appeared to be an arbitrary leadership style, bypassing an earlier UNF civility and collegiality. Increasingly, major changes, such as the addition of a drama program without faculty input, came from the top down. Before the new president arrived, Minahan departed in the summer of 1982.
The arrival of McCray as the new president in 1982 completed the beginning of the second phase to UNF’s history. In his mid-forties, prematurely gray, slight of build, physically fit (he occasionally ran with the cross country team and once successfully challenged literature professor Satya Pachori to do a handstand), McCray held an English Ph.D from the University of Nebraska. He had moved quickly into university administration. His prior appointment had been as provost at Governors State University, also an upper level, two-year institution, outside Chicago.
Faculty remembered McCray as gracious and charming in public, but also sometimes harsh and vindictive toward colleagues in staff meetings. They also remembered him as nit-picking, literally. Even McCray acknowledged that he bordered on the compulsive focusing on details, picking up paper and other forms of trash on campus and making sure that other people did, too. Yet, he fully embraced the growth agenda. Under his leadership, UNF achieved and implemented the four-year curriculum, increased enrollments, built the first student housing and aquatic center, and substantially expanded the university’s presence in the community. He personally served on a number of Chamber of Commerce committees, museum and other non-profit boards, and encouraged faculty and staff to do so too.
Virtually all of the 91 faculty and staff interviewed for this history agreed that the greatest change in UNF’s first thirty-five years was the addition of freshmen and sophomores in 1984. Minahan’s successor, the popular and gregarious Bill Merwin (1982-1985), oversaw the implementation of the shift to a four-year, predominantly undergraduate institution.
He appointed Dale Clifford to head up the lower-division component, and mathematics professor Len Lipkin to chair a general education committee to develop the core curriculum. The result was a course of study strong in both the sciences and humanities, but without foreign languages.
With the addition of general education and the lower division, the College of Arts and Sciences began to assume its traditional role at the core of a university education. Heretofore, both the College of Business and the College of Education had larger enrollments than the Arts and Sciences. By 1990, however, Arts and Sciences undergraduate enrollments equaled the combined totals of the two other colleges.
While enrollments grew, so too did the needs of students on this commuter campus. Dean of Students Darwin Coy (1973-1983) had introduced programs to support students unprepared for the university curriculum. He established the Academic Enrichment and Skills Center to bring them up to speed in reading, math, writing, and critical thinking. Faculty remembered that it worked well. For students with small children, Coy worked with Professor Janice Wood in the College of Education to establish a child care center. They hired Everett Malcolm, fresh out of Jacksonville University’s early childhood graduate education program, to establish one of the first such programs at a Florida university. The center served students, faculty, staff and eventually families from the Jacksonville community. It developed best practices from national standards and became a model for early childhood education on Florida’s First Coast.
Social life on campus barely existed. It centered in the UNF Boathouse on the lake, where a handful of faculty and students gathered in late afternoons to share a few beers. There were occasional speakers, concerts, films and plays, but overall there was little of a campus culture for UNF students in the early years. Both they and faculty had their social lives in the Jacksonville community.
Coy remembers UNF when the first freshman arrived:
When we brought in the freshman and sophomores,.. I felt bad for a long time. We had nothing for young people to do on campus. We really had nothing. We had nothing to do or see. We had no theater, although we had plays put on. We had no real theater. We had no place to put a big production....We had no athletic facility and no athletic teams. We had nothing like that really going. We had a good place to run on campus. We had a nature trail that you could walk or run on. We had a road that was five miles out to the bridge and back. Other than that it wasn’t a great place for young people to be for a long time.
Under Coy’s successor, Sandy Hansford (1983-1986), UNF began to develop a campus life. The university built its first student housing, garden apartments just west of the central campus. To the east, private donations funded tennis courts, a fitness center and an aquatic center. Students formed their first fraternities and sororities in student housing. Greek housing remained an aspiration into the twenty-first century.
