Presidents of UWF 1964-2016
Dr. Judith Bense
Dr. Judith Bense became the fifth president of the University of West Florida on July 1, 2008, after serving at the University for 28 years. President Bense focused on growth, visibility, enhancing the student “collegiate” experience, and partnerships with the goal of making UWF a first-choice university. She built a solid network of community partners, identified regional workforce needs, increased enrollment, and strengthened academic programs so that students are prepared for future leadership. Bense founded the UWF Division of Anthropology and Archaeology in 1980, becoming the first academic chair in 2001. She also established the Archaeology Institute in 1980 and served as its director for 20 years. She authored five books and 17 chapters in books and professional journals. She was awarded more than 75 grants and contracts totaling in excess of $6 million.
During her presidency, the University opened two new student residences in Heritage Hall and Presidents Hall, as well as two new academic facilities in the Science and Engineering Building and the College of Business Education Center. The athletic department reached new heights, adding two new sports in football and women’s swimming and diving while claiming four NCAA Division II national championships and 44 conference titles.
Bense had a strong commitment to the community and served on the Greater Pensacola Chamber Board of Directors, Florida’s Council of 100, the President’s Coalition of Northwest Florida and the Downtown Rotary of Pensacola. She was an active member of higher education organizations, including the American Council on Education; the Association of Governing Boards; the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities; Gulf South Conference; and served in leadership roles with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Bense was recognized as Partner of the Year from the Florida Small Business Development Center, Emerging Leader of the Year from the Pensacola Business Journal, 2011 Woman of the Year from the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce, Sportsman of the Year from the Pensacola Sports Association, and No. 1 in the 2012 Pensacola Power List from the Independent News.
Dr. John C. Cavanaugh
Dr. John C. Cavanaugh became UWF’s fourth president and the first named by the Board of Trustees on July 15, 2002. During his six years at UWF, the Board of Trustees adopted a new campus master plan, the Florida Legislature approved UWF’s four-year nursing program, the University launched a degree in hospitality, recreation and resort management, graduate classes in historic preservation began in Historic Pensacola Village, and the UWF baseball field, renamed Pelican Park, became host to the professional team, Pensacola Pelicans. Additionally, in 2004, Argo Hall student residence and the International Center opened, the campus went wireless, online teaching resources were consolidated under the Academic Technology Center and new degrees in public history and environmental science were launched.
Also under Cavanaugh’s leadership, UWF survived Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005 and became a national model for disaster planning and preparedness.
Other accomplishments during Cavanaugh’s presidency included UWF being named host of the Florida Public Archaeology Network; the opening of the Health, Leisure and Sports Facility; university locations in Okaloosa and Walton Counties were renamed the UWF Emerald Coast; the UWF music department was named an All-Steinway School; and UWF celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Dr. Morris Leon Marx
Dr. Morris Leon Marx, the third UWF president, was inaugurated in September 1988. During Marx’s tenure, Congress approved the 136-acre land swap to create the permanent OWC-UWF joint Fort Walton Beach campus, which then opened in 1992. Additionally, the education specialist program began; the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, College of Education Complex, student services building, John G. Martin Hall and John C. Pace Jr. Hall student residence, psychology building and University Village apartments opened; UWF joined NCAA Division II; John C. Pace Jr. left UWF his $12 million estate; and the Foundation capital campaign netted $32 million. Other accomplishments during Marx’s presidency included the Argonauts capturing the 1993 NAIA softball national championship, the NCAA Division II national tennis doubles title in 1996, the NCAA Division II men’s golf individual national championship in 1998, and the University’s first NCAA Division II team national championship by the men’s golf team in 2001.
Also notable, in 1997, the University conferred its first doctoral degrees in education, purchased additional land bringing the size of the Pensacola campus to 1,600-acres, and the Archaeology Institute raised the anchor from the Tristan de Luna ship in Pensacola Bay. In 2000 and 2001, respectively, students from neighboring Alabama counties became eligible for in-state tuition rates and West Florida Historic Preservation Inc., with its 22 historic properties in downtown Pensacola, became a direct support organization of UWF.
Dr. James Arthur Robinson
Dr. James Arthur Robinson, the second UWF president, took the helm in December 1974. During his 14 years as president, the university experienced several significant milestones, including the establishment of the campus art gallery, Edward Ball Nature Trail, Small Business Development Center, aquatic center, WUWF-FM, Argonaut baseball and softball teams, 400-meter track and computer center. Under Robinson’s leadership, the university’s colleges were restructured to traditional arts and sciences, business and education in 1979; UWF switched to the semester system in 1981; and the first freshman class was admitted in 1983.
Dr. Harold Bryan Crosby
Dr. Harold Bryan Crosby was selected as the first UWF president and assumed office in July 1964. In his first year, Escambia County purchased 13 parcels of land for $1.2 million to form the 1,000-acre campus, ground was broken for the first UWF buildings, the University adopted the Nautilus shell as its official emblem, the UWF Foundation was chartered, and the first classes were offered in the name of the University. Other accomplishments during Crosby’s tenure included selection of the Argonaut as the UWF mascot; the university library being named for John C. Pace; university undergraduate programs being accredited by SACS; establishment of the UWF Fort Walton Beach Center; and the first distinguished teaching awards being presented.