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UWF President: Many Triumphs, but Much Work Ahead

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University of West Florida President Martha Saunders delivered the annual State of the University address, detailing the University’s accomplishments during the just-past school year, and the goals for the current one.

The UWF Singers helped kick off the ceremony at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, followed by a number of speakers recognizing faculty members and their accomplishments in the 2018-19 term.

“Well, good morning,” Saunders greeted the audience at the podium. She spent the first part of her 14-minute address outlining the successes from the previous term, aboard what she called the “Good Ship Argo.”

“Like Jason and our namesakes, the Argonauts, we have found our golden fleece,” said Saunders. “Top ranking in the U.S. News and World Report; our 101st [Gulf South] conference championship, and for three years in a row we have welcomed a class of National Merit finalists.”

Then she transitioned from the past, to the present – to 2019-2020.

“Our long-awaited Lab Sciences Annex was opened this week for research and learning,” Saunders said. “Our downtown [Pensacola] presence has been enhanced with our Center for Cyber Security, five new programs and seven programs either received continued, or new, professional accreditation.”

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UWF President Martha Saunders delivers the 2019 State of the University Address.

Other achievements included UWF being named a good place to work by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a score of 94 out of 100 on a performance-based funding metric. But there is sulfur to go with the molasses. Saunders told the gathering there are challenges ahead for the crew of the Argo – and they are big.

“They range from insufficient staff in some critical departments; to a space crunch, to new restrictions on budgets,” said Saunders. “To needed expansion in housing and health services, to critical deferred maintenance needs.

“And an absolute mandate, to raise the rate of students graduating in four years.”

The president – in placing some historical perspective on UWF’s future – cited two figures: Ferdinand Magellan, who set out to circumnavigate the globe, and President John F. Kennedy, who called for a man on the moon.

“Magellan pursued a crazy idea; Kennedy pursued a crazy idea,” Saunders said. “And if you had told us four years ago that UWF could score a 94 on the metrics, we would have said it was….”

“A crazy idea,” responded the audience.

“But we did it,” said Saunders.

And now, Saunders wants to pursue three other “crazy ideas,” starting with the Argonaut football program.

“Coach [Pete] Shinnick and [Athletics Director] Dave Scott; let’s win all the games; Howard Reddy – let’s raise enough money to scholarship every student at the University of West Florida,” said the President. “And Provost Ellen Berg, let’s raise that graduation rate to 100 percent.”

The university also unveiled a new, 30-second promo, with the theme, “No Limits.” Afterward, UWF President Martha Saunders closed out the address with a benediction of sorts.

“Thank you all for coming today; you all know how much I appreciate you,” said Saunders. “You are still on the clock; enjoy the camaraderie and let’s all get back to work.”