Baseball arrived sooner. In 1986, UNF hired Dusty Rhodes as baseball coach. Rhodes had been an assistant at the University of Florida and could have moved on to coach at many places. However, he chose UNF for the same reasons many others had come to this university. He saw the potential in building a baseball program literally from ground zero. The diamond had not even been laid out yet when he was hired.
From the beginning Rhodes learned that, at UNF, academics came first.
When I came here, they basically said, look, there’s no exceptions for athletes academics. When you go to recruit you’ve got to get a student who plays a sport. So for me, I thought, well, that’s going to be tough. I recruited at Florida. I knew they had some great players, but they were kind of stupid. I felt like I was going to have to start off in a different way. But I found out it was a lot easier, because if you see a player play, and asked him about the grades and he didn’t have them, I just forgot about him and went to the next guy. All of a sudden I started to realize, hey, there are a lot of guys out here that are really smart that can play. But I had to bring them on campus. We didn’t have a stadium; we just had a field, no fence around it. When I’d bring guys on there, I’d say, look, there’s going to be a stadium here. This is going to be built here. I’d show them the drawings that we had at the time. Unbelievably, guys came.
The program was a remarkable success. In their first year, competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Rhodes remembered that UNF “set a record for the most wins as a first-year program in college baseball.” In the second year, they went to the National Championship and finished third in the country.
Another success was the creation of the UNF Women’s Center in 1987. Student Shirley Webb was the prime mover. In some ways, Webb typified many of the earlier UNF students. Married with children, and place bound, she depended upon the opportunities provided first by FJC and then UNF. Upon arriving at UNF in 1981, Webb majored in political science and joined Sawmill Slough. She camped and white water rafted in North Carolina, and became the environmental club’s twelfth president in 1986. Next she became involved with student government as a senator and later vice president. There she learned about other universities with “offices of women’s concerns,” and decided that UNF needed a Women’s Center. She gained support from female faculty and staff, secured a tiny office and persuaded student government to grant her $2000 for the first year. Webb became the first executive director as a volunteer.
Not being on the university payroll provided Webb with substantial freedom to mold the center. She brought in prominent speakers like Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks and Maya Angelou to enrich campus life. For a time, Webb remembered, the Women’s Center was the cultural center of the university. The Women’s Center also provided counseling, classes and a safe place for students. It raised awareness and advocated for students who reported sexual harassments or assaults. It provided emergency loans for both male and female students to buy textbooks until they received student aid dollars. The Center became a hangout for both women and men who wanted to be around women.
Bright, energetic and responsible, Webb ran the Center for six years as a volunteer and two years as paid staff, while earning a master’s degree in education and mental health counseling. Webb left the Center in 1995 to develop the Women’s Center of Jacksonville having established one of UNF’s outstanding student organizations. The Women's Center continued to flourish on campus along with programs involving African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Africans and other international students; students with disabilities, students of various religious persuasions, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
On the academic side, Jacksonville philanthropist Ira Koger approached President McCray in 1986 about endowing a jazz music program at the university under the leadership of the charismatic Rich Matteson. Both Gerson Yessin and Bill Prince remembered a difficult transition. The existing faculty and chair had no input into the program’s implementation. The endowment, matched by the state, generously funded jazz scholarships and jazz faculty salaries. The classical musicians looked on enviously. For a few years there were hard feelings. Morale improved in the 1990s when Yessin successfully engaged in major fund raising to provide scholarships, recruit more traditional music students, and expand the classical music program. Despite the tense beginning, the jazz program became one of the nation’s finest and in time the classicists also achieved a solid reputation.
