Presidents of UWF 1964-2016
Dr. Judith Bense, having served at University of West Florida (UWF) for 28 years, became the fifth president of the University of West Florida on July 1, 2008. Since taking office, President Bense has focused on growth, visibility, enhancing the student “collegiate” experience, and partnerships with the goal of making UWF a first choice university. She has built a solid network of community partners, identified regional workforce needs, increased student residents and athletics and strengthened academic programs so that students are prepared for future leadership. She founded the UWF program of Anthropology/Archaeology in 1980, becoming the first academic chair in 2001. This program is one of the most robust in the country and focuses on Northwest Florida and includes a strong shipwreck program. Dr. Bense also established the Archaeology Institute in 1980 and served as its director for 20 years. She has authored five books and 17 chapters in books and professional journals. She was awarded more than 75 grants and contracts totaling more than $6 million. In 2006, she founded the statewide Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), which is headquartered at UWF. FPAN is the largest statewide organization dedicated to bringing archaeology to the general public in the United States. Bense continues to serve on the FPAN Board of Directors. Dr. Bense has a strong commitment to the community and serves 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 is 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 serves in strong leadership roles with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. In recognition of her academic and research achievements, Dr. Bense has received numerous awards and honors, including induction into the Order Isabella de Cathólica by King Juan Carlos of Spain for her research in the early Spanish Colonial period, the Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award for Historical Archaeology from the Society of Historical Archaeology and the Liberty Bell Award from the Pensacola Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. As President, Dr. Bense has been 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 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, consolidated online teaching resources 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 (2004) and Hurricane Dennis (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 campuses; the UWF Music Department was named an All-Steinway School; UWF celebrated its 40th anniversary; and the John H. Fetterman State of Florida Maritime Museum and Research Center was announced as a future part of the Pensacola Bay Area Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park.
Dr. Morris Leon Marx, 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 established a Women’s Soccer Team and joined the 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 NCAA Division II national tennis doubles title in 1996 and UWF earning its first national golf championship in 1998. Also notable, in 1997 the university conferred its first doctoral degrees in education, purchased additional land bringing the size of Pensacola’s campus to 1,600-acres and the Archaeology Institute raised the anchor from the Tristan de Luna ship in Pensacola Bay. And, 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, 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, Natatorium (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 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 the selection of the Argonaut as the UWF Mascot; the university library was named for John C. Pace; university undergraduate programs were accredited by SACS; the UWF Fort Walton Beach Center established; and the first distinguished teaching awards were presented.