The University of Central Florida Presidential Search Committee hopes to have a handful of finalists named in time for the Board of Trustees to pick someone by the end of June to replace retiring President John Hitt.

The committee held its organizational meeting on the Orlando campus Monday morning with the directive of finding, interviewing, and narrowing in on candidates to lead the nation’s largest-enrollment university following Hitt, the president who put UCF on the map in his 26-plus years.

UCF Board Chairman Marcos Marchena told the committee to pick three to five candidates. Hitt plans to retire at the end of June.

“I was told earlier that when Dr. Hitt was selected the process took about four months, so it can be done, with great success,” Marchena said.

With UCF Trustee David Walsh, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Power Systems in Orlando, leading the search committee, the panel decided to first seek an outside consultant to do a study of compensation packages, to determine what to pay. Hitt’s salary is is $505,730, with additional benefits including a presidential mansion on campus.

The committee also selected three executive search firms, Parker Executive Search, Korn Ferry, and R. William Funk and Associates, giving Walsh the power to make the final selection.

Much of the meeting’s introductory statements had to do with the challenge of finding someone who could live up to Hitt’s legacy, expanding the university’s enrollment from 21,000 in 1992 to more than 66,000 today, launching more than $1 billion worth of construction, opening a medical school, creating several academic centers of excellence, creating a downtown Orlando campus, launching a half-billion dollar endowment drive, and fostering so many relationships with local businesses and civic groups that for years the school’s motto was as “America’s Partnership University.”

“Dr. Hitt has transformed UCF into the institution it is today,” Walsh said. “Finding the next next visionary leader is a monumental responsibility for all of us.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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