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UF search awaits word on acting president's ill wife


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2000

The search for a new University of Florida president remains on hold for a few more weeks while interim President Charles Young waits to learn whether his wife's health will allow him to extend his stay at UF.

Young was expected to announce his plans today, but that had to be postponed until doctors could decide what is best for his wife, who is battling breast cancer.

Sue Young is splitting her time between Gainesville and Southern California, where her husband helped build UCLA into one of the nation's premier research institutions.

"The physicians apparently have not been able to give him an idea of whether her treatments can be carried on in Florida," said Jim Heekin, chairman of the Board of Regents committee trying to select a new president.

Heekin said officials hope to have an answer within a few weeks.

The regents want Young, 68, to stay in Gainesville while they attempt to jump-start the search for a permanent leader of the state's most prestigious university.

All six of the semifinalists for the job dropped out earlier this year. Several said they were motivated, at least in part, by the uncertainty surrounding proposed changes to Florida's system of higher education governance.

State lawmakers recently approved a bill that would eliminate the regents and replace them with a seven-member board of education. Each of Florida's 10 public universities would then have their own board of trustees, which would have the power to hire and fire a president.

But those changes aren't scheduled to happen until 2003. That means the new UF president would have been hired by one board, but have to answer to another.

University system Chancellor Adam Herbert was expected to offer a recommendation today on how the search should proceed, but that also has been postponed.

A consultant working with the regents committee has said it may be best to delay the search for a year or more, or until questions about the new governance structure are answered.

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