The university tried to respond to community needs. When Offshore Power Systems, a proposed nuclear power plant to be built on a concrete foundation in the Atlantic Ocean, was under consideration, President Carpenter and Vice President Lassiter pushed for the creation of an Industrial Technology program under Adam Darm to train the anticipated work force. But OPS never materialized. Merwin, as provost, remembered area businesses lobbying for an engineering program and expanded computer science offerings. Nursing professor Pat Foster talked about the health care community wanting a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Computer science had begun as part of an interdisciplinary program with math and statistics. As enrollments grew, the Arts and Sciences dean failed to provide funds for additional faculty and equipment. Several professors left or threatened to leave for lack of support. It was then that Merwin recognized the community demand for graduates. He split the program from math and statistics, and established a Division of Computer and Information Sciences reporting directly to him. He found the necessary money, and, by the late 1980s, the program had evolved into a separate College of Computer and Information Sciences.
Meanwhile in 1984, Donald Farshing, in the Division of Continuing Education, oversaw the local operation of the new Florida Engineering Education Delivery System (FEEDS), a statewide graduate program to serve engineers working at Cape Canaveral and beyond. This innovation led professional engineers in the Jacksonville community to push for a UNF undergraduate degree. Initially partnered with the University of Florida, by 1987 UNF had its own electrical engineering program, which became part of the newly constituted College of Computer Science and Engineering. Later, both mechanical and civil engineering were added along with masters degree programs.
The Division of Nursing became a free-standing program in 1977 following a two-year partnership with Florida A&M and the University of Florida. It also resulted from a community initiative. Once again, Carpenter and Lassiter started it, and the program gradually replaced local hospital nursing diploma programs upgrading candidates through the bachelor’s and eventually graduate degrees. Emphasizing quality instruction from the beginning, the program achieved national accreditation in 1986. One of the last actions by President McCray before leaving for the University of California, Long Beach, in 1988, was to secure the creation of the College of Health and appoint Joan Farrell as its first dean.
Farrell had been dean of nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School. Her challenge was to combine the Division of Nursing, with a College of Education, Division of Allied Health and enable them to grow into a major health care player in Jacksonville.
Farrell, a self described “aggressive woman,” remembered seeing her task as three-fold in creating the new college. She needed a building. McCray and provost John Bardo had promised her one and the state provided basic funding. Farrell oversaw its design and construction, raising additional private dollars to adequately outfit classrooms, labs and faculty offices. Second, she needed to develop a curriculum that included what is now a School of Nursing within the college plus health care administration, physical therapy, athletic training, and later, public health. Not all of the programs came at once. Physical therapy, for example, was introduced in partnership with Jacksonville area hospitals over the next decade. In addition, the college added masters programs and in recent years, doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing practice. Farrell’s third task further developed relations with the Jacksonville health care community already begun by the nursing faculty. These efforts paid off handsomely with funding for physical therapy, nursing professorships, and the completion of the college’s J. Brooks Brown Hall. Pam Chally succeeded Farrell as dean in 1998 further expanding the college's role in the classroom, on campus and in the Jacksonville community.
The departure of President McCray in 1988, followed by interim president Roy McTarnaghan for a year, ended the second phase in creating this university. This phase had seen UNF become a full fledged four-year undergraduate institution, build student housing, begin intercollegiate sports, develop student services and expand its presence in the Jacksonville community. The colleges of Computer and Information Science, and Health had opened. Still missing, however, were key components of a liberal arts curriculum: majors in physics, drama, foreign languages and philosophy.
Also missing was a continuity of leadership. Three men served as presidents or interims between the departure of Carpenter in 1980 and the arrival of Adam Herbert in 1989. Ten men (with one repetition) led academic affairs in the nineteen years following the departure of Lassiter in 1977 until the appointment of David Kline in 1996. The College of Arts and Sciences had six deans in fifteen years following Ash’s departure in 1978. The other colleges had similar turnovers. The reasons varied. Some administrators faced faculty dissent to their sometimes abrupt, seemingly arbitrary, autocratic actions. Others found their jobs unrewarding due to excessive paper pushing and bureaucracy, inadequate funding and lack of support from above. Many of the more creative administrators moved on to other institutions where their leadership talents could be more properly used and appreciated. When McCray departed in 1988, UNF was ready for strong, consistent and enlightened leadership in its third phase.
The next phase of UNF’s development began with the arrival of President Adam Herbert in 1989, following ten years as a dean and Vice president at FIU in Miami. Herbert’s first impressions of UNF were underwhelming I had worked in the system for ten years. So I had a chance to observe the campus. I thought that the campus had a very clear potential for further growth and development. It was regarded statewide as being sort of a sleepy institution. The campus was not very aggressive, at least that was the image within the state. The university was not asking for much with regard to new resources and had a very small freshman class.
Herbert came to the university with a plan. He wanted to double enrollment over a ten-year period from about 7,000 to 14,000 students. A few hundred freshmen entering each year would not achieve that goal. Further, the pool of First Coast high school graduates was not that large. Herbert hired Lynda Lewis, a dynamic and creative Duval County public school administrator, to lead the recruitment effort, canvassing the state and region. To pay for expansion, Herbert sent Tom Healy to lobby in Tallahassee to secure legislative funding up front for enrollment growth, something FIU had done and UNF had not. The President believed Healy did outstanding work with the legislature and their staffs, and was "absolutely critical" in securing state support.
Herbert also wanted UNF to become a more traditional residential institution, not to the exclusion of commuter students, but to build a reputation as one of the “three or four most selective public universities in the state.” Quality undergraduate education, already in place, was to become the key attraction. Herbert saw UNF’s comparatively smaller classes providing for greater student-faculty interaction. Students flourished in what he called “a nurturing environment,” something he believed large state schools lacked. Herbert also saw the potential for student involvement in the city through internships, cooperative education, service learning or simply participating in the cultural life of Jacksonville. For students on campus Herbert wanted to expand athletic programs, starting with men’s and women’s basketball. He oversaw the construction of the arena in 1993, and expanded the Robinson Center for student activities three years later.
Further, Herbert wanted to upgrade the curriculum with foreign languages beyond Spanish and French, physics and philosophy majors, and an enhanced engineering program. He supported expanding international studies, the honors programs, and classical music offerings. New programs meant hiring more faculty and finding more dollars for faculty research. Funding came from both public and private sources, in part due to the increased national prosperity of the 1990s.
A third thrust was brick and mortar: the arena, student housing, University Center (1999) and the new College of Business Administration Building dedicated in 1997 and re-named the Coggin College of Business in2002, Herbert began the planning to expand the Brooks College of Health, and Carpenter Library; to build the Lazzara Performance Hall and the engineering/physics building. When Herbert arrived on campus, he remembered, there were no UNF items on the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) list. He wanted to make sure there were enough projects that never again would UNF not have some construction underway.
Knowing that the state no longer fully funded its public universities, Herbert turned to the private sector. Fred Schultz, a major Jacksonville community leader and UNF supporter, remembered Chancellor Charlie Reed asking him to introduce the new president around Jacksonville. Schultz took Herbert to the River Club for lunch and introduced him to the power brokers of the city. Not surprisingly, the tall, handsome, gracious Herbert, who was also the first African American president of a predominantly white public university in the South, made an excellent impression. In 1995, he also became the first African American elected chair of the Greater Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, adding to UNF’s links with the community.
With the support of Pierre Allaire, Julia Taylor and the UNF Foundation, and Schultz, Ann and David Hicks, Luther Coggin, Delores Kesler and other private benefactors in the community, Herbert pursued private dollars. He hired Allaire from Clemson University to head Institutional Advancement and develop a capital fund campaign that raised more than $100 million. He worked with the Hickses to provide scholarships for qualified young people living in public housing or Habijax homes. Kesler gave money for qualified Raines High School graduates. Coggin donated substantially to the College of Business Administration. Herbert’s goal, not achieved during his tenure, was to endow each inner city high school with scholarships for deserving students. An expansion of this effort was the Jacksonville Commitment of 2008. UNF, with the other local institutions of higher learning, city government, and the Duval County School Board, agreed to fully fund the education of any lower income graduate of the Duval County public schools admitted to one of the colleges or universities.
