Marshall Criser, a former business leader who has served as chancellor of Florida’s university system since 2014, will step down at the end of the year.
Criser made the announcement Thursday at a meeting of the university system’s board of governors in Orlando. He said he had no plans for a “next step, but it’s time to start”.
Speculation began this month that Criser might leave the post after State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate. Speculation implied that Rodrigues could replace Criser or become president of Florida Gulf Coast University. It was not immediately clear Thursday how the Board of Governors will replace Criser.
Board members praised Criser for what Chairman Brian Lamb called “historic results” during the Chancellor’s tenure. Lamb pointed to issues such as gains in student graduation and retention rates and increased operating and research funds flowing into the system.
“Great leaders are making sure we’re well positioned to succeed, so we don’t back down,” Lamb said in a prepared statement after the meeting. “The impressive accomplishments across the system are a testament in large part to Marshall’s tremendous efforts during his tenure over the past eight years.”
Board member Charlie Lydecker also cited the role of Criser and former board chair Syd Kitson in guiding the university system during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. College campuses closed in the spring of 2020 in an attempt to prevent the spread of the then-novel virus and then went through a complicated process of reopening.
Criser made the announcement saying he won’t be asking the board to renew his contract after it ends in December. He and Lamb kissed after the announcement and a discussion by the board.
The planned departure comes somewhat in a period of transition at high levels of the university system.
Florida State University and the University of South Florida have added new presidents over the past year, and the Board of Governors confirmed Thursday that Moez Limayem will take over as president of the University of North Florida starting August 1.
Meanwhile, the University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida Gulf Coast University are looking for new presidents, and Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly announced last week that he plans to step down.
Prior to being named chancellor, Criser served as chairman of AT&T Florida and held positions such as president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and member of the board of trustees of the University of Florida, his alma mater. His father and namesake served as president of the University of Florida from 1984 to 1989.
Board of Governors member Alan Levine, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida, on Thursday highlighted ties to UF, but also praised the outgoing chancellor’s role in leading the whole of the system.
“His blood isn’t just orange and blue,” Levine said. “It bleeds the colors of each of our state universities.”
Criser’s contract shows he is paid $412,000 a year: $200,000 from state funds and $212,000 from the Board of Governors Foundation. He is also entitled to a bonus of up to 15% of his annual salary and receives an annual allowance of $55,000 for housing and vehicle expenses.
City & State Florida editor James Rosica contributed to this report.