Nine Candidates in Running for FSU Presidency

Nine Candidates in Running for FSU Presidency

By Ryan Dailey, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Nine candidates vying to become president of Florida State University, including a mix of academic leaders and politically connected players, are set to be interviewed as the school seeks a replacement for retiring President John Thrasher.

The university’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee whittled a list of 22 applicants Tuesday, with interviews of the nine remaining candidates scheduled to start Friday.

Three candidates — state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Florida State Athletic Director David Coburn and Tallahassee attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman — have deep political ties in the state Capitol and have spent at least the majority of their careers outside of academia.

Corcoran served as state House speaker before getting appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as education commissioner. Before moving to FSU, Coburn spent three decades in staff positions in the Legislature, including chief of staff for two House speakers and a Senate president. 

Leslie Pantin, a search committee member and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, said Coburn has been able to “take the pulse” of FSU as its athletic director and before that as chief of staff for Thrasher and previous university President Eric Barron.

Pittman received backing from several committee members, including one of the FSU students on the committee. 

Christian Hall, a senior at the university, said Pittman would be a good candidate based on his potential to raise money and because he is a graduate of the school who served as student body president.

“We’re looking for a diverse pool of candidates,” Hall, who is Black, said, “Sean brings experiences and perspectives as a Black professional that enables him to understand and respond to the calls for equality, social justice and equity on campus that we as students are concerned about.”

Corcoran was the only finalist who received some skepticism from committee members Tuesday. If selected, he would become the third former House speaker to lead the university during the past two decades, following Thrasher and the late T.K. Wetherell. Also, the late Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, who served as president before Wetherell, was a former lawmaker.

Bridgett Birmingham, a member of the search committee, said the panel needs to consider the history of appointing former House speakers “as we move toward making progress.”

Corcoran also sits on the state university system’s Board of Governors, which ultimately would have to sign off on the new FSU president. Corcoran’s role on the board sparked questions about a conflict of interest.

“These conflicts can lead to a loss of accreditation” for the university, committee member Pam Perrewe, an FSU professor, said. “Leading roles in higher education should not be treated as political pawns or a career reward for state political figures lacking other qualifications in higher ed administration.”

But several committee members backed Corcoran.

“I think he follows a long list of speakers of the House who have done very good jobs in running universities,” committee member Craig Mateer said.

Other candidates with more-extensive backgrounds in academia have held top posts at large universities in other states. 

Alberto Pimentel, who runs a head-hunting firm hired by FSU to bring candidates to the committee, said the applicants with backgrounds in academia generated the most interest from the committee. 

Robert Blouin, provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received particular interest. 

“I have some faculty friends at the University of North Carolina, and they couldn’t say enough kind things about him. He’s got integrity, he’s got everything it takes,” Perrewe said.

Other candidates who will be interviewed include Richard McCullough, vice provost for research at Harvard University; Giovanni Piedimonte, vice president for research at Tulane University; Mary Ann Rankin, a former provost at the University of Maryland; and Michael Young, a former president of Texas A&M University.

Randy Hanna, dean and CEO of Florida State’s Panama City campus and a former chancellor of the state college system, was a late addition to the list of nine candidates after the committee agreed he deserved to be interviewed.

“When I was on the board of trustees at FSU, we were getting ready to get rid of (the) Panama City campus,” Pantin said when asked about Hanna, “and he was given that challenge, or that hot potato … he was up to the challenge and turned that campus around.”

Several university faculty members addressed the committee Tuesday and expressed a desire for candidates with experience in academia.

“It’s a real concern if our presidential hire is perceived as being politically motivated,” said Matthew Lata, a professor who is the United Faculty of Florida’s chapter president at FSU.

The finalists will sit for hour-long interviews starting at 9 a.m. Friday and continuing on Saturday morning.

“We’ve talked to a lot of candidates, and some terrific people with great backgrounds. It’s been difficult for the committee to get down to this number, and we’ve got even a tougher task, I think, going forward,” committee Chairman Bob Sasser said

Notably absent from the list of finalists was Frank Brogan, who served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Jeb Bush and whose background also includes serving as state education commissioner, president of Florida Atlantic University and chancellor of the university system.

Thrasher, who has served as president since 2014, announced last year that he planned to retire.

9 Responses to "Nine Candidates in Running for FSU Presidency"

  1. Just thinking about Pitman, I am DONE with FSU and ALL THINGS Related to FSU. You don’t even deserve a “Do-Over”.

  2. Relax folks. Sean Pittman is not going to get this job. David Coburn is all but guaranteed this position. President Coburn for the win.

  3. Sean Pittman? The same ambulance chasing, self-absorbed Sean Pitman? The selection committee must have “no qualifications for anything” as a qualification for selection.

  4. Sean Pittman a candidate for FSU President??!!!! Wow!! I encourage all Alumni to STOP giving anything to, as @Edward Lyle says, the Foolish Socialist University. Being an alumni myself, I hope and pray my children NEVER go to that garbage institution. After the complete sellout and lack of leadership by Thrasher to the alphabet mafia, woke psychopaths and Branch Covidians I am done with that garbage institution.

  5. Yes, it could happen. The PC culture is alive and well. It’s why he is on the list to begin with. Hopefully, some of the delayed Tallahassee corruption trials can move forward. A name on the presidential search list could pop up in the course of the legal proceedings which may cause others to be considered more seriously.

  6. So Pitman who enabled, facilitated, and participated with Gillum’s bad behaviors is on this list? Let’s hope they investigate his trip to Costa Rica with Gillum.

    Pittman who facilitated bogus addresses at his Law Firm so friends could collect illicit funds is on this list?

    So Pitman who touted himself a volunteer of a youth group and approved an inappropriate party where a youth was shot is on this list?

    So Pittman who hid behind his wife and had his wife testify for Gillum rather than himself is on this list?

    So Pittman who has the least credentials of any of the contenders on the list is on this list?

  7. FSU soon to be known as the…


    Sporting their new Gender Dysphoria mascot… Pat

  8. Almost all of these candidates are radical left-wing zealots. They would take our university in that direction without question. They are cancel culture idols. God help us if Pittman should be chosen. You better believe he is the favorite of these people.

  9. Don’t know the candidates however don’t see FSU tainting that seat with the ONLY one AA clout chaser. Can’t make this stuff up. Oh, this is not about race, making this crystal with clarity. Real talk for grown ups!

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