Finally, Herbert understood the importance of UNF as an intellectual and cultural center for the First Coast. He introduced the presidential lecture series bringing notables like Elie Weisel and Maya Angelou to campus, both to meet with students in smaller groups and offer public lectures free and open to the community. Archbishop Desmond Tutu taught classes in the spring of 2003, an event that solidified UNF’s growing reputation. Herbert supported Gerson Yessin’s efforts to expand the classical music program and the continued excellence of the jazz program. Both brought prominent performers to campus for concerts and workshops for students.
Herbert left UNF in 1998 to become chancellor of the Florida State University System. In nine years he had doubled enrollments, added more than a million square feet of new buildings, and substantially increased local and state recognition.
Faculty remembered Herbert for his presence. Literature professor Marnie Jones considered Herbert a “huge and forceful personality…. He had, I think, the politician’s ability to make you feel as though you were the most important person in the room. I loved watching him at graduation. When he would shake a student’s hand, it seemed as though that student was the only person in the room.”
Charles Galloway worked closely with Herbert as interim vice president for academic affairs and remembered, “If he walked into a room, everybody turned that way. When he spoke, everybody listened. There was never any small talk going around the table or anybody whispering anything while he was talking…He had total 100 percent presence and credibility.”
Mark Workman felt Herbert had an extraordinary facility for making people feel he genuinely cared about them. While Herbert often appeared larger than life working a reception or graduation with hugs or handshakes, and small talk that always seemed to personalize and compliment the recipient, he clearly recognized that UNF’s progress was a team effort and gave credit in his oral history interview to staff, deans, faculty and students.
One of the major developments during the Herbert years was the expansion of the Honors Program. Dale Clifford had started it in the late 1980s under the auspices of the provost’s office. The program began small with about twenty students, approximately 10 percent of the freshman class. It covered a student’s first two years, often leading to honors work in one’s major. With limited resources, it initially focused on the humanities, arts and social sciences and used an interdisciplinary approach. Honors students took introductory math and science courses with everyone else.
When Clifford left on sabbatical in 1992, Marnie Jones became director. With stronger financial support from top administration, which saw the program as a recruiting tool, the program expanded in size and scope. Jones began by building a community of honors students. Incoming freshman spent five days together discovering Jacksonville, engaging in community service, and attending cultural events. They challenged themselves physically and mentally in a ropes course at the YMCA, climbing the thirty-foot tower. Jones also encouraged student leadership in guiding program development. She introduced service learning and experiential courses. International learning followed, with support from the top administration, to take students to Latin America, West Africa, China and Europe. For UNF students, many of whom were place bound and unable to fund a full semester abroad, a spring break trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, or two weeks in Ghana during summer term, was an experience of a lifetime.
Jones and others remembered the student responses to the honors program as overwhelmingly positive. Upon completion of those first two years, they enrolled in major programs in all five colleges. Their retention rate through graduation was greater than for their non-honors counterparts. Many went on to graduate and professional schools.
In the College of Business Administration, Earle Traynham’s deanship stood out during these years. Traynham came to UNF in 1973 as an academic advisor, moved up the professorial ranks, and became assistant, then associate dean in the mid-1980s. In 1993 he became interim and then dean for the next ten years. His soft spoken Southern demeanor belied a leader who learned to raise millions of dollars to furnish the Coggin College of Business building with the latest equipment and technology. Traynham also successfully introduced an international business major over the initial objections of half his faculty.
Traynham realized the need to prepare UNF students for the increasing globalization of business. The dean asked economist Jeff Steagall to draft a major program for Board of Regents approval. He told a not entirely sympathetic faculty that all future hires must have at least an international business minor. He sweetened the demand by subsidizing a half dozen faculty to spend a spring break in France to learn about the possibilities in international education. Further, he arranged and encouraged both students and faculty to begin learning about both American and foreign businesses operating abroad.
