Finalists Named for Florida Poly President

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Polytechnic University on Monday named five finalists to succeed outgoing President Randy Avent and become the second leader in the 10-year history of the university that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

The finalists come from academic backgrounds, with two holding high-ranking positions in Florida. Those two are Devin Stephenson, president of Northwest Florida State College, and David Norton, vice president for research at the University of Florida.

The other finalists are Daniel O’Sullivan, vice provost and chemistry professor at the U.S. Naval Academy; Keith Moo-Young, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.; and Bjong Wolf Yeigh, an engineering professor and former chancellor for the University of Washington Bothell.

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“Our search committee thoroughly reviewed, vetted, and interviewed a vast pool of exceptionally qualified candidates to identify and recommend these finalists,” Beth Kigel, vice chairwoman of the school’s Board of Trustees and chair of its Presidential Search Committee, said in a prepared statement.

Monday’s announcement came after a search committee vote Thursday. The finalists will come to campus for interviews with the Board of Trustees and forums with students, faculty and staff, though dates were not immediately announced.

The Board of Trustees will select a president, with ratification required by the state university system’s Board of Governors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently revamped the school’s Board of Trustees, appointing five new trustees in October to the 13-member board.

Avent has been Florida Polytechnic’s president since it opened in 2014 and is the longest-tenured public university president in Florida. He announced last summer that he plans to step down in July, and, after a sabbatical, is expected to return to the Lakeland-based university’s faculty.

The next longest-tenured state university president is the University of West Florida’s Martha Saunders, who has been president since 2017.

Since 2021, new leaders have taken the helm at the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, the University of North Florida, Florida International University and New College of Florida.

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Florida Atlantic University also is in the process of seeking a new president, but a previous iteration of its search was stalled last summer by university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, who cited “anomalies” in the school’s process. The university system’s Board of Governors in December ordered the school to restart its search, meaning it could be months until the school gets a new leader.

Meanwhile, leadership changes also are pending or have taken place during the past few years at schools in the network of 28 state colleges.

For example, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, is in the final stages of selecting a new leader to replace retiring President Carol Probstfeld. Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, was named last week as one of three finalists for the position.

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