University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced in a campus-wide email and video message on Wednesday that he plans to step down from the position early next year.
He told the UF Board of Trustees that he will go on sabbatical after leaving the presidency, then return to a professor’s position within the university’s department of electrical and computer engineering.
The full announcement can be read here or below.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced in a video released today that he is planning for this to be his last year as president, capping a tenure in which the university has joined the ranks of the nation’s very best public universities.
Fuchs, 67, is serving in his eighth year after becoming the university’s 12th president in January 2015.
Fuchs told UF Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini in August 2021 that he would like to transition from president to professor. The two agreed that Fuchs would share his plans with the UF community in January 2022 and that he would continue to serve through the completion in fall 2022 of UF’s highly successful capital campaign and until the next president is appointed, which is expected to occur by early 2023.
“When I was appointed in 2014, I was asked to make three commitments to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors,” Fuchs said in the video. “First, that I would work to raise the stature of UF to be among the nation’s top 10 public universities. Second, that UF would launch and complete a $3 billion fundraising campaign. Third, that UF would not increase its tuition while I served as president. Those promises were made and those promises were kept.”
Fuchs said he has informed the trustees that after he leaves his position, he will take a sabbatical, then return to UF as a professor in his home department of electrical and computer engineering. There, he will join his colleagues in teaching and conducting research.
He expressed gratitude to the university community and Board of Trustees for the privilege of serving UF.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to work with and learn from Chair Hosseini and, indeed, all the trustees. I am particularly grateful to Chair Hosseini for his guidance and tireless work on behalf of UF and for our partnership,” Fuchs said. “He and his colleagues have worked effectively to advance the University of Florida to the immense benefit of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the entire state of Florida.”
Hosseini called Fuchs “one of the most exceptional leaders I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, an excellent partner to the trustees and an absolutely exemplary person.”
“Kent Fuchs has been precisely the right person at the right time to take UF to the heights it has achieved,” Hosseini said. “His sense of purpose, commitment to UF and warmth and love for the university have been a tremendous source of encouragement for me and for everyone at UF — while helping to lift the university even higher on the national stage. I am honored to have served with President Fuchs and I congratulate him on leaving a wonderful legacy that every Gator can be proud of.”
Fuchs gave credit to others who serve in university leadership roles, saying, “UF has amazing faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as incredible leaders in all areas across the university. They have made an enduring impact on UF. I have been blessed to serve with them.”
During his term, UF’s faculty and staff have enhanced the university’s educational, research, extension and clinical excellence, enabled by increasing public and private financial support — all progress that continued despite the challenges of the pandemic in the past two years.
With his personal warmth, sense of humor about himself and affection for students — personified in his annual April Fools’ pranks and friendly, lighthearted presence on social media — Fuchs has also become a beloved figure on campus, with students lining up to take selfies with him wherever he goes.
Most notably during his tenure, in 2017 the university reached its longtime goal of joining the nation’s top 10 public universities, according to the U.S. News Best Colleges annual rankings, rising to join the top five in 2021. The top 10 goal had been sought since at least 1948, when UF’s fourth president, J. Hillis Miller, said in his inauguration speech that UF deserved to be “among the ten or twelve great state universities of the country.”
Underpinning the top 10 milestone was advancement across UF’s comprehensive breadth, in particular an increase in reputation and excellence across all 16 colleges.
UF today has 4,642 full-time faculty, up more than 25% from its 3,691 full-time faculty in 2014. In recent years, the university met its signature Faculty 500 goal to increase the size of the faculty and it is well along the way toward reaching its goal of adding an additional 100 faculty for the university’s artificial intelligence initiative.
Faculty have steadily increased their research excellence and productivity. Research spending soared from $709 million in fiscal year 2014 to $942 million in fiscal year 2020 and is projected to approach $1 billion this fiscal year.
Student applications, too, are soaring. Sixty thousand students have applied to the fall 2022 entering class, more than double the nearly 29,000 students who applied for fall of 2014. Ten thousand more high school seniors applied for the fall entering class than have ever applied in any year before.
UF’s physical presence both on campus and around the state has also grown and diversified.
All told, UF has added more than 2 million square feet of new buildings and renovated building space on the Gainesville campus and statewide. Notable new facilities on campus range from the chemistry building to the Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence to the remodeling and addition of Norman Hall to the Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures.
An additional nearly 1 million square feet is currently under construction, including the Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology and new residence halls with spaces for 1,400 students. The university also last year announced plans to integrate with Scripps Florida in Jupiter and establish focused graduate and professional education programs in West Palm Beach.
UF’s public and private support have also dramatically increased over the past seven years.
Through the generosity of its donors, the university has already raised $3.8 billion in its Go Greater philanthropic campaign, eclipsing the campaign’s original goal of $3 billion. The campaign is expected to reach more than $4.2 billion by the time it concludes in October, which is $1.2 billion over its original goal. UF’s endowment, meanwhile, has grown by $1 billion to $2.5 billion.
Fuchs credited Florida lawmakers and the governor with creating the conditions for UF to rise through generous investment in the university. Indeed, the current year’s $557 million state appropriation to UF’s main campus (education & general) represents a doubling of the amount appropriated in fiscal year 2013. That is in addition to $378 million in state funding for capital projects during the past seven fiscal years.
Fuchs has served for 37 years as an academic leader and faculty member at four different national research and land-grant universities. Prior to UF, he was at Cornell University, where he served as Provost and Dean of Engineering. He was previously a faculty member in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and then served as School Head at Purdue.
While at UF, Fuchs was appointed by President Obama to the National Science Board and he served on the Internet2, Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities boards of directors and on the executive committee of the SEC athletic conference.
The Board of Trustees will launch a national search and appoint the next president subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors. The Board of Governors’ guidelines for the search and selection of university presidents are here.