Interviewee: Joan Ruffier
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: June 4, 2002
P: This is Julian Pleasants. I'm in Orlando, Florida. It is June 4, 2002, and I'm
talking to Joan Ruffier. Talk a little bit about your early years and your early
schooling. Where did you grow up?
R: I was born in Orlando right here, not very far from where we're sitting. I went to
public school here in Orlando, although my father was in the service during World
War II and was stationed in Chicago briefly, where I started the first grade. But
then [I] came back here, went all through the public schools here, graduated from
Edgewater High School. My parents back then, thought all young southern girls
ought not to go to a coeducational institution, certainly not to any of those liberal
eastern establishments, so my choice of college was restricted pretty much to the
usual players in Virginia, North Carolina, etc. Because I really wanted some
exposure to the coeducational scene, which makes me sound different than I am,
but [I] ended up at Sophie Newcomb [Memorial College, Louisiana] because at
least it was across the street from Tulane University and it looked a little more
interesting than Sweet Briar, Hollins and some of those. I liked it, I liked New
Orleans, but I found I really missed Florida, so after a year I transferred to the
University of Florida and then two and a half years later graduated.
P: Who had a strong influence on your early academic career? Some teachers,
R: You mean at the university or earlier?
P: Earlier or at the university.
R: I guess growing up, young women then didn't feel they had very many options
and I remember I was kind of the shy, studious-type growing up. Kids can pretty
much pigeonhole other kids and I was the brain, which I never felt myself to be,
but that was the pigeonhole I was in. I remember in the seventh, eight, ninth
grade, in there somewhere, a civics teacher had us all write about a career and
back then women could either be secretaries, nurses, or teachers. So, I wrote
about secretaryship as a career field because at least that was out in the exciting
world of business. He called me and he said, you know Joan, you can do much
more than that and you shouldn't limit your aspirations and so forth, and he
ended up even encouraging me to run for president of the student council. So I
did, lost by seven votes and I later thought, gosh, if four people had changed
their vote, I would've won by one. But that kind of catapulted me into at least
having more self-esteem about doing some things that maybe I had never felt I
wanted to risk doing before, getting out of my comfort zone.
P: What about the university? What faculty had influence on you?
R: I often mention Bob Bryan [professor of English and president of University of
Florida] only because I liked him so much then as a teacher. He has since
become a very good friend. I'm sure there were others. Gordon Bigelow was my
English advisor, I was an English major back then, and he was very encouraging.
In fact, just before I graduated I became engaged and knew I was going to be
married the following spring and I remember one of the greatest angst I had was
when he called, [he] said, I had qualified for a fellowship to go anywhere I wanted
to go in the country to get a master's degree and I had to turn it down because I
was getting married, which I wanted to do. That was every young woman's
aspiration at that time. My father was on the Board of Control around that time
and I remember one of the gifts, I don't know what else they called it then, that
the members of the Board of Control were given, was a book about Marjorie
Kinnan Rawlings [written by Gordon Bigelow], maybe the book was even called
Cross Creek, I can't remember, and then some sketches [in the book] were done
by another man Bob Carson, do you remember him?
R: [He] played the violin. He had done the sketches for the book. Both of them had
been teachers of mine that I was very fond of. So, I have those in my home now,
in fact I have Bob's sketches going up and down the stairway. He was another
one, he was one who, I think, brought out a creative side in me that I didn't know
existed. The most amazing thing about him, I remember, was [his] going around
the room and [knowing] everybody's name the first day of class and we just really
connected. He encouraged me to try new things, even to try to draw which I
never thought I had much talent at, but I certainly tried for him. But I played the
piano, still do, but played back in those days and I remember him coming to
dinner at the sorority house one night. He played his violin and I accompanied
him on the piano and we just had the best time reading through this music
together, and I had such a good time I forgot to go to my Shakespeare class that
night and was taken to task for that, but anyway. Those were all good memories.
P: Do you regret not taking that opportunity to do graduate work?
R: I probably would make a different decision today or maybe defer marriage, but
back then I think many of us thought, if you don't find your man in college, where
are you going to find him because I wasn't sure what I was going to do next. I
don't know, I've never been one who looked back and wanted to change things
particularly. There have been different times in my life when I thought I was
disappointed about something and then it turned out to be the best thing that
ever happened to me. At that point, I obviously would have gone on in my major
field of study which was English and ended up maybe teaching somewhere.
[Later] in life, and I'm sure we'll get to that, I determined to try to develop some
other parts of [myself], I probably never would've gotten into the business
[education] that I think gave me some other opportunities [had I accepted that
P: Although you majored in English, you ended up being a CPA.
R: Yes, and I still think of myself as a liberal arts advocate because I loved that.
When I was in school, my father thought I should learn a trade. He kept saying,
Joan, what are you going to do? You need to learn a trade while you're there.
And I said, Daddy, I'm here to become a Renaissance scholar. So I took
everything I possibly could. I took a lot of art history and music which I loved and
philosophy and political science and history and even a little higher math, just
P: Looking back on it now, what's the great advantage of a liberal arts education?
R: I think it's absolutely indispensable, particularly in our society today. We've
become so specialized in everything. I have two sons who are lawyers, and a
son-in-law, and they're all in very specialized areas of the law. People say oh,
you've got a lawyer, I say no I don't because I don't need medical malpractice
defense, I don't need a bankruptcy attorney. They're all in a very narrow field. I
think we need somebody who has the vision to see the totality of things, how
things come together, how to live together harmoniously when there are so many
differences. How do we find the commonalities that unite us as human beings? I
think it takes the liberal arts to really make us aware of the great diversity that
exists and yet, the commonalities that undergird our very being. I'm not saying
that very well, but of course we know how important it is for communication and
for all of that.
P: One of the things that we mentioned before we were on tape, the University of
Florida has this tracking system which puts you on track to graduate on time.
The downside of that is, you do not have the opportunity to take these extra
courses in art and music and Shakespeare. So, if you're an engineering major,
you go straight through. Is that one of the drawbacks of the tracking system?
R: I think it's important to have a tracking system and I think when I was in school,
at least we had advisors that we saw regularly who kept one on track. Maybe
everybody doesn't have an advisor anymore, at least all the way through. I felt I
was on track and if I took the right numbers of courses for my major, which may
not have been as demanding as an engineering major, but I also had time to
minor in art history. So, it's my understanding that even today when one is on a
professional track, there are still some opportunities to digress into other areas
and at least experiment with other courses.
P: To some degree, but again, if you get too far off track the advisor will call you in
and say, well you haven't taken this required course or you need this to graduate.
R: Can't one still take extra courses? You don't have to take fifteen hours a
semester. One semester I took twenty-two just because I wanted to get it all in.
P: Let me ask you a little bit about your father. You mentioned your father and I
thought it was very interesting he was on the Board of Control and you later were
on the Board of Regents. What do you recall about his time on the Board of
R: Other than the goodies he brought home? Probably at the time not very much,
but later maybe reading his interview that Sam Proctor did with him, I believe that
might have been the time when some of the newer universities were coming into
being and he was a strong proponent for a university in Orlando. I did not know
until then that he really thought it should be a subsidiary of the University of
Florida. Florida wasn't interested, so it ultimately became, I guess, Florida
Technological University, and then UCF [University of Central Florida]. He was
actually its first president, did you know that?
R: In name only, but they had to have a president when they designated this
university so in the absence of anybody else, they said you'll be the president
until we get Charlie Millican, or whomever it was who came in.
P: How different was the Board of Control from the Board of Regents? Obviously,
the system has greatly expanded, but in terms of it's function?
R: To be honest, I'm not sure, and I think I did read about some differences at one
time, but I'm not as aware of them as I should be.
P: Was he on the Board of Control when the Johns Committee [Investigative
committee of the Florida senate led by Charley Johns. Committee investigated
"subversive" activities in Florida, focusing primarily on homosexual communities
and civil rights leaders] was going on?
P: Do you know what his view of that was?
R: Oh, very negative I am sure. He would not have approved of the tactics of the
Johns Committee. It was my understanding that it was the Board of Regents
[that] came into being after the Johns Committee, is that not right?
P: That's correct. Talk a little bit about his early career, because I know he started
as a lawyer and then ended up as head of SunBank. How did he make that
R: He worked very hard as a lawyer and in fact, [during] summers I would work in
his law firm as the receptionist, so I saw first hand the clients that came through
the door. One of my longstanding memories is of him coming home every night
with that brown briefcase packed full of work because he couldn't get it all done
during the day and he would bring it home and work until it was time to go to bed
at night. But he had all the big clients in town. He had the Martin [Marietta]
company when it came, the newspaper, the railroad, all the big citrus families
and so forth. [He] also was county attorney and attorney for the bank. In fact,
[he] wrote the banking legislation for the State of Florida back then. It was my
freshman year at Sophie Newcomb that he made the decision to join the bank.
Prior to that, Martin Anderson [publisher, The Orlando Sentinel, 1931-1966] had
asked him if he would come be publisher of the newspaper and he didn't want to
work for Martin Anderson, although he was a close personal friend, but I think he
knew that he just was ready to get out of the practice of law.
And I can understand that because years later when I was ready to get out of the
practice of accounting, [I remember that] daddy was always one of these who
said, you finish what you start, you stick with things. So I was very reluctant to
tell him [but] he said, honey, that's the way I felt when I left the practice of law, I
was just ready for something else. The man who was the heir apparent, Herman
Langford was his name, was the executive vice president of the bank under
Linton Allen, who was then the president, [and he] was killed in a tragic hunting
accident. They needed somebody to step into that number-two slot, and so
daddy was right across the street and was the logical choice. I remember being
shocked when I saw he was leaving because I thought of him as a lawyer and at
the time, it was what I wanted to be. I was maybe disappointed, thrilled, but he
loved it. It was a new challenge for him and of course he understood banking
having been the bank's attorney and written banking laws and so forth.
P: That's a pretty unusual transition isn't it.
