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The college president, a trustee and an alumnus of St. Petersburg College accept the honors.
By ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 28, 2002
The folks at St. Petersburg College must be doing something right.
Not only has the community college recently added four-year degrees to its curriculum, but last week it took home three of the top awards that can be given to a college by the Florida Association of Community Colleges.
"It is the first time this has happened," said Dr. Harry Albertson, executive director of the Florida Association of Community Colleges. "These are three very significant and very deserving leadership awards."
The winners were crowned last week at the FACC convention held in Orlando.
Carl Kuttler, college president and graduate of St. Petersburg Junior College (as SPC was known until last year), received the President's Award for Professional Excellence. Board of Trustee emeritus, SPJC grad and attorney Joseph Lang became one of the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni. W. Richard Johnston, the president of Florida International Museum who has also served twice as chairman of the SPC board of trustees, won the Florida Trustee Award.
Each winner was selected by a statewide jury of community college peers. Each man was instrumental in helping to make Florida's community college system the best in the nation, Albertson said.
Johnston, 70, has been appointed by several different governors to a number of statewide educational committees in the past 20 years. He has served as an SPC trustee nearly every year since 1968. His current term runs out in 2006. Johnston's potential competition for the award was 200 other college trustees.
Lang, 65, makes a link between his being one of the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni and his 1959 graduation from SPC.
Lang was told by then-college president Dr. Michael Bennett to attend a special discussion program. Turns out that LeRoy Collins, the governor integral to the creation of the community college system, gave his first public speech that day about his plans for Florida.
"(He) chose SPC to announce his plans to expand the four community colleges that existed in Florida at that time to what's now known as the Great 28," said Lang, who once worked as legal counsel for the St. Petersburg Times. "The irony of the whole thing is that it happened while I was there."
Lang, like Johnston, is proud of his award. But he said it's Kuttler and Johnston who deserve the accolades.
"Dick is certainly overdue being trustee of the year," Lang said. "Carl is not just known in Florida, he's known around the world as one of the real innovators in community college education. SPC has always been on the cutting edge."
Kuttler is taking it all in stride. SPC has gotten worldwide recognition for its programs, mostly because the school immediately responds to the needs of the community, he said.
"It really is a touching thing to be a part of an institution that's giving to the system," Kuttler said. "I think it's a team vision. It's a board of trustees that allows a lot of creativity. A lot of people want you to stay in the box and we've always been known to stay out of the box."