January 11, 2021
Dr. Thomas G. Carpenter, the founding and first president of the University of North Florida and namesake of the Thomas G. Carpenter Library, has passed away.
Dr. Carpenter served as the first president of UNF from 1969-1980. As the founding UNF administrator, he gathered together a seasoned team of educators and administrators and personally directed the physical development of the UNF campus on 1,000 acres of virgin timberland and the academic organization of the University. In October 1972, the University opened to a charter class of 2,000 students.
A devout believer in the necessity of a strong university library as a cornerstone in the educational process, Dr. Carpenter was an advocate of the UNF Library and saw it develop during his tenure into one of the finest to be found within the Florida State University System (SUS), the state and the region.
The University library, the first of all campus buildings to be named, was officially named the Thomas G. Carpenter Library in 1981 at the initiative of the student government association and approval from the Florida Legislature in honor of Dr. Carpenter and his long and faithful service. The library, affectionately known as “Tommy G’s,” remains a central and integral part of UNF’s campus.
“The University of North Florida and the Osprey community are saddened about the loss of our founding president and one of its great leaders,” said UNF President David Szymanski. “Dr. Carpenter played a pivotal role in establishing our University and his lasting impact continues to be felt throughout the campus and among our faculty, staff and students. He will be greatly missed.”
While supervising and coordinating the development of academic programs and an expanding campus, Dr. Carpenter instilled in UNF's faculty and staff a strong sense of community involvement by personal example. He served on numerous community agencies and other boards and encouraged members of the University community to be similarly involved.
After serving as president for 11 years and with the University firmly established, Dr. Carpenter resigned and returned to his alma mater, Memphis State University (now University of Memphis), where he served as president until his retirement in 1991.
Previous to his UNF appointment, Carpenter’s career included tenure at three other state universities, including University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and University of West Florida.