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Ex-Eckerd College leader in Pakistan

The former president takes on a delicate transfer of power at Forman Christian College.

By ALICIA CALDWELL, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2002


The former president takes on a delicate transfer of power at Forman Christian College.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The former president of Eckerd College has taken on a new educational mission in Pakistan.

Peter Armacost, who was at the helm of the St. Petersburg college for 23 years before leaving two years ago, is the president-elect of Forman Christian College. The school was founded by Presbyterian missionaries and is one of dozens nationalized by Pakistanin the 1970s.

Armacost's job is to preside over the return of the college to the Presbyterian Church while simultaneously preparing to cede control of the institution to Pakistani leadership, said Duncan Ferguson, Eckerd College's director for spiritual life. Until recently, Ferguson held the position that Armacost now holds.

"He's there to see if he can pull this whole thing off," Ferguson said.

Armacost also is working with the school's incoming board in Pakistan to improve the academic program for the 4,000-student school, Ferguson said. The transition is expected to take about three years. Armacost, whom Ferguson said is in Pakistan, could not be reached for comment Monday.

While the college will be under Pakistani control, it will retain an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church, Ferguson said.

Well-known in the small Tampa Bay educational community, Armacost announced his retirement from Eckerd two years ago. At the same time, college trustees learned that two-thirds of the institution's $34-million endowment had been spent on various projects and operations without authorization from the trustees. The money has since been replaced.

Gerry Tyer, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, said Armacost had the political skills necessary to undertake the mission in Pakistan. All those years of dealing with professors, students and others with often-competing interests developed Armacost's diplomatic skills in the educational arena, Tyer said.

"He's doing an important job that someone with his experience should do," said Tyer, who presides over 77 congregations in seven counties. "He's able to do that, and we're glad he's willing to do that."

Forman Christian College, in the province of Punjab, was to have been transferred to the Presbyterian Church over the summer, according to the church's news service. But teachers rebelled when the Pakistani government announced the denationalization of 60 schools, including Forman. The fear of layoffs and transfers prompted what Armacost told the news service was "an uncertain political situation."

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