R: Well, yet one of his law partners, Don Senterfitt [Partner in Akerman, Senterfitt,
and Edison law firm in Orlando, FL] did the same thing. Came over [as
president] and was [later] the first president of the ABA [American Bar
P: What about his influence on the expansion of the city? For example, I think he
had something to do with Martin Anderson and the turnpike and 1-4 coming
R: Daddy was on the State Road Board at the time they were figuring out where
those roads would come. He knew they were going to run 1-4 some place else
and they didn't want it so he said, well, we'd like it through downtown Orlando. I
remember there were a lot of people who didn't and it's probably the same
people today who feel there's too much growth rather than too little.
P: When they're on 1-4 in the morning.
R: Exactly, I'm one of them. But I remember he had a hearing downtown that lasted
into the wee hours where everybody came and had their say, but he did it and I
think later it was attributed as being a major reason that Walt Disney chose to
bring Walt Disney World here.
P: It completely changed not only this community, but this state in a real sense,
R: Right, it did. I'm proud of daddy and I don't mind saying so, and after he died,
one of the local papers had a thing where they said he was the business man of
the century. It was a retrospective look at the last 100 years, I guess it was
about the year 2000, 2001, and those are the reasons they gave, because of his
foresight in some of those things that he and Martin Anderson had a lot to do
P: And he had a lot to do with Martin Marietta [producer of construction aggregates]
coming here as well.
R: Yes, he did.
P: Talk about the whole business of getting Disney here, which is an extraordinary
R: Daddy learned he could keep a secret at least. I guess, as the story goes, Walt
Disney was in the area and he looked down and he saw the confluence of 1-4
and the turnpike and everything and he said, that's the land I want, that's perfect.
Somebody had to go buy up the land, so they came to daddy and asked if he
would very quietly facilitate those transactions and he did and [there were] many
questions about what was going on, [but] he never told. I guess he convinced
Martin Anderson to keep the paper quiet because they had to have their
cooperation too, and they did.
P: So, he knew all along that it was going to be Disney and it was going to be a
R: [Yes], right.
P: What do you think of the Reedy Creek District [Reedy Creek Improvement
District, a public corporation of the state of Florida created in 1967. This allows
the Disney Corporation to exercise powers normally reserved for governments
such as taxing zoning authorities, over the land that constitutes Walt Disney
World] It's almost like Disney is a separate municipality-
R: And it really is in almost every respect. They have their own security, their own
water system, sewer system, they make all the decisions about all that land that
they own, and they've come under a lot of criticism for that. Daddy was on the
Reedy Creek board until he died. It was a very small group, five or six people,
but good people. I think they felt they had to have that to make it work. I'm not
sure now, in retrospect, that's necessarily so.
P: What has been the impact of Disney on Orlando and Florida?
R: It's almost, in my view, overwhelmed Orlando. Obviously, Orlando would not be
the place it is today without Disney. The growth has been phenomenal. It
spawned additional theme parks and hotels and motels and the convention
center and everything that goes along with bringing people in. The downside is,
one we're seeing right now, the problems with our aquifer. We have so little
rainfall right now and if you drive out in those areas, particularly near Disney,
Kissimmee and around, it's just paved over now with housing developments that
go on for miles and miles. It's frightening almost, and you think where are these
people and who are these people? We have a lake place that my father bought
when I was twelve, that's on the Butler Chain of Lakes out that way, used to be
the country, it would take us forty-five minutes to get there, now it's like a city all
the way there. I think daddy knew things would change, [but] I think even he
would be surprised if he saw some of the [changes]. And we were warned at the
time to prepare. Orange County, California said you can't believe what's going to
happen to you, no matter what you do, you won't be ready. We weren't, and I
think our growth management is lagging behind some of the challenges that
Disney has presented us with.
P: This urban sprawl and particularly the environmental issues and the underwater
aquifer and all of that, those are critical issues.
R: And we haven't even mentioned the social issues and the economic issues. All
the people who are here to support [the theme parks]. The hourly wage people
who don't make enough to support themselves and who don't have medical
insurance and put great demands on our health care system and schools, and
really don't carry their weight in terms of the economic benefit they are
contributing. It was bad ten years ago and it's more so today.
P: Some of the critics of Disney say they are exploiting those workers.
R: Exploit might be a strong term, but the economics of what makes a theme park
work are not the same economics that make a community necessarily work and
somehow, we've got to figure out a way to deal with that. It's part of the reason
for my current interest in access to health care because I think that's one of the
greatest problems we're seeing, not just here in our community, but throughout
the state, probably throughout the country. But there are a lot of people who are
crowding our emergency rooms now. If you or I need to go to the emergency
room right now, it would be at least a three-and-a-half hour wait before we'd see
anybody. That's just the way it is. I don't care who you know or how you think
you ought to be able to get in, it's just not going to happen. Part of it is because
of the lack of primary health care for some people who are using the emergency
rooms for the wrong reasons.
P: Plus, as an organization, as a corporate entity, Disney is extraordinarily powerful,
not only in Orange County, but across the state.
R: It really is. Of course they have a wonderful lobbying mechanism, and Disney's
not all bad. I don't want to sound like I think that. I think they need to contribute
more to the community than they have. For years, the only contribution they
would make to many things in the community was through what they would call
the community service awards I served as their chairman one year, and on the
committee during their ten year anniversary. What seemed like a lot of money
then, maybe $200,000, $300,000, is nothing in the scheme of things, but they
would get a lot of publicity because all these organizations would have to submit
applications and there was a group that judged them and a big lunch that they
were all invited to when they got their plaque and their money or whatever. But
[Disney] got a lot of bang for their buck and while they've made exceptions to that
and done a few [other] things, they haven't done anything in proportion to what
they are able to do. I wish they would begin to do more.
P: I thought it was interesting that your father was chairman of the Florida
Foundation Board and that you ended up with the same job.
R: I forgot about that, Yes.
P: He was on the Board of Control at the time, you were on the Board of Regents.
R: They haven't made me president of the bank yet.
P: Okay, well maybe that's next. Talk a little bit about how you got on the Board of
Regents and why you accepted the position.
R: Initially I didn't. I was working as a CPA then for Colley, Trumbower, and Howell
[Orlando accounting firm] down here. Bob Graham was governor and he,
through Robin Gibson who was then chair of the board, [asked me to serve].
Bob took very seriously these] appointments. Charlie Reed who was his chief of
staff then said, he [Graham] considered his appointments to the Board of
Regents on a par with his appointments to the Supreme Court, that [both were]
so important for our state. Robin would interview potential candidates to make
sure they were up to snuff and we had a great interview and I really was
interested and all. But my firm couldn't see that there was any great benefit to
them for my doing that because obviously it would be time away and even
though I would make it up because as you probably know, accounting firms are a
lot like law firms in terms of getting those hours in every week, they just were
discouraging, so I turned it down. Then they called back and said, the governor
really wants you to do it, would you please reconsider. So, [my firm] changed
their minds and I did.
P: This would have been 1985?
P: So you took Betty Anne Staton's place?
R: She had served a nine year term and they had just changed them to six year
P: When you got on the board in 1985, what were the most significant issues you
had to face in the beginning of your term?
R: I think the one about which I was made most aware, probably because I was
from Orlando, and even though Robin [Gibson] had impressed upon me, and I
concurred with him, the importance of not just being an advocate for a single
university, but really being an advocate for the system and understanding each
university for the things that made it special and so forth. But Trevor Colbourn,
who was then the president of UCF, was very stressed about what he perceived
as a lack of equity funding among the universities, and since I was the first CPA
to ever come on the Board of Regents, it was made obvious to me, particularly
by Terrell Sessums [Speaker of Florida House of Representatives, 1972-1974;
Florida state representative, 1963-1974] from Tampa, who was experiencing
pretty much the same kind of pressure from USF [University of South Florida],
that we needed to do something about the [equitable] funding issue. So there
The other thing I think was, and particularly as I became chair, was the perceived
lack of quality in our universities as compared with the [Universities of] Michigan,
Wisconsin, California, North Carolina, etc., and a feeling that we were better than
people said we were, but how do we get that word out and how do we become
better in the face of continued funding shortfalls. Ultimately, I think I was most
concerned about the quality issue. We had been described [in] a poll that was
done by George Mason University at the time, they polled different university
presidents or whomever, and said, what do you consider to be the ten best
systems in the country. [As] one of those ten best systems in their view, which
pointed out that we weren't as bad as some people thought we were, but we
thought as the fourth largest state in the union we ought to at least be among the
top five. So we determined to try to do better and the only way we could see to
do that was to have a master plan that really focused on the centers of
excellence at each university and tried to allocate state funds as well as we could
to those centers of excellence. Whether it was the jazz program at the University
of North Florida or marine biology at FAU [Florida Atlantic University] or solar
energy at UCF, every university, no matter how small, had something that could
give them some standing among their peers in the country. As a system, we
could be good even if every university couldn't be the best. At the same time,
certain universities could be among the top like the University of Florida and FSU
[Florida State University].
P: What do you think about the time that the Board of Regents categorized FSU,
Florida, and South Florida as the flagship research universities and then they
categorized some at the bottom as undergraduate institutions? Was that a good
R: Are you talking about Adam Herbert's [former chancellor, Florida University
System; member, Florida Board of Regents] most recent categorization?
R: I don't think it was a bad idea because it didn't mean that just because you were
in a single category you couldn't aspire to another one, but I learned as I traveled
around. In fact, when I found out I was going to be chairman, I spent the summer
traveling around all the universities in the state because I wanted to see what
they felt about themselves and what they were looking for so that we could come
to some consensus on what it was we wanted to be and how we could
communicate that. Every university wants a law school, a medical school, they
all want everything and as a state we can't afford it. I think it's what we're seeing
now without a Board of Regents or a central board of governors and you
probably know where I stand on that. We don't have anybody except the
legislature deciding what programs ought to be where and the decision is made
based upon who's got the most legislative clout, Tom Feeney [Florida state
representative, 1990-1994, 1996-present; speaker of Florida House of
Representatives, 2001-present], [whom] you're going to be interviewing, is a
good case in point. John Thrasher is [Florida state representative, 1993-2001;
speaker of Florida House of Representatives, 1999-2000] another. We're under-
funding the things that we have that are good so that we can put yet more out
there to be mediocre, and I don't think that's the way to build a great university
P: In particular, the medical school at FSU and the two new law schools?
R: Exactly. Well, the medical school at FSU has yet to be accredited, probably will
be, but I'm on the Shands board, [and] I am acutely aware of the fact [that] they
[are] under-funding graduate medical education.
P: So it's a duplication of services at least in terms of the needs of the state.
R: It's not the best way to solve the problem. If we need more doctors, we can do
that through more residencies. There are other ways to tackle the problem other
than by replicating another whole medical school which is expensive, even
though they're doing it in a very cost efficient way, I guess.
P: But in some sense, this changes the equity system because now Central Florida,
because Daniel Webster and Tom Feeney, who've been Speaker of the House
have been funneling money to Central Florida so now the older university like UF
is getting less money and the urban universities are getting more. In some
sense, it's a redress of perhaps past injustice, but if it goes that way for a long
period of time, it could be harmful to UF, FSU, and USF.
R: I think we're looking at the future because particularly, for the University of
Florida and I don't just mean to be speaking for Florida, although I'm very partial
to it I suppose, but Alachua County is never going to have the legislative clout of
a Dade County or an Orange, Seminole County or Leon County. It's just not
going to happen. And IFAS [Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at
University of Florida] is seeing it particularly. There's nobody that's an advocate
for IFAS anymore and they've lost, I believe E.T. York [Chancellor, Florida state
university system, 1975-1980; Interim president, University of Florida, 1973-
1974] figured it, something like $8 million in the last two legislative appropriations.
Yet, whether people realize it or not, IFAS is important to the state. They are in
all sixty-seven counties, it's not just agriculture, but they're doing things that are
important for our ecosystem. They're developing pesticides [with] bugs eating
bugs rather than chemical solution to problems, and looking at the aquifer and
those problems. They don't really have a strong advocate in the legislature and I
don't see that happening.
P: What's the solution to bring the University of Florida system into the top echelon
in the country? Everybody talks about funding, and that's a critical factor.
Because we have no income tax, we can never quite get to that point. What
would be your suggestion as to how to take care of the funding issue?
R: First of all, I think there needs to be more funding. The year [after] I became
chair of the Board of Regents, Bob Martinez [Florida governor, 1987-1991] was
elected governor and [we thought] the sales tax on services was coming down
the pipe. That was part of our solution for addressing the equity problem, and we
did come up with a funding formula that was going to more equitably distribute
the money to the newer universities while holding harmless the older universities,
and having a rational way of allocating funds to the universities. I still think that
was a good idea. But we've got to come up with a new funding source. It's not
just the universities, but K through 12, even the community colleges are critically
under-funded and I think the people in Florida are saying, right now we'd pay
more taxes if we knew that the schools would be better. The lottery was a joke of
course, that didn't do it, but I think that the answer is to be maybe more direct as
to the kind of governance system, and I'm not just advocating the Bob Graham
point of view, but we've got to have somebody besides the legislature. We need
a citizen board of people who care to equitably allocate scarce state resources to
centers of excellence. Not just put something someplace because it's in
somebody's hometown district and they need [to] bring home the pork. [The]
Alzheimer's Research Center, maybe it ought to be at USF, but maybe it ought to
be at the new center at the University of Florida.
P: The Brain Institute.
R: Yes, exactly.
P: So the problem is, to some degree, that the legislators micro-manage and play
politics with a system that ought to be run by, if not academics, at least an
advisory group that's concerned with the state, not individuals.
P: But isn't that how politics has always worked?
R: But we've never had our universities constitutionally protected and I think that is
the critical difference now. They've always been creatures of statute, of the
legislature, so if the legislature didn't like them, they could do away with them
which they did. For the very reasons we're talking about, because John
Thrasher wanted a medical school at FSU and the Regents said no. But my
understanding of what this constitutional protection would mean is that it would
be this governing board along with multiple boards of trustees that would
determine programs for the universities; that they obviously are never going to be
able to appropriate the money, but they would determine and be responsible and
accountable for where the money that is appropriated went. The legislature will
always try to intervene, but if there's constitutional protection for that board,
they're not going to go away.
P: What about John McKay's new tax reform? One of the things he was trying to do
was eliminate some of these sales tax exemptions.
R: He's right on.
P: But politically, that's not going to fly.
R: Well, they studied it again, but you know where those things go.
P: Another one of these study commissions.
R: Exactly. I hate to think we're going to have to reach a point where everybody just
says enough, we've got to do it. I don't know how bad it has to be.
P: One of the things I'm sure you're aware of, and I'm acutely aware of, is in the
history department in the past two years we've lost two of our very best people to
other universities with more prestige and more money. It's not always just the
money, but if there's salary equity around the country, we will do better keeping
our top people.
R: No question.
P: And we've lost a lot of people, senior professors who are at the top of their fields,
and sometimes to universities like Kentucky, Colorado-
R: That we don't even think of as being our peers.
P: We lost one to Chapel Hill, we lost one to Yale, and you think okay, that's
understandable, but to lose to Kentucky and to Colorado seems to be something
that could be corrected.
R: It ought to be. One of the things, back in my Board of Regents days, that we felt
was of primary importance was faculty salaries because good faculty draw good
students. We also have to have support for good graduate students and I think
we were under the scale there too, but that's what does it, and when we lose
good people, our standing goes down. I'm aware of that too. I know I can think
of two deans right now that left because- and one said to me it's because I can't
stand the instability in the system, I don't know what's going to happen next year.
P: That also hurts in recruiting.
R: Of course.
P: One of the issues that you talked about, I know you are interested in, particularly
when you became chair of the board, is that you had talked a lot about quality
versus access. Obviously, there are a huge number of students in this state we
would like to provide higher education for, but if you dilute it too much...
R: You've watered the soup, that's right.
P: The system does not produce quality graduates. How do you balance those
R: What I tried to do, and the Board of Regents supported me, was use that as
leverage with the legislature. Say we won't take more students and dilute our
quality, we're going to keep our quality up. So, if you want us to take more
students you will fund enrollment growth because they weren't going to do it.
P: Was that effective?
R: It was effective. We got more money than we asked for. This was one of those
times when the legislature, [which] does this regularly, [said,] everybody take a
five percent cut and show us what you'd do if you did that. We said we can't do
that, we're not going to do it without [funding for] enrollment growth. So they
ended up giving us more.
P: I know John Lombardi [president, University of Florida, 1990-1999] took
advantage of that. He saw the only way you can really get enough money to
increase the quality of the university is to get more students admitted. The down
side to that is at the University of Florida we have, I don't know what the current
number is, around 48,000 students. Some people argue that that's just too many
students to adequately educate.
R: It is. I think it is.
P: My problem is that in every university, with adjuncts, graduate students teaching
classes, and classes with 300 students, it becomes a sort of mass education and
therefore, for all of us who are in education, it dilutes the quality of that education.
R: No question.
P: What's the answer to that problem?
R: I think there [are] some classes, and you probably agree with this, some types of
classes where 300 students is not too many. It's not necessarily calculus, but I
remember taking some classes in the humanities [where a large class] made a
lot of sense. [We had a] wonderful lecturer, and [we] were all sitting there, [en
masse] and [then we had] the small followup group with an adjunct or somebody
which was fine, but [we] were inspired by the big name. It comes down again to,
I think we have to limit access [at the university level] and provide it other places.
I know the Florida Board of Education or whatever they call themselves now, is
experimenting with four-year degrees by community colleges. I have mixed
feelings about that. I think it confuses our system. I always thought our two plus
two made a lot of sense, you're using the twenty-eight community colleges as
access and then providing a strong quality upper division and beyond education
for those who chose to go on.
P: With that change, then you'll have forty state universities or whatever it is.
R: Yes, and I don't think we can do that.
P: Part of the problem, and I know you know this better than I do, but when Florida
International started, they were a third year/fourth year institution and as soon as
they were established they said, well no, we also need an undergraduate
program. Then, they had to have graduate programs and as you indicated
earlier, now everybody wants a law school.
R: Exactly. And you remember the Southeast Florida Plan where we were going to
just let everybody, including the University of Miami, kind of be part of the
solution in southeast Florida. And that wasn't bad, [but] everybody wanted their
own university in their own community, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach, and they
didn't want to share with FAU, but they did and they all had a presence and we
thought it was working fairly well. I think we've got to be more creative about the
solutions when we talk about access. I think access is important, but I think we
make a mistake in thinking everybody ought to have a four-year degree in a
college. We have so many people, some of whom I described earlier, who would
do much better in the kind of trade that my father was talking about although he
wasn't talking about plumbing and electrical work with me, but we tend to think
everybody has to go to college. This may be the wrong view, but it's my view, I
think we need some good tradespeople.
P: Expand technical schools?
P: What about having each university set their own tuition and have more say on
the money that comes in and how that money's spent? That was initially, as I
recall, the idea when they were changing to the Board of Education.
R: Well, it's what the universities wanted, it's what the legislature [has] never been
willing to entirely give up. I've always thought differential tuition was something
we ought to have and we tried to get it way back then. The only problem right
now I think, is probably with the prepaid tuition plan because if universities go up
too much, I understand from Stan Tate, that it could throw the whole money
growth thing out of kilter.
P: Sort of like the Bright Futures.
R: Same deal.
P: It's a very nice idea, but as the cost of tuition goes up, the cost to the state goes
up. How do you feel about Bright Futures Scholarships?
R: I think too much of it has been helping the wrong kids; much as has been pointed
P: It ought to be need based?
R: Yes, I think so, a little bit..
P: Did we need Gulf Coast University?
R: [Southwest Florida] thought [they] did. Tommy, whatever his name was, came to
every single Board of Regents meeting we ever had and he was the nicest man,
but he'd sit in the front row and he was there simply to make [his] case. Of
course, there's been a lot of growth in southwest Florida and yes, I think we
probably did [need another university] as I think about it. I think we did. USF
was stretched beyond it's ability. They had campuses going all the way down the
coast and in all the way to Lakeland, yes, I think they did.
P: You also see now, particularly with the legislators who have influence, you see
the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, that's becoming almost a separate
institution, and then New College.
R: Which was bizarre.
P: New College was as small experimental private school, now is one of the state
R: Yes. Julian, correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought a university was a
collection of colleges. I didn't think a single college made a university, do you?
R: And it's very expensive. I think a year there is something like $16,000. It just
throws the whole system out of kilter.
P: Just think what it cost the state to start a new medical school, a new law school.
If they're going to make New College a university, the cost of that, the library, the
buildings, the staff, it's huge.
R: I know. That's why before I was against the proliferation of branch campuses
because we forget that a branch campus has to have a library, [administrative
facilities, etc.]- it's another whole infrastructure.
P: What about this relationship now, there are some of Santa Fe students who are
coming over to the University of Florida and taking courses. Does that sound like
a fairly good relationship? Should that be encouraged?
R: It seems to be a relationship that's worked. You mean as freshman,
R: And they're permitted to do that?
R: I was unaware of that. I thought if one was enrolled at Santa Fe Community
College that's where you had to be.
P: I'm not sure how it works, but there are some courses you can take at UF that
you can't at Santa Fe.
R: You can go to the University of Florida and take them?
P: Yes, and get credit. You're not admitted to the university.
R: But you're still taking up a space in the class.
P: Right. So one wonders whether that's efficient or not.
R: Are they paying the university rate?
P: I think they pay Santa Fe tuition. I'm not sure about that, I hesitate to make any
specific statement. One of the areas, and John Lombardi talked about this, that
people don't think about is that the State of Florida provides through PECO
[Public Education Capital Outlay] huge sums of money for buildings and for
maintenance so that universities don't have to float bonds. That's a huge source
of income for the universities. Other states, if you want to build a new building,
you have to float a bond. Sometimes when we say the state doesn't always
provide enough funding, in many ways, at least in the physical structure of these
campuses, the state does a pretty good job, does it not?
R: I guess I'd have to disagree with John on that. I think PECO is a good source of
funding, but it's never been enough and I can't imagine it's anything, but worse
now. The PECO list was never even close to catching up with [the universities'
needs]. Things like asbestos problems, deferred maintenance, [etc.] it had to [be
priorities]. [We had to solve] the friable problems to make some buildings even
inhabitable. [And], we've never been able to catch up. Twice at least, because I
served on both of those committees, we tried to expand the gross receipts tax to
include some things that never were included in it, water, sewer, and so forth to
expand the base of PECO so we had more money to bond for these needs. It
was like the sales tax on services, it was a new tax and [we] never could get it to
P: So that's an area that needs to be improved as well?
R: I think so. It's certainly not sufficient. And now the way that it's allocated is
wrong because this year the University of Florida asked for what, $30 million, and
got $20 [million]? FSU asked for $30 [million] and got whatever, $80 [million],
$70 [million]? Is fixing up the Ringling Circus more important than fixing up
dilapidated buildings and overcrowded [classrooms]?
P: They don't seem to pay much attention to classrooms. That seems to be in
some cases a minor factor in building.
R: I'll tell you who's smart is Mitch [Modesto] Maidique [ President, Florida
International University]. Have you met him, the president of FlU [Florida
International University]? [When I visited FlU] he arranged [it so] that filing
cabinets [were] in the way so that everything looked so overcrowded and
dilapidated that I [left] with just this great impression that they needed some help.
And it was so obvious, it was great.
P: What about the matching program when the university gets gifts and the
legislature matches? The legislature used to do that fairly extensively, but in the
past few years, they reduced their commitment.
R: They really have. In fact, when [Charles Young] first came to the university, I
was president of the foundation at the time. We went to Tallahassee to testify
before some of the legislators there about the importance of that program
because, of course we'd love make it a recurring program [so] every year you
[didn't] have to fight for it again. This year we just got a pittance. It's hard,
particularly [for] the University of Florida that just had this $850 million capital
campaign and a lot of matching gifts that just simply aren't being matched. One
that was near and dear to me, I got a good friend of mine to give us $2 million to
redo the Women's Gym for the Women's Center, and it's not matched yet. I
don't even want to look at her.
P: It seems to me to be shortsighted. For example, the idea of matching, if
somebody, I forget how it works, they give you $600,000, the legislature provides
R: Yes, it's a great deal for the state.
P: That would seem to me the logical way to go.
R: I think for a long time there was a feeling among the legislators that the
University of Florida was getting the giant share.
P: Politics again?
R: Exactly. Of course, that no longer is the case and this year they just kind of gave
it where they wanted to.
P: One of the things that John Lombardi came up with was the teaching
improvement program where so-called excellent teachers, originally just for
undergraduate teachers, were given a $5,000 permanent pay raise. What was
your reaction to that?
