President Hitt addresses UCF’s future at State of the University Address

Photo by Christopher Bobo. Grant Heston, left, the UCF vice president for communication and marketing, asks UCF President John C. Hitt, right, a series of questions during the annual State of the University address in the Pegasus Ballroom Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Hitt touched upon topics ranging from UCF's downtown campus to the importance of diversity.

Using the mantra of “the best is yet to come,” UCF President John C. Hitt spoke about the university’s present and future at the annual State of the University address in the Pegasus Ballroom Tuesday afternoon.

Hitt, who will be celebrating his 25th year as president in March, highlighted projects such as the advanced manufacturing research center in Osceola County, a teaching hospital in Lake Nona and the up-and-coming downtown campus.

“There’s one really great project after another on and off the campus,” Hitt said.

In addition, Hitt emphasized that philanthropy is key to university growth.

“We need that private philanthropy to provide the margin of excellence between what we can reasonably expect the state to do for us and what we reasonably can expect students and their families to do themselves,” Hitt said. “No matter the size of your gift or your cause, if you give to UCF you are really helping a great institution become even better.”

The address featured a group of speakers, including SGA President Christopher Clemente, who spoke about how the university’s recent past reflects its future vision.

Clemente delivered a speech that focused on the future of UCF, the opportunities it provides to its students and the ideals that unite the campus.

However, despite a generally optimistic tone, the harrowing event of the Pulse shooting in Orlando maintained its shadow in his speech.

“As students, we realize at the end of the day one word defines us,” Clemente said. “And that is human. As natural and man-made disasters take place around the world, our home Orlando continues to be a glimmer of light in hard times.”

A question from the audience touched upon the idea of utilizing crowdfunding as a source of income for the university. Hitt did not endorse or deny the idea. Instead, he said it would require the right group and the right project.

“That’s something I’ve seen speculated about just a little bit and my honest answer is we don’t know,” Hitt said.

Hitt later went on to speak about the importance of inclusion, stressing that diversity means nothing if we continue to hate.

Keith Koons, a UCF professor and Board of Trustees member, followed up by making note of the same idea.

“As an educational institution, we should be guided by an open culture of ideas and not allow ourselves to be taken over by particular elements such as hate and prejudice,” Koons said.

Koons used TV as an analogy to explain to need for diversity. 

“Black and white television is too limited and monochromatic,” Koons said. “You want a more vivid experience. You want to unite all the colors to form a big beautiful rainbow.”

On the subject of the size of the university, in which UCF is the second largest in the nation, Hitt said that “scale times excellence equals impact.”

“Think about what we do,” Hitt said. “We’re in the impact business.”