As a search for the fifth president of the University of Central Florida grows, candidates have begun to submit their intent as the March 9 announcement draws near.

In addition to candidates submitting applications and letters of intent themselves, members of the public can nominate potential candidates they believe would make a good president.


The most recent nomination UCF has disclosed is Bob Frank, which comes at the word of retiree Edward Sheridan, who spent time at UCF as Dean of Arts and Sciences in the early 1990s.

“I make this recommendation as an individual who has considerable experience with Dr. Frank’s executive, administrative, fiscal and academic skills and accomplishments,” Sheridan said in a January 21 submission, going on to detail his accomplishments (published below).

Sheridan went on to speak of his relationship with Frank at the University of Missouri while Frank rose in the national spotlight. Bob Frank’s career advancement to the University of Florida as the Dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions provided him with the ability to set a national model for the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, managed under the Dean, Sheridan said.

A role as Senior Vice President and Provost at Kent State University and a five-year position as the president of the University of New Mexico, with a partnership between UNM and the city of Albuquerque, among the strides made on campus, was noted in the three-page nomination.

“I believe the accomplishments I have noted make Dr. Frank a superb candidate for UCF,” Sheridan continued. “I would be amazed if the search committee did not find him a charismatic, stimulating and thoroughly prepared President. Should you agree with my presentation, I would hope you would contact him to further determine if his qualifications make him an ideal individual to succeed President Hitt.”

Frank’s accomplishments while president of UNM would be tagged by a troubled exit.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported in December 2016 Frank wished to sue the University of New Mexico and its regents, “claiming ‘false and defamatory’ internal reports about his conduct” leaked illegally to news media in an effort to damage Frank’s reputation, according to the paper.

Frank abruptly announced he would not seek to renew his contract as president of UNM three months earlier in September of 2016, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The issue transpired as an exit agreement, to be determined by the UNM Regents, included a tenured faculty position at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. A notice from Frank’s Attorney claimed the internal report intended to surprise and “create a pretext” for the termination of his employment contract, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, as the Board of Regents initiated investigations into Frank’s conduct.

The internal report, published by the Albuquerque Journal on November 30, 2016, allegedly claims Frank’s management style and treatment of employees borderlined on bullying and created an environment of fearful approach between the then-president and eight unidentified university workers.

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees will decide on a new president between the application deadline of February 15 and March 9 announcement. Two dozen applications have been nominated and more applicants are expected to make a last-minute submission for a variety of career-making decisions, among them to minimize exposure.

Photo: University of New Mexico.

January 21, 2018

Laurie C. Wilder, President
Porsha L. Williams, Vice President
Parker Executive Search
UCF Presidency

RE: Robert G. Frank, Ph.D.

Dear President Wilder, Vice President Williams and Search Committee Members:

I wish to nominate an especially gifted academic leader, Dr. Robert G. Frank, formerly the President of the University of New Mexico, that state’s flagship university, to be President of the University of Central Florida (UCF). I make this recommendation as an individual who has considerable experience with Dr. Frank’s executive, administrative, fiscal and academic skills and accomplishments. I also am quite familiar with the needs and aspirations of UCF and other leading Florida universities having served as Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Central Florida, as well as a consultant to the University of Florida and the University of North Florida. Currently, I am retired and live in the Naples, Florida area.

It will be a huge challenge to follow Dr. John Hitt as President. He has enjoyed extraordinary success and UCF is on a wonderful upward trajectory. Interestingly, Dr. Frank has several background characteristics similar to Dr. Hitt. Both are psychologists and served as provosts at state public universities before becoming presidents. Dr Hitt was a successful college football player and Dr. Frank was an All-American swimmer. Dr. Frank also was a Dean at the University of Florida and is familiar with the state system. One difference is Dr. Hitt went from being a provost to the presidency of UCF and Dr. Frank took a presidency for five years at a major research university that has not renewed a president’s contract in decades.

I first met President Frank while he was a professor at the University of Missouri (where I was Provost). He had become nationally renowned for his efforts to build the field of Health and Rehabilitation Psychology. He next was recruited to become Dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida where he established undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs. That College’s Department of Clinical and Health Psychology is a national model. I was invited to lead a team of experts to evaluate it and we were extremely impressed with how much Dr. Frank had accomplished in a short time. Not only did he build a top academic and research College but he also increased its annual giving by over 100%. In the last campaign he led, the College raised over 600% of its goal. A generous donor, recognizing this outstanding leadership, endowed the Robert G. Frank professorship supporting the deanship in the College.

Next, Dr. Frank became Senior Vice President and Provost at Kent State University which has several campuses and over 38,000 students. I have consulted to this University on a number of occasions and I was struck by the innovations Dr. Frank stimulated in Academic Affairs. It is especially notable that he was lauded by every Dean on campus as an exciting, caring leader who instilled enthusiasm throughout the institution. Deans could not say enough about the accomplishments that had occurred under the leadership of Dr. Frank. They especially
appreciated his availability and willingness to listen to their ideas and support changes they were eager to make. These praises were impressive at a time when there was much fiscal constraint throughout academia.

By any standard, Dr. Frank is an innovator and academic leader. As you know, the job of being President of a major university is a challenging and difficult undertaking. In his recent presidency, Dr. Frank balanced numerous initiatives. He has long been committed to improving K-12 education. In order to make a difference in New Mexico, he led the redesign of the College of Education with the long-range goal of better preparing local students to attend university. Within the university, he emphasized student success and the payoff has been that UNM now is 4% above its predictive models in terms of student outcomes. At the same time, he implemented an RCM budget process including new platforms with enhanced data accessibility to all levels of the university. He also developed a strategic plan with specific metrics and feedback linkages. This plan led to improved third semester retention rates as well as improved faculty recruitment and retention. Importantly, in a state enduring serious budget problems, he prioritized faculty salaries resulting in raises in each of the last two years of his presidency. In addition, with a somewhat sparse development staff, he had the best fund raising year in UNM history.

Dr. Frank also started a partnership with the city of Albuquerque that has been very successful. In collaboration with the Mayor, he raised $7.5 million in a single year to start Innovate ABQ, a research district to be located about a mile from the university. Its focus is entrepreneurial education, including the development of university entrepreneurism combined with private start-ups and spin-offs from Sandia Labs and the Air Force Research Lab. This effort led to a serendipitous outcome for Albuquerque. The University and the city have been successful in winning a Living Cities grant (Living Cities includes major grantors like the Gates, Kellogg and Carnegie Foundations) that focuses on social entrepreneurship and lifting people out of poverty.

I believe the accomplishments I have noted make Dr. Frank a superb candidate for UCF. However, there are more subtle qualities that greatly enhance his preparation for this presidency. He is an accomplished scholar with well over 100 publications in scholarly journals. He is thoroughly familiar with research funding at the National Institutes having been principal investigator on more than $1.4 million and co-principal investigator on an additional $4.4 million. He also served a year as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, DC in the office of Senator Jeff Bingham. Thus, he is thoroughly familiar with research and health care funding at the national level. Added to these important experiences is the fact that Dr. Frank was a college athlete and both of his sons were college basketball players. There is no doubt that he understands and appreciates the challenges of big time college athletics. He would be particularly adept in continuing UCF’s progress to be among NCAA elite programs.

As you can see, I believe Dr. Frank is superbly prepared for the next step in his administrative life. I would be amazed if the search committee did not find him a charismatic, stimulating and thoroughly prepared President. Should you agree with my presentation, I would hope you would contact him to further determine if his qualifications make him an ideal individual to succeed President Hitt.

Dr. Frank can be reached at rgfrank25@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Edward P. Sheridan