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Genshaft picks interim St. Petersburg leader

The USF president now wants Ralph Wilcox to temporarily lead the St. Petersburg campus.

By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft wants a Tennessee professor who spent the past year working for her in Tampa to be the temporary head of USF St. Petersburg.

Ralph Wilcox would be the first USF St. Petersburg campus chief appointed without the recommendation of St. Petersburg faculty and staff.

Last week, Genshaft told a meeting of USF St. Petersburg faculty and staff members that they could recommend candidates to replace Bill Heller, the vice president and campus executive officer whom she forced out two weeks ago. She said it could be a few weeks before she made a decision.

But on Thursday, Genshaft sent Wilcox's resume to the five members of the board that governs the St. Petersburg campus.

"I've spoken to each of you about my recommendation of Dr. Ralph Wilcox for interim CEO," Genshaft wrote the board members.

Some St. Petersburg faculty members were surprised by how quickly Genshaft made her decision.

"It was our understanding we would be given an opportunity to meet him before the selection was complete and give feedback to her," said Ray Arsenault, a history professor at the St. Petersburg campus for 22 years. "We've always been involved in the selection process and feel this is very important."

Genshaft was in North Carolina on Thursday and could not be reached for comment. USF spokesman Michael Reich said he did not know whether faculty members had been consulted.

The chairman of the department of human movement sciences and education at the University of Memphis, Wilcox spent the past year on a fellowship in Genshaft's office as part of a program to help cultivate future college administrators.

During his year at USF, Wilcox worked on several projects, including the university's strategic plan. He left USF last month.

Heller leaves his post as campus executive officer Aug. 31. Wilcox could hold the post for a full academic year while the university conducts a national search. Genshaft told faculty members that they would have a role in recommending a permanent leader.

New laws creating the St. Petersburg regional board require Genshaft to hire and fire campus CEOs "in consultation with" the board. The board members plan to meet with Wilcox individually.

"It's her decision," Reich said. Although she is recommending Wilcox to the board, "a final decision has not been made," he said.

"I think the world of Judy, and I'm comfortable with her selection," said board member Jeff Huenink, a former legislator. "It's an interim position."

In a meeting last week to calm concerns about Heller's ouster, Genshaft told faculty that she had an interim leader in mind. When pressed, she said they could recommend candidates.

"I assumed that she had chosen the interim so it's no surprise," said Robert Dardenne, a journalism professor. "Any disappointment I might have had I would have gotten over when she said she had someone chosen."

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