Board of Governors confirms Cartwright as president

Alexander Cartwright and his wife, Melinda Sage Cartwright, met as students at the University of Iowa.

The Florida Board of Governors unanimously confirmed the appointment of Alexander Cartwright on Wednesday during a teleconference meeting — the final step in naming Cartwright UCF’s sixth president.

After being selected as president-elect by the UCF Board of Trustees on Friday, Cartwright, who has served as the chancellor at the University of Missouri, appeared before the Board of Governors at a virtual meeting for his confirmation. 

Following the confirmation, Syd Kitson, the chair of the board, congratulated Cartwright while explaining what would have been a moment of celebration was otherwise quiet because of the virtual aspect of the meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I assure you everyone on the phone is clapping and wishing you well,” Kitson told Cartwright over the phone. “It’s odd to hear silence, trust me. Normally there would be a standing ovation and a very warm welcome.”

Cartwright, who will start as president on April 13, according to the university, said he’s ready to serve all students.

“Every student deserves to have an opportunity,” Cartwright said. “I want to serve faculty and staff and the entire community to make sure all of us are as successful as possible. I believe we must empower people to do exceptional things. And I don’t think of it just as empowering the leaders. For an institution to become exceptional, you must also empower the faculty, staff and students and allow them to make the institution better.”

Cartwright was one of three finalists in a search that started in October 2019. The other two finalists chosen by the Presidential Search Committee were Cato Laurencin, the professor and former dean of the University of Connecticut’s school of medicine, and David Brenner, the vice chancellor for health sciences at the University of California, San Diego. However, prior to full-length interviews with the search committee, Brenner withdrew his name from the search for reasons unknown.

Both Cartwright and Laurencin took part in hour-long interviews with UCF's Board of Trustees before the trustees ultimately chose Cartwright as the president-elect on Friday.

“Dr. Cartwright impressed the Search Committee and the trustees with his keen understanding of the role that a metropolitan public research university can have in advancing not just new knowledge, but also the economic engine that a university can become,” the Board of Trustees Chair Beverly Seay, who also chaired the Search Committee, said. “But, more than anything, he impressed us with his humanity, his guiding principle as a servant leader and his belief in the power of public education and large research universities to improve the human condition.”

Cartwright will be taking over for Thad Seymour Jr., who has served as the interim president following the resignation of Dale Whittaker because of an investigation into the university’s misspending scandal regarding the construction of Trevor Colbourn Hall.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees approved Cartwright’s contract, which will pay him a base salary of $600,000 and includes various benefits, according to the contract obtained by NSM Today.

As president, Cartwright will also be entitled to an additional 20% of base salary as deferred compensation as well as the opportunity for an annual incentive bonus of up to 50% of base salary based upon performance, according to the contract.

The contract also includes non-cash compensation, including university housing, car allowance, relocation allowance and club membership. Any compensation above $200,000 will be paid from non-state sources, according to the contract.

“He is a man of integrity, guided by a true and accurate moral compass,” Board of Governors' Timothy Cerio, who served on the search committee, said Wednesday. “The system and UCF will be getting a leader passionate about student success and who embraces the system’s performance metrics and accountability. He’s committed to ensuring UCF’s performance under his leadership will significantly advance system goals.”

Cartwright grew up in the Bahamas and moved to Iowa at the age of 17 with this mother and stepfather. After earning his GED and paying his way through community college, Cartwright transferred to the University of Iowa, earning bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering, according to UCF.

Before his time at the University of Missouri, Cartwright served as provost and executive vice chancellor at the State University of New York, where he oversaw a state university system that has 64 campuses.

Cartwright met his future wife, Melinda, at the University of Iowa. They have two children  Alyssa and Andrew.

“Melinda and I are extremely excited to be moving to Florida and become part of the UCF family,” Cartwright said. “What I see at UCF is an intellectual and economic enterprise able to embrace and move the future forward for both individuals and society. Together we will make UCF the best version of UCF.”

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