A Note From the Dean
The Lombardi Years
Greetings from Gainesville, where the Fall Semester has begun in unusual fashion. Although the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and UF in general have never been stronger, the impending loss of John Lombardi as president cast a bit of a shadow over the opening of another academic year.
As anyone knows who has met Lombardi for five minutes, he is a mercurial, charismatic leader. His style was not for everyone, but the vast majority saw in him a passionate, tireless advocate for UF, a president who did not cotton to those whose vision of UF was less demanding than his own. And his time in office brought indisputable proof of his success. This university has moved far beyond the UF of 1990, increasing its academic reputation, its public and private funding, and its output of superbly educated students. For this, Lombardi has to be given a good measure of credit.
The Lombardi years were full of excitement, enthusiasm, and optimism. The train was always pulling out of the station, heading for the next destination, and those who tarried were lucky to catch on to the caboose. He instigated controversial programs, such as TIP (Teaching Incentive Program), which offered $5,000 salary increases to those who taught well in larger format courses. TIP soon came to be a major positive factor in encouraging faculty to teach more and better.
He also applied business principles to the operation of the academic enterprise, which many said was not possible, and it was certainly not easy. But easy was not JVL's style. If he believed in something, it was full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes.
No president I have ever known, and I have known a few, was even close to Lombardi in communication with his constituencies. He could sell his programs to the students, the faculty, and the alumni, adjusting his message accordingly depending upon the audience. And all went away as disciples, except for some in positions of power in Tallahassee, where Lombardi did not compromise easily.
Big shoes to fill. But there is no question in my mind that the next great leader of UF is somewhere out there waiting to bring his or her new vision to this great university. The presidency of UF is a very attractive position for the right person, and the process of identifying candidates is under way.
We wait with anticipation for that person who will build on the legacy of John V. Lombardi, president extraordinaire.