UCF crowns surprise finalist as president of empty campus

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The University of Central Florida has named Alexander Cartwright, former chancellor at the University of Missouri, as its next president.

Cartwright entered the search relatively last-minute as a mystery candidate just two days before the board was scheduled to make a decision, advocated for by head hunters at Storbeck, Pimentel, and Associates after allegedly having a number of individual meetings with trustees – that weren’t shared publicly, according to Orlando Sentinel. He joined two other finalists – Cato Laurencin, University of Connecticut’s school of medicine, and Devid Brenner, University of California San Diego, for remote interviews on Friday.

UCF Board of Trustees named Cartwright as the finalist on March 20 but the selection still needs to be approved by the Florida Board of Governors, which is scheduled to take place on March 25.

The news came as a shock to the UCF community as the UCF Faculty Senate voted on March 19 to beg the search committee to delay naming any finalists due to the current coronavirus outbreak which has closed the campus to students and faculty alike.

The university’s former president, Dale Whittaker, was forced to resign last year following news of misused funds. The role has been filled by scholastically dynastic Thad Seymour on an interim basis ever since. Seymour’s father was president of Rollins College from 1978 to 1990.

Cartwright is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, SPIE, and the National Academy of Inventors. He was a recipient of both the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award. He has a Ph.D. in computer and electrical engineering from the University of Iowa.

UCF declared via an online statement that the university, ” … began its search for a president last fall, engaging in a six-month process that included 20 listening sessions and open forums held across UCF’s campuses with students, faculty and staff members, alumni and community members.”

UCF recently switched to online classes for the rest of the semester in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.

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