John Hitt announced Tuesday he will retire next year after serving nearly 26 years as president of the University of Central Florida.

The announcement is no surprise, as the 76-year-old has hinted about his future for years.

“I’ve long believed that timing is important in life,” Hitt said in a statement the university released today. “Almost 26 years ago, the time was right for me to become UCF’s fourth president. Today, the time is right for me to retire.”

Hitt went on to say that he made the decision “in good health and of my choosing.”

He will retire on June 30 and the university will begin a national search for a successor.

UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena will lead a search committee that will include trustees and representatives from the faculty, staff, student body, alumni, the Florida Board of Governors and the Central Florida community.

Under Hitt’s leadership, UCF has grown from a sleepy commuter school to one of the largest universities in the country. U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges of 2018 ranks UCF among the nation’s most innovative universities along with Harvard, Stanford and Duke.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush once said that “Walt Disney and John Hitt have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant, dynamic place than any two people.”

Speculation about Hitt’s replacement has already begun.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said in 2016 that his dream job would be the UCF presidency.

“The reason UCF would interest me is I think it is the biggest asset we have in our community,” Dyer said. “And Dr. Hitt has done an unbelievable job of making it a true metro research university that influences everything we’re doing… If we’re going to be great, the university has to be great. And I think it’s certainly on that trajectory. It would be an interesting challenge to me.”

If Dyer gets the job, it would create a domino effect with city commissioners scrambling to grab the mayor’s seat.

Hitt will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today at the Fairwinds Alumni Center.

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