The program began small but grew rapidly. It became the second largest major in the college. The dean established agreements with institutions in a half dozen European countries, Latin America, New Zealand and China.
Traynham remembers student feedback on the program as positive:
Yeah, I think it made it a much more exciting undergraduate program. Our students, a large number of them now go abroad as part of their undergraduate educational experience. In addition to the twenty or so exchange agreements that we have where we exchange faculty and students, by the way, we run eight to ten short term study abroad courses every year. It has introduced a very exciting element into our undergraduate curriculum.
In 1986, Dick Bizot in the College of Arts and Sciences, created a different kind of program, bringing Irish Studies to UNF. In his early years, Bizot had introduced African American studies to the Language and Literature curriculum, focusing broadly on history, culture and art as well as literature. When the department hired faculty who specialized in that field, Bizot looked to his own heritage (on his mother’s side) to introduce courses that broadly combined the history, drama, art, culture and literature of Ireland.
Irish Studies was not a natural fit for UNF and Jacksonville as it might have been in Savannah, Boston or some other large city with a strong Irish heritage. But with Bizot’s enthusiasm combined with financial support from Fred and Nancy Riley Schultz, and others, the program grew. Bizot took students and faculty to Ireland during summer term. He brought scholars, poets and musicians to Jacksonville, piggybacking with other southeastern colleges and universities to share costs. With grants he encouraged other faculty to develop Irish Studies courses in history, literature, art history, sociology, politics and even nursing. Concerts drew fans from as far away as Ocala, Gainesville and Brunswick, Georgia. With eight or ten free public events a year and at least as many courses, UNF’s Irish Studies program became the fastest growing and perhaps most significant program of its kind in the South. It also became well known among writers and scholars in Ireland.
In the College of Education, Dean Carl Ashbaugh in the late 1980s hired Kathe Kasten to work with faculty to develop UNF’s first doctoral program in school administration. Kasten and her colleagues believed its primary mission would be to serve public school principals and administrators in the First Coast region. That had been her experience with a similar program at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. To her surprise, only a few Duval principals responded to the opportunity. Instead community college instructors with master’s degrees, post secondary administrators, business executives and heads of nonprofit organizations applied. Bill Mason, former CEO of Baptist Medical Center completed the program as did Barbara Darby, later president of FCCJ’s North Campus.
In response to the more diverse student body, Kasten and the faculty shifted focus to a broader study of leadership with courses in philosophy, psychology, multiculturalism, and organizational theory. Eighteen years into the program, more than 135 men and women had graduated with their doctorates.
As UNF began ably under its original leadership, the institution matured substantially under the leadership of Adam Herbert, his provosts and five college deans. The curriculum expanded as did the number of faculty and the availability of faculty support. Enrollments almost doubled. Vice presidents for Student Affairs strengthened the extra-curriculum. Endowments increased and construction cranes were daily evidence of continuing physical growth.
Perhaps most striking about UNF’s development as an urban or metropolitan university was its commitment to the Jacksonville and First Coast region. Herbert’s chairing the Chamber board was but the tip of the iceberg. The College of Business consulted with banking, insurance, transportation and other businesses. The College of Education worked closely in curriculum and teacher development with the school systems in Duval, Clay, St. Johns and Nassau counties. The College of Health strengthened its ties placing nurses and faculty in the five major medical centers. The newer College of Computer Science and Engineering linked with engineering firms. On top of these connections were the more than 55,000 UNF alumni in 2008 working in the area.
The impact of the College of Arts and Sciences with the community, because of the diversity of its programs, was principally at the department or disciplinary level. Artists and musicians enriched the cultural life of the community. Social scientists did survey research for public and nonprofit agencies. Mathematicians and scientists strengthened the teaching of their disciplines in the public schools. Historians wrote local histories and involved students in their research. Paula Horvath-Neimeyer’s journalism students partnered with The Florida Times-Union and Volunteer Jacksonville to create the Hope Fund. Each Christmas season, the students wrote stories about families in need and appealed for donations. Since the early 1990s, their efforts have raised more than $2 million. Meanwhile English Professor Mary Baron taught creative writing to prisoners in the city jail.
Individual faculty and administrators served on a variety of governmental and nonprofit boards. They participated as parents in area schools, recreational programs and faith communities. They also made their mark developing economic indicators for the First Coast region, medical ethics programs for health care professionals and very special arts festivals for children with learning disabilities. These contributions increasingly made UNF a major catalyst for regional economic, social and cultural change. Increasingly local business, government and nonprofit leaders recognized that role, a far cry from the isolated institution that opened its doors in October, 1972.
Meanwhile the research component of the university remained relatively weak compared with sister institutions in Orlando, Boca Raton and Miami. Yet there were individual scholars with national and international reputations in psychology, art, music, math, philosophy, chemistry and history. Furthermore, a new generation of young faculty from first-rate graduate schools showed promise of expanding the research efforts while maintaining high standards in the classroom.
In 1998, Herbert left UNF to become Chancellor of the State University System. After two interims and two presidential searches, Anne Hopkins took the reins. She served three and one-half years, a tenure shortened due to health problems. Coming from Miami University of Ohio in 1999, an historic and well recognized university where she had been provost, Hopkins saw the potential of UNF, but also its limitations. Miami University was affluent. Its students were superb. Its atmosphere was intimate in a collegial way despite being a state- funded institution. UNF was none of these. Faculty and administrators who hoped Hopkins might transform this still young, underfunded, mostly commuter, professional school serving a metropolitan area into another Miami University, were unrealistic. For Hopkins the challenge became one of building on existing accomplishments toward greater student and faculty excellence.
Toward that end, Hopkins increased salaries to attract new faculty, provided merit increases for productive scholars, added faculty lines for understaffed departments, reduced the number of adjunct faculty and oversaw the addition of new programs. She also participated in the capital fund campaign underway and the continued physical expansion of the university. Perhaps her greatest challenge resulted from the Florida legislature abolishing the Board of Regents and replacing them with ten separate boards of trustees. Her recommendations to Governor Jeb Bush resulted in a responsible board supportive of UNF’s mission.
Also important during these years was David Kline, who served either as provost or interim president from 1996 to 2004. Those eight years provided important leadership continuity, something lacking especially in the provost’s office since the departure of the first academic Vice President, Roy Lassiter, in 1977. Kline came to UNF under Herbert, continued with Hopkins, served as interim president, and finally returned to the classroom when John Delaney became president. During his tenure, Kline had direct responsibility for hiring additional faculty, reducing the number of adjuncts and providing funding support for more faculty research, particularly as it related to the needs of the Jacksonville community.
The fourth phase in UNF’s development began with the arrival of John Delaney as the university’s fifth president in 2003. Delaney, an attorney and popular two-term mayor of Jacksonville, faced faculty skepticism initially because he lacked an academic background. His first choice of provost did not work well either. But, acknowledging mistakes, listening to faculty and finding funds for new and expanding programs resulted in the new president’s increasing acceptance and respect.
Like his predecessors, Delaney continued developing faculty resources, expanding physical plant with new dormitories, student life center, College of Education building and expanded College of Health. As enrollments grew he sought to emphasize the ideal of a UNF education becoming a transformational experience for undergraduates. That experience might come from study abroad, mentoring middle school students in the inner city, cooperative education with an area business or collaborating with a professor on a research project.
Delaney also began to identify what he called “flagship programs” in community nursing, international business, transportation and logistics, and coastal biology. Each program received special funding, utilized the research talents of faculty and students, and worked largely on issues of local concern with national ramifications. One program, transportation and logistics, by 2008 already had achieved national recognition for its Logistics Information Technology Solutions Laboratory. Other flagship programs were expected to follow suit.
To focus future university development, Provost Mark Workman convened a faculty committee in 2007 to re-write UNF’s mission statement to emphasize institutional priorities. They included a vision statement which Workman felt came close to saying it all.