R: I thought that was wonderful. I think teaching is important and it's something the
legislature can resonate with because they've never understood research, to a
lesser extent maybe public service, but they understand teaching. That's the one
thing they can get, and I think any ruse you can use to improve the base salary of
good professors is a great thing.
[End tape side Al]
R: [Speaking about John Lombardi] You know what a good speaker [he] is, and he
never has a note, but you know he's thought about it. Years ago when I was on
the Federal Reserve Board we were in Atlanta and he was going to be speaking
at the dinner. They always have a dinner the night before the meeting, and John
Lombardi was the speaker. I was very proud of him and all. They have a little
cocktail hour before you go into the dinner and he and I are walking into the
dinner and I said, John, what are you going to talk about. He said, you know, I
don't know. I like to get the feel of the group before I think about what I'm going
to say. I said, you mean you don't know? And of course he got up there and just
P: I've seen him do it over and over again, go in to different groups, student groups,
faculty groups, with absolutely no notes and make a very polished, very eloquent
R: And speaks right to them, right to their point.
P: It's an extraordinary skill that very few people have. While we're on that, would
you evaluate John Lombardi as president of the University of Florida?
R: Well, I thought he was terrific, not because I had a hand in choosing him, but I
always said it was one of the best decisions I made when I was chair of the
Board of Regents, not that I did it by myself, but I think he surprised us all by how
effective he was. For too long, we in Florida had fallen prey to feeling that we
had to take politicians or statesmen or somebody else as presidents of our
universities, and we didn't look at the respected academics around the country.
We felt that what the University of Florida, at that point in its history needed,
[was] an academic, and we made that very clear. Well, John was that in spades
and he understood what made for a good university, as much as Chuck [Charles]
Young [president, University of Florida, 2000-present] does. He came in and he
had a plan and he set about to do it and he stepped on some toes I know, but the
people with the money liked him and so they gave generously, the foundation
liked him, the alumni liked him, the students liked him, and the legislature loved
him. Unfortunately, the Board of Regents didn't. He was his own worst enemy in
P: There's only one category left out of that. Some of the faculty didn't like him.
R: Oh, I know that.
P: Some admired him for what he accomplished, but as you know, John does things
his way and sometimes people thought he was a little bit high-handed, I guess
that would be the right term. But I think everybody recognized the money he
raised and that the quality of the university increased.
R: Well, when you look at where the university was when he came and where it was
when he left, it had taken a giant leap forward, I think, at least in our peers
P: One of the things that you would understand that John [Lombardi] and Betty
Capaldi [professor of psychology, 1988-present, provost, 1996-1999, University
of Florida] came up with, but I don't know that anybody else understands, was
R: I love the bank. I thought the bank was a great idea.
P: Explain to me how it works.
R: I'm not sure I understood how it worked, but it sure seemed to make sense to me
that my understanding of it was that it was tied in with everybody in the university
having to aspire to be on a par with their peer, whoever that might be, and it
would vary depending upon discipline, and if it was the foundation it was
comparing itself to another foundation or whatever. To the extent that you did it
well, you got more money and if you didn't, you didn't. To me this was put your
money where it's doing the most for you.
P: It was totally incentive based.
P: The problem is that sometimes it's hard to make those kind of judgements
because it's hard to categorize excellence in teaching and that sort of thing.
R: I know, and you end up doing it by how many publications did you get in a
refereed journal and all those kinds of things. But there is no perfect system, and
I think for people to at least think they're being held accountable for doing certain
things keeps their mind on the goal and the goal was to be better.
P: As John would say, he got opposition from the people who lost money.
R: That's understandable. And I'm sure there are disciplines that need to be there
that may never be among those most recognized and so forth, and I recognize
that and I'm sure he does too.
P: I think he made some changes because he felt like that some people either didn't
want to or were not pushing ahead fast enough for his ultimate goal so that from
some perspective, it looks a little bit high-handed. Talk about the impact of his
Oreo comment about Adam Herbert [racist remark directed at former chancellor
of University System] Do you think that ultimately cost him his job?
R: If that didn't, it was the penultimate cost of his job because we worked him out of
that one. I talked to Adam and I said, Adam, you know he's not racist and the
comment was regrettable and this is not a good time for him to leave, we're still
in this major capital campaign. So that was fine, but then what was the next
thing he did?
P: Well, the University of Texas and UNC law school deans came and he was rude
to them, but his story is that they came and they were criticizing this bank
system, but they didn't understand it, and he thought it was unfair.
R: Yes. That's not what did him, and that might have contributed too. Adam told
me the thing that finally did it and where he felt he couldn't go back, was John
gave big raises to Betty Capaldi and I don't know who else.
P: Betty Capaldi made $5,000 more than Adam Herbert.
R: That's it, and Lombardi did this without consulting with him and he [Herbert] said
it would have been one thing if he'd come to me and said, I need to do these
things and let's talk about it, but he didn't, it was a fait accompli and that was it.
P: How did the process go from there? Did the board decide to ask for his
R: I think they gave him the opportunity to resign, didn't they? I remember there
being some debate