More than 80 people, including State Senator Don Gaetz and university provost Martha Saunders, applied to be the University of Florida’s next president before Monday’s deadline.

Tuesday, a 20-member search committee whittled that list down to just 19 finalists who will be invited for interviews on August 29 and 30. Gaetz and Saunders both made the list.

“The committee extensively reviewed 83 high-quality, diverse candidates for the President of the University of West Florida,” said Mort O’Sullivan, chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “We are thrilled with the quality of the pool and look forward to learning more about the candidates.”

Here’s a full list of the 19 finalists who will be invited to interview:

  • James Applegate
  • Frank Ashley
  • Adolph Benavides
  • Glen Hahn Cope
  • Ron Elsenbaumer
  • Don Gaetz
  • Bahman Ghorashi
  • Forouzan Golshani
  • Timothy Greene
  • Yash Gupta
  • Gregory Jordan
  • Cheryl Lovell
  • Richard Ludwick
  • Carl Pinkert
  • Petra Rotor
  • Martha Saunders
  • William “Mike” Sherman
  • Donald Siegel
  • Alan Utter

Dr. Judy Bense, who has served as UWF’s president since 2008, announced last year that she would retire at the end of 2016.

Gaetz — who has been rumored to be the frontrunner for months — waited until the last day of the application period to throw his name into the running. A state senator since 2006, Gaetz served as the Senate President from 2013-2014 but cannot run for reelection due to term limits. While Gaetz has no experience in university administration, he served for six years on the Okaloosa County School Board and another six years as the county’s superintendent of schools before being elected to the Senate. Gaetz currently chairs the Senate’s education subcommittee, which oversees funding for Florida’s public schools and universities.

Current university provost Dr. Martha Saunders has served as UWF’s provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs since 2013. Saunders served as the University of Southern Mississippi from 2007 to 2012.

The 20-member search committee overseeing the process includes Mort O’Sullivan, C. Wayne Ansley, Kenneth “KC” Clark, Jason Crawford, Pamela Dana, Dan Doyle Jr., Athena du Pre’, Rick Harper, Clay Ingram, Steven Kass, Scott Keller, Eric Kollar, Collier Merrill, Jay Patel, Steve Riggs, Bentina Terry, Christopher Thrasher, Garrett Walton, Pat Wentz and P.C. Wu.

UWF’s presidential search, which has been coordinated by Greenwood/Asher & Associates, drew applicants from the academic, military, political, and business fields, including a current Massachusetts state legislator and a former Libyan deputy prime minister. After conducting interviews later this month, the search committee is expected to present the names of three candidates to the UWF Board of Trustees, which is slated to select UWF’s next president at its September 15 meeting.


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