University of Florida President Kent Fuchs will resign from his position at the end of 2022. He made the surprise announcement in a video released on Wednesday, the first day of in-person classes this year.
Fuchs, 67, has been in leadership roles at Florida for more than a quarter-century, including nearly eight years in the president’s chair. He will step away from the post to return to teaching and research in the “final phase” of his career in the electrical and computer engineering department at UF.
“Last August, I informed the Chair of UF’s Board of Trustees that I would like this to be my last year as UF president,” Fuchs said. “We agreed that I would share my plans with the UF community this month and that I would continue to serve until the next president is appointed.”
Fuchs said that transition likely would occur in early 2023. UF’s Board of Trustees, led by ICI Homes CEO Mori Hosseini, will be executing a search for the next president that must be confirmed by Florida’s Board of Governors.
Hosseini lauded Fuchs as “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. [He] has been precisely the right person at the right time to take UF to the heights it has achieved.”
But the past few months have thrust Fuchs, Hosseini and the Board into the center of controversy on two fronts—the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in the president, and Fuchs’ conflict with faculty on issues of academic freedom and their right to offer scientific evidence on the pandemic and serve as expert witnesses on Florida’s election laws. Hamstrung by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies and the state legislature’s power, Fuchs and the Board have been harshly criticized publicly for not offering more pushback.
Still, Fuchs’ tenure has been punctuated by enormous growth, from the university’s nationally leading increase in faculty to millions in new construction projects to the doubling of student applicants. UF will be completing a capital campaign in October that already has brought in more than $4 billion, with $1 billion going toward its endowment. He proudly noted UF’s rise into the Top 5 of U.S. News & World Report’s national public universities in his statement.
“When I was appointed in 2014, I was asked to make three commitments to the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors,” Fuchs said. “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. And third, that UF would not increase its tuition while I served as president. Those promises were made, and those promises were kept.”
Fuchs, a former dean and provost at Cornell and professor at the University of Illinois and Purdue University, plans to take a brief sabbatical before shifting back to professor in Gainesville.
“I’m so grateful for the privilege I’ve had to serve UF,” Fuchs said. “UF has incredible leaders in all areas across the university and amazing staff, faculty, students and alumni. I’ve been blessed to serve with you and to be your colleague. I look forward to the time when I can hand the baton to the next president and say, as the Apostle Paul said to Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ ”