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10 to watch in 2007: Carl Kuttler

The president of St. Petersburg College gets things done with initiative and innovation.

By Christina Rexrode, Times Staff Writer
Published March 25, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
In nearly 30 years leading St. Petersburg College, Carl Kuttler has made the school a player in the local business community.

10 to watch in 2007
Meet some of the leaders who are likely to have the largest impact on the business community.

Every week, Carl Kuttler hears from at least two or three people with tasks they hope he'll take on.

There's the legislator who wants him to help plan a zoo for Pinellas County. Business leaders who want him to open an ice hockey center at St. Petersburg College. And the county's Juvenile Welfare Board, which would like to enlist SPC's expertise in training employees and assisting children.

And that's just the tip of his log of phone messages.

Small wonder that Kuttler, 67 - the transcendent mover and shaker - is in such demand. After almost 30 years at the helm, Kuttler has elevated St. Petersburg College to national recognition and made it a can't-miss-it presence in the county.

If something big is happening in the county's business or government circles, sooner or later he seems to have a contribution to make.

A St. Petersburg High alumnus who grew up working for his father's lawn service, Kuttler has made SPC a business darling. That's partly because the college has created resources, like the EpiCenter in Largo, to help businesses get launched. Kuttler also opened a downtown St. Petersburg facility catering to full-time workers seeking further study.

One of Kuttler's skills most appreciated by the business community is finding and plugging holes in the area work force. He created the state's first bachelor's degree in banking after a local banker came to him and said he couldn't find people here to hire.

"If you were college president, what would that tell you?" Kuttler said.

To make sure the program would be relevant to work force needs, he asked local banks to help create the degree.

"I'm all about people getting hired," Kuttler said.

He's also a driving force behind the arts reshuffling in downtown St. Petersburg that will net, among other things, a new home for American Stage on SPC property, and a mixed-use development and hotel in the theater's former location. He's leading the city's charge to find more shelter space for the homeless. SPC's Collaborative Labs at the EpiCenter in Largo facilitate and try to resolve diverse topics of conflict, from the contentious school choice plan to the development war in St. Pete Beach.

For all that, Kuttler remains firmly focused on running a college with more than 16,000 full-time students. He may best be remembered for persuading the Legislature to let two-year colleges offer bachelor's degrees.

SPC, which dropped the "Junior" from its name six years ago, offers 15 four-year degrees and has 10 more in the works. Through partnerships with universities, it also offers master's degrees and doctorates, and several dozen additional bachelor's degrees.

A global thinker and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he's currently reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, and may require his faculty and administrators to do the same.

When Kuttler says he has no plans to retire, one is inclined to believe him: He entered a state retirement program almost a decade ago, then gave up a cash payout worth more than $500,000 when he backed out because he wanted to stay on the job.

He says he's not grooming a successor, because when he does retire, people around the world will line up for his job.

When that will be is hard to tell.

"You know," he said, "if you look at some of the Supreme Court justices, their best work was done in their 80s."

Christina Rexrode can be reached at crexrode@sptimes.com">href="mailto:crexrode@sptimes.com" mce_href="mailto:crexrode@sptimes.com">crexrode@sptimes.com or 727 893-8318.

Looking ahead

He has already crafted SPC into an educational and professional institution, but Carl Kuttler isn't resting yet. Here are just a few of the items currently on his agenda:

- A School Board workshop tentatively agreed to open another SPC collegiate high school on the Clearwater campus, and asked the college to consider opening high schools on its Tarpon Springs and Seminole campuses as well. (SPC's first high school, St. Petersburg Collegiate, opened in 2004 on the Gibbs campus. Students earn high school diplomas and associate's degrees simultaneously.)

- He is studying how the college can help certain segments of the homeless population earn two-year degrees and get back into the work force.

-He is negotiating with the University of Florida to offer graduate programs in veterinary medicine to SPC students.

- He is planning to implement, in the fall or in January, the country's first bachelor's program in managing and fundraising for charitable organizations.

- He is studying how to implement a four-year degree in practical environmental sciences. He wants to produce graduates who will work for local governments - the "kind of person that's not afraid to build a house, but when they build it, it's a sustainable green home that's good for the environment."

[Last modified March 23, 2007, 20:39:27]


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