The University of North Florida aspires to be a preeminent public institution of higher learning that will serve the North Florida region at a level of national quality. The institution of choice for a diverse and talented student body, UNF will provide distinctive programs in the arts and sciences and professional fields. UNF faculty will excel in teaching and scholarship, sharing with students their passion for discovery. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors will enjoy a campus noteworthy for its communal spirit, cultural richness and environmental beauty.
There were dissenting voices, not so much to the vision and goals, but regarding the realities faculty and students faced at UNF. Inadequate public funding, of course, remained an ongoing problem despite increased support from the private sector. Under current funding formulae, observed librarian Kathy Cohen, the library could not adequately support undergraduate and graduate programs, much less new ones like the programs of distinction. Many faculty interviewed believed too many entering students were not sufficiently grounded in academic fundamentals. Career advisor Valerie Brooks Clark felt that advising resources for students were stretched too thin. Professor Joyce Jones believed transfer students from the community colleges were unprepared for their UNF experience. Anne Hopkins, back in the classroom, was concerned that too many students did not receive adequate attention from faculty, advisers and staff compared with her experiences at the Miami University of Ohio. Faculty complained about the burgeoning size of the administration. Comprehensive plans for graduate education serving students, faculty and the Jacksonville community awaited further definition.
Still, in looking back at more than thirty-five years of UNF’s brief history, what was remarkable were not the problems but the achievements of this young institution overcoming substantial handicaps, particularly in the area of funding. More than 55,000 alumni and 16,000 enrolled students had been exposed to the ideas, problems and achievements of this world’s civilizations. And according to a 2004 study by the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc., UNF had become a major player in the cultural and economic growth of the region.
Another way of looking at UNF might be seen in the statue of Mahatma Gandhi erected at the center of the campus and given to the university by the Gandhi Memorial Society on behalf of the people of Jacksonville in 2006. Students, faculty and staff passing this monument en route to class, library, bookstore or coffee shop are reminded that in the midst of this city with its history of violence, racism and provincialism stands a campus symbol which challenges them to live in and help to create a world of justice with nonviolence.
The founding faculty had mostly retired by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, but a new generation of professors reflected UNF’s continuing commitment to excellence. Faculty remained enthusiastic about the quality of the classroom experiences, and the experiences outside the classroom in the laboratory, library, community, region and beyond national borders. Students looked to career opportunities to learn, work and expand their horizons. Administrators, staff and friends of the university also looked to the future. Meanwhile, the founders could also look back on the challenge of creating a university and recognize that to a large extent, they had achieved their goal.
1My thanks to Professors David Courtwright, Kathe Kasten, Earle Traynham, Dale Clifford, Dick Bizot and Pat Foster for reading my manuscript and suggesting helpful changes. Whatever mistakes that remain, however, are mine. My thanks also to Eileen Brady, university archivist, who provided illustrations, Deborah Miller, director of the Center for Instruction and Research Technology, who assembled the web site, Michael Boyles, coordinator of graphic design, who laid out the book, Marianne Jaffee and Jennifer Urbano who helped from the provost’s office and David Courtwright who oversaw the entire project. Further, my thanks to Eileen Brady and Jim Alderman who supervised the transcriptions of the oral history interviews, and Thelma Young who transcribed many of them. Finally, one more special thanks to Eileen Brady for her time, effort and commitment in support of this project; and to David Courtwright for initiating and shepherding this project to its conclusion.
About the author
Historian Jim Crooks taught at UNF from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. He served as department chair, 1972-1980, assistant dean, 1972-1978, and interim dean, 1992-1993. He wrote two books on Jacksonville history, Jacksonville After the Fire: a New South City, 1901-1919, and Jacksonville, the Consolidation Story: From Civil Rights to the Jaguars. His faculty colleagues voted him UNF Distinguished Professor in 1992. He received an Outstanding Teaching Award in 1997.