UCF President John C. Hitt announces retirement, search for replacement begins

UCF President John C. Hitt discusses his plans for retirement in June 2018 at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

After nearly 26 years as president of UCF, John C. Hitt announced his plans to retire on Tuesday. 

“Today, the time is right for me to leave the presidency,” Hitt said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “With the firm belief that the future is bright for UCF, I will step down as president effective June 30, 2018.”

Now the search for his successor has begun. 

Hitt and the UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena held the press conference at the Fairwinds Alumni Center on UCF’s main campus to discuss Hitt’s time as UCF’s fourth president, his future plans and the upcoming search for his replacement. 

Hitt will not be leaving UCF entirely as he will assume the title of president emeritus, which is provided to individuals who achieved superior accomplishments in their position, according to an official UCF emeritus status document.

“I am very pleased that President Hitt will continue to be part of the Knights family as president emeritus, working to help advance our most important programs and community partnerships,” Marchena said.

As UCF prepares for Hitt’s retirement, a search committee is being assembled to find the next president.

The committee will include UCF faculty, staff, students, alumni representatives and members of the Central Florida community, as well as UCF Board of Trustees (BOT) and Florida Board of Governors members, Marchena said.

“My promise is this: We will conduct a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive search for UCF’s fifth president,” Marchena said.

So far, three BOT members have been appointed to the committee. David Walsh was named the committee chairman, Beverly Seay was appointed as the vice chairman and Bill Yeargin was also appointed to the committee, Marchena said.

“I have also asked Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Robert Garvy to lead a task force of university leadership to plan Dr. Hitt’s transition activities and to plan the welcome agenda for the new president,” he said.

Marchena set the committee appointment deadline for Nov. 15. He will appoint members after reviewing faculty, student and other constituents’ recommendations.

Marchena wants the UCF BOT and Florida Board of Governors to approve and confirm the new president no later than June 30, 2018, he said.

Hitt, who joined the university as president in 1992, will still play an active role with the university upon his retirement, Hitt and Marchena said.

Hitt still plans to help UCF successfully complete the IGNITE fundraising goal of $500 million, Marchena said.

IGNITE is a fundraising initiative started in 2011 that seeks to support the university in three areas: student success, academic excellence and special growth and opportunity projects, according to the IGNITE campaign’s official website.

The BOT will continue to seek Hitt’s advice and counsel about the implementation of the Collective Impact strategic planning, Marchena said.

Collective Impact is a strategic planning process that set UCF’s trajectory for the next 20 years and was developed by more than 800 people in the Central Florida community. The plan includes goals to increase diversity, research and develop projects that will set UCF apart from other universities, according to the official UCF Collective Impact strategic plan.

“I will continue supporting UCF in our fundraising and future planning,” Hitt said. “This is important because it ensures UCF’s positive momentum will continue.”

Hitt led the university through the 2016 Pulse shooting, the 2013 Tower I incident, establishing UCF as America’s leading partnership university, pushing for research funding, breaking ground on UCF Downtown and much more.

With more than two decades of experience as the university’s president, Hitt shared a few insights on what qualities the incoming president should possess.

“You’ve got to have someone with a deep knowledge of academia,” Hitt said. “This is a large university, becoming larger, becoming more complex and becoming more demanding.

“So you need someone who arrives with a very thorough knowledge of the institution more generally and who is quickly capable of getting a more comprehensive knowledge of UCF.”