Central Florida Legends: President John C. Hitt
This edition, of Central Florida Legends celebrating. UCF, president, dr. John hit is made, possible in part through a partnership with the Elizabeth Morris genius, foundation. Every. Year during homecoming, week at the University, of Central Florida, 10,000. Students gather on campus, at the reflecting, pond for spirit splash. The. Ongoing, tradition in front of the Jhansi hit library, is a time for the students to celebrate, their school, the. Popularity. Success, and yes pride, in UCF, didn't, happen by accident nor, did it happen overnight it, took planning and leadership to make UCF, what it is today. The. Success of the University of Central Florida cannot. Be attributed to a single person but it was the vision of one man university. President dr. John, hit he. Helped turn UCF, into a school that not only encouraged. Academic, success but also seeks, to give access to communities, that are sometimes left, out of the college experience and by, doing so dr., hit transformed. UCF, from, a mostly commuter, school to, one of the largest universities in, the country John's. Not afraid, to try big things. And. When he does it he has kind of quiet hopeful. Confidence, about it oh well if, we shoot for the stars and, we hit the moon that's, okay I've, met. Former. Presidents, of the United States, have. Nobel. Laureates. And. Great. Athletes, you name, the category and as, a university, president and. University. Of any real size or scope you're, going to meet a lot of very very amazing. People, he's, the kind of person that you would want. As a brother. As a traveling, companion as, a father as a, university. President he's, a good person that believes, in other, people, you. See a come through in all of his decisions. Gosh. How does he compare, to other university. Presidents I. Just. Don't think there's anyone like him there. Really isn't a comparison. Since, almost his first day on the job back in 1992. Dr., hit has made his mission, to build a tradition, of excellence, at UCF, guided. By five key goals which, were written on a cocktail napkin at, an airport dr., hit has redefined, what it means to be an institution of higher learning I think. Our entire, region. Will, benefit, from his, vision, opportunity. For more and more to go to college, and to pursue careers and, dreams and he, has just had that impact and it will last far beyond most, of us in this community, well. I would say that probably. About half my staff has had their degrees conferred to them by dr., hit imagine. What UCF, would have been like without John hit now, the largest university, the, campus is spectacular. The, students, are. Reflective. Of the diversity of Orlando. And of our state, I, think, people and the UCF, community should be extraordinarily, proud, of what's been accomplished, like. A lot of people who eventually settled, in Central Florida, John is a transplant. Who grew up in Houston Texas, his. Father and mother ran a small business however, they wanted more for their son we, ran a little printing shop of Job Shop and. We. Got a good enough living out of it but things got a little more tense when my dad passed away unexpectedly. But. That. That, desire. To see me go to college lived, on and my mother and if. You. If, I could introduce, you to my mother today you would understand, that I was going to college and, the.
Only Question is where it when, John. Who was the first in his family to go to college, graduated. From Austin, college in 1962. While. Attending Austin, College he met and married martha they've, since been married, 55, years. He. Went on to earn his master's in PhD, at Tulane University and, began teaching first, at Tulane and then Texas Christian University, people. Sometimes, ask have, you always wanted to be a university, president well, no there was a long time that I knew, nothing about being, the university president let, alone how one would become a university, president or hell I might even, aspire to that in. 1977. John and Martha moved to Illinois where, he served as provost, and vice president of academic affairs, at, Bradley University ten, years later he became a vice president, of academic affairs, at, the University, of Maine and in, 1991. Became, the school's interim, president, around, that time he was nominated along. With, 160. Other candidates, for the president's, job at UCF, when. I, stepped, on this campus. It. Was like if the whole thing about going home to a place you've never been before and, it just felt right and I. Told my wife Martha, that as, I called home that first evening in the, interview process and when. She got here. Farther. Along in the, selection. Process she. Had the same feeling, and, so we be. Candid. About it we. Wanted this job too badly he. Got the job though, he may have been a little too excited about the opportunity. Charlie. Offered me the job I don't even think I asked what the salary would be I said well thanks I'll take it, almost. Literally and. We. Were off in a way Central. Florida of the early 1990s. In its potential, as a community, reminded, John and his wife Martha of their native Houston, both. Martha, and I were were, born in Houston same, hospital two years apart. And it. Was a boom and bust economy based, a lot on development, so, there's some commonality, between the. Orlando, of. 1991. And the Houston, that we remember the Texas we remembered, really and. So, it was a very congenial, fit. Doctor. Hit became the fourth president of a University, of Central Florida in, the spring of 1992. At, the time enrollment had, just topped 20,000. Students. Well. It was actually a quiet campus. Really. On the outskirts, of Orlando, we, had to work, for four, or five years after, president. Hit first came to get some of the leaders from downtown, Orlando, to come out here so it was a quiet place but. Not for long one. Of dr. Hitz first initiatives, as president, was to establish a set of principles that would define the university's, course for the future those, principles, which are still in place today, are known, as the five goals and how, those goals came to be has become a UCF, legend, well, that's certainly one of my favorite, experiences. And, as people know I probably, embellished, the story a little bit but he's told me many many times, whatever, you say Dan that's the way it happened, he and I were traveling together before, he was president, and. We. Were on. A visit. In Washington. We're. Sitting in the airport. Going. Different directions. Back. Home and, we're. Working on this, dan pulls out the. Story he tells us is, true that, he got a cocktail napkin and we started writing. Five. Goals for. UCF. And, he. Said Dan what do you think well, I was no fool I said mr. president these are great but, the truth is they were. Dr.. Hit revealed, the five goals at his inauguration, address, in November, 1992. The. Goals include, offering the best undergraduate, education. In Florida, providing, international, focus on research programs, achieving. Prominence, in graduate, study programs, a more inclusive, and diverse campus. And becoming, America's. Leading partnership. University, the. Goals began, to emerge in almost every conversation so, it was brilliant, on his bar just absolutely, brilliant, that. First goal offering, the best undergraduate. Education, in Florida has been addressed through a combination of, measures, from, UCF's, commitment, to hiring the right faculty, to adding more than 70, new degree programs, since 1992. Remember. When I first started out here as a freshman in 2007. And to watch how much it's grown both, academically. But also, physically. With with both people and and buildings. Has been a really remarkable, change, the. President and I often joke, about each. Other in our experience. As an, undergraduate, our. Own experience, but. Let's make it clear, that what. We're trying to say is if, you come to UCF, and you. Have the same kind of undergraduate. Experience, that we did in our own time and that, means so much to us then. We will have been successful, while. UCF, had a reputation as being a commuter school for many years, dr.. Hit had the vision to look beyond the region and even, beyond the United States he, wanted UCF, to have a global impact people.
Sometimes, Have said, John. Why did you put an international, goal in there you're gonna have international you got an international presence already and, you're. Gonna have more true. But. You've. Got to get your students, to understand, that they're going to live in a world that. Where. There's you, know trade. And ideas, and ideals as well. As currencies, I've, seen UCF, really grow in terms of international research, as well as interdisciplinary. Research and being able to take what you're learning in the classroom, and then apply it to a real-life problem. President. Hits all early on the. Potential, for Orlando, that. It. Was ripe for. An, international. Focus and if you look at today was, he right on target, did he call that correctly, Wow, of course he did that. International, focus, includes, areas of research where UCF, has since become a global leader areas. Such as simulation. Biotech. And hospitality. And, if you think about our economy whether, it's the tourism economy the, biomedical, cluster of modeling simulation, and training digital, media, UCF. Has created, a school, or an institute, to support, each of those one. Of those schools is the UCF, Rosen College of hospitality. Established. In 2000. After hotelier. Harris Rosen, donated, 25, acres of land and more than 10 million dollars to kick-start the school not. Everyone, in education. Has. A. Overtly. Positive. Attitude. About. Hospitality. Management, but. Yeah I talked. To hit. Impressed, me from the very beginning as someone who. Had. A passion for education and. Was. Inclined. To help in any way it could today. More than 3500, students are enrolled at the UCF Rosen College of hospitality. And it's one of the top five hospitality. Schools in the world we. Want to pick out programs and be internationally. Distinguished. But we also want, to do those programs, that reinforce, the community, around us that's, why the community loves UCF, and UCF. Has done its part to reach out to the community, especially those. Low-income and minority communities. There. Were folks saying you don't need a diversity, as a go, that's.
That's, Part of everybody's, job to, which I responded, yeah and we know that everybody's, business becomes, nobody's, business so. As I go through UCF, and I navigate these spaces I see, how the diversity just, radiates, out of this campus, you. See people of all different colors, shapes sizes it's, a beautiful sight I think, dr. hood has really established, that I'm. College, and the university, environment is for everyone. I've come here I've gotten a great education and, I. Have the opportunity to go abroad I have the opportunity to stay after opportunity to, go to different. Internships. All around the country he's, definitely made everything accessible, and by. Having such a large school I think he's done he's done that well and dr., hit felt the need to go beyond just a diverse campus he, wanted an inclusive campus - and, UCF, is a reflection, about the student body I think it's very, representative, of the, people. That we have here, in Orlando, we attract students, from all over the country really all, over the world, you got, organizations. For Hispanics, for specific, Spanish for like people from Peru people, from Puerto Rico people, from from. All these different places and, and the. Camp is just really supportive. Being. Inclusive, and diverse isn't. Just about accepting, students, of different races and nationalities, it's, also accommodating. People with disabilities, chronic, illness, and mental illness, I have. A lot of health issues and. It's. Been really difficult for me my whole life with it going. Through the education, system with health issues. And. I. Had major surgery right before I transferred to UCF and I, was kind of terrified going into school, student. Accessibility services, was, created, with the understanding. That disabilities. Are an integral part of UCF's, diversity, a lot, of people leave. Access, as an afterthought. A lot of places access, accessibility, is a huge problem and for. Him to kind of go above and beyond and out of like the normal, fear. Of things I often. Point out that you know you look, around the room there being women. Black. Faces, brown faces. People. Various sexual. Orientations, that you have to know about. That's. Diversity. But. You. Know you'd be just as diverse if you all hated one another and that certainly. Would not create an environment, in which people could develop. Anybody. Can be diverse. That's. Purely, mathematical. As a math major all, I need or to look at percentages. And that will support that but. The key is to be inclusive. It's. Actually been amazing, to like have, all these people who want to help me these. Resources, and, just. Like a college, that is interested, in helping students, get through no. Matter what they're going through our type of disability they have in, a broader sense diversity. And inclusion is really about access and affordability. You. Hear these folks. And. We all hear them. Not. Everybody needs to go to college and all that that's true but, that's not really what they're saying. I've. Had a lot of folks tell me that somebody else's kids don't need to go to college but I'm still waiting for that first one to say well my kids don't need to go and. We've. Got overcome it well. Every, study that you see says, that if you have a college, education you're. Gonna have, a higher income earn more money during your lifetime than. If you don't so it's important, for the, community as a whole but, it's also important. To have a talented. Workforce the. Diversity, of that University, has grown. Exponentially. Over the years and it's, been through his determination, that every, one of our young people deserve, an opportunity, to improve their lives through higher. Education we're. Working. On how we get, more students, to, finish how do we get more students, to. Earn a good solid degree, but, if they just don't flat, don't have the money and can't get it, we. Know how that story ends, so. My sense is we've got to solve the problem, of access and, part. Of that is financial. One. Of the most successful programs. That has expanded access to education, at UCF, is Direct Connect which, guarantees, all students, and alumni at partnering schools including. Valencia, college admission. To UCF, John's. Ago cares about opportunity. For everyone, and the typical pattern of a university. That's moving into prominence like, UCF, is to become exclusive, and, in. This community that meant fewer and fewer good, local students, able to gain, entrance to their, University when their, parents, and grandparents, built. But. Together, we. Were able to find a way that creates open, access to UCF, a highly, selective institution, and many.
People Have, questioned, whether we should take, them unconditionally. If they have that Associate, of Arts degree. You know they keep, succeeding, when. Direct Connect started, the, UCF, student population, was 23%, underrepresented. It's. Double that now 46%, it almost, exactly. Parallels. The, community, so. That, commitment. To diversity, and inclusion. My. President, hit has lived, out over the last 20, years has. Really changed, lives and livelihoods in, this community, the. Results speak for themselves it's. The most productive, transfer partnership, in the country and. I, think it's a, great. Testament. To their motivation. And inherent. Ability, and. The. Quality, of our. University. That, we believe. In second, chances. You. Know, we're. A second, second, chance country. It's. It's a good badge I think. John has made UCF, stand for opportunity, and unique way and the, only way that opportunity's, achievable, is when we work together, working. Together and using UCF, resources, is how Albert, Manero established. Limitless, solutions, a nonprofit, organization that. Creates affordable, prosthetic, partial, arms for children with disability. Limulus. Started as a student, side project, with myself, and a couple of the the, rest of us that are now is still here and it. Has now transformed. From, that little side project, all the way to now a medical clinical, trial with our new partnerships, with outside. Hospital, institutions. Around the country that. Little side project, is now formally, affiliated with, UCF, and it's, that type of collaboration. That has earned UCF, the nickname America's. Leading partnership. University. UCF. Being the partnership, University, wasn't. Just words it's, really in action, when I got here. 26. Years ago we. Were kind of an afterthought, on most economic, development, projects, of any size or scope I think. That the goal. To be America's, partnership, university, is one, that has had probably. The most impact. On shaping. The. University, but especially, shaping. Orlando, in Central Florida well, if you're partnering with significant. Forces. In the local economy whether, it's political. Business. Professional. Whatever. You're. Going to be seen in a different manner than. If you were sort of the place. On the hill that was remote, and. And. I know most folks know this but, we owned the trademark the, federal registered, trademark, we are, America's. Leading partnership, University, and nobody else can legally, claim that during. President, hits 26, year tenure the University, of Central Florida has, tripled, in size to, a student population of, more, than 65,000. With. Growth comes opportunity. For improvements, a billion, dollars, in development, and improvements. Including. An on-campus, football, stadium, a new Student Union a new, arena and new regional, campuses. However. One, of dr., Hitz most prestigious, achievements, the UCF, School of Medicine and Lake Nona almost.
Didn't Happen in. 2006. Orlando, was one of the largest metropolitan areas. In the country without a medical school to, build one, UCF, needed approval from the Florida Board of Governors, so, dr. hit and his team prepared, a presentation, for then Governor, Jeb Bush I got, about half a page or so into it and the, governor said John I don't want anything about a doctor, shortage, don't. Don't talk to me about that, you know hell I was 80% of what the, presentation, was about and. Part. Of me wanted to say now governor I worked hard on this thing you ought to listen to it, but. I overcame, that momentary, insanity and, and we, said well governor, what do you own here it's. An economic, impact using. Governor Bush's advice John, met with the Board of Governors with, a new presentation. The, governor liked it. And. When I left. His. Conference. Room I looked. In and saw Carolyn. Roberts who is the chair of. The. Board of Governors at, that point and she was smiling, I said, damn. It we've won, the. UCF, College of Medicine, opened in 2009. And its first class of 41 students, received, full scholarships, I think, the five goals laid the groundwork for a great medical school because, you have to be, striving. For international. Relevance, in, research. And in education, and you have to be a place of diversity. And and. You have to be a place of partnership. Well he he, deserves, a lot of credit because it's, not easy to start a medical school there have been very few that have been set up the. Thing I'm most proud of was being his partner in that and, without. John hit it wouldn't have happened so he. Should be proud of that our, goal was to build this. Century's, premier. Medical school one. That would one day. Anchor, a medical city that would become, a global, destination, for research patient, care and education, and we're on our way the. Classroom, isn't the only place UCF, has seen success it happened, on the football field to, the. UCF, Knights stunned. The college football world by winning the Fiesta Bowl and then again by beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl, but. Truth be told he, wasn't expecting, the Knights to win the Peach Bowl and cap off an undefeated season in, 2017. I'm. A. Great. Fan. And. Care, a lot about the you. Know the success. Of our programs. As, much for the individual, players as for, the team I defy. Anybody to go back and find an objective, a serious, objective, prediction, that. We would beat Auburn in the in, the Peach.
Bowl But I'm so glad we did. Just. A few weeks before that peach Bowl win doctor hit made the announcement that he was retiring as president of, UCF, at his. Side during his speech with his wife Martha who. Is Bennett is side for more than 55, years I'm. Sure you know the quotation, that people will not remember what. You tell them but they will remember forever how, you made the field. Well. Martha. Is. Very. Good at. Making. People, feel like at the center of everything and. She's. A remarkable. Asset. The. Time is right for. Me to leave the presidency. With. The, firm belief that the future is bright for UCF. I'll, step down as president effective. June 30. 2018. I, make. This decision in good health and of my choosing the. Time is right for this decision, because I've never felt better about UCF. People. In the community always knew they could count on president, yet to come through and I think what we are bound to see from his, legacy. Is a growing, rising. Tide of talent. In Central. Florida he's, gonna have a hard time looking. Back on his own career and characterizing. It in a sentence or two I couldn't. We, are so incredibly thankful for, everything that dr. hood has done to help transform, UCF, into this thriving University, that. Is really tackling, problems of international, scale dr.. Hitz. Style. Of leadership has. Created, this extraordinary growth. And this. Extraordinary. University. That is coming. Of age and, really. Is I think it's almost in a renaissance phase, where. Everything. That he's put in place is beginning to blossom in. His 26, years as president, of the University, of Central Florida, dr., hit has awarded more than. 260,000. Degrees, he made UCF, into the university, it is today, one with regional, influence, and global, impact, and while. The awards, and accolades over, the years have been nice for, dr. hit as president, it's always, been about education. And the students, of UCF. Would. You know. If. You, had a chance to do it all again I would. It. Is, an all-consuming job, if you let it be I've, never fully let it be but it has, been the, principal, activity, of my life for, 26. Years now and, I. Feel, like it's been a great investment and when. I'm with students, I, know. It's been a good investment our, students, are amazing and. When. You have, students, thanking, you for what you've done it's, pretty good feeling. This. Edition, of Central Florida Legends celebrating. UCF, president, dr. John hit is made, possible in part through a partnership with the Elizabeth Morris, genius, foundation.