Thad Seymour will serve as long-term interim president at UCF for at least a year while the Board of Trustees searches for a permanent president.
The motion unanimously passed Thursday as multiple trustees shared their support of Seymour as long-term interim president.
“Dr. Seymour was selected because of his exceptional background both in business and in academia,” Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Garvy said.
The decision to appoint Seymour to a long-term role still has to be approved by the Florida Board of Governors during its meeting on March 28 in Tallahassee, Florida.
“Dr. Seymour has been a great steadying hand for us in this transition,” trustee Alex Martins said. “You can see the positive outcome of his work in a very short period of time and I wholeheartedly support the long-term interim position for Dr. Seymour.”
Seymour has served as the short-term president since Feb. 21, when the trustees accepted the resignation of former President Dale Whittaker following the investigation into the misuse of funds by the university to construct Trevor Colbourn Hall.
In January, Whittaker announced that the total amount of misused state funds had increased to $85 million in projects that were "built, or planned to be built."
When the trustees first appointed Seymour to fill the role, the idea was that he would serve “short-term” while the university looked for a long-term interim president, as the search would take place over a number of months.
“I’ve had many challenging leadership positions in my career, but nothing prepares you for a position like this,” Seymour said in his remarks to the trustees once the motion was approved.
Garvy said Thursday the trustees plan to start a national search in the fall, with a new president being selected early 2020.
Seymour made it clear after the meeting he does not want to pursue the presidency full-time.
“I want to be president right now to see what I can do to help,” Seymour told reporters following the meeting. “But, I will not be candidate for the long term presidency.”
Although he himself does not want to run for president, Seymour has an idea of which type of candidate he wants to see become UCF’s next president.
“It’s going to be the Board of Trustees job, but because of my love for the university, I want someone who will be recognized nationally as one of the great university presidents," Seymour said. "I’m confident we are going to attract that type of person."
Seymour mentioned in his remarks to the board that the university was in the process of interviewing several people for the chief financial officer and chief operating officer positions and added that the school would make a decision for both jobs in the near future.
Also on Thursday, the trustees approved the settlement plan with Whittaker. The settlement, which will be a one-time $600,000 payment, was approved unanimously by the trustees and accepted by Whittaker.
The settlement will be funded entirely by non-taxpayer money, and the private donations will come from the UCF Foundation, Garvy said.
“It will all be private funds, private contributions,” Garvy said. “Certainly anybody who contributes to the foundation has the right to withdraw those dollars if they disagree with its use.”
While one payment plan was approved, other payment plans were terminated.
The trustees voted unanimously to remove two future payments, which totaled $330,000, for former President John C. Hitt due to his role in the planning of constructing Trevor Colbourn Hall with illegal funds.
Previously, the board had voted to remove one performance payment of $134,000.
“In large part the decision process in my mind, whether I agree or disagree with the reasons behind the performance dollars being taken away, is that we made this decision with Dr. Whittaker,” trustee Joseph Conte said. “This is the same decision in that he was part of the conversation and Dr. Hitt was part of the conversation longer.”
Garvy said that the Board of Governors is wrapping up its investigation into the school’s misspending and expects more information to come out at the BOG meeting next week.
“We’ve got some hard work ahead of us,” Seymour told the trustees. “But, I know we will do it together. If my years of business taught me anything, it’s to use challenges like this as opportunities to become better, become stronger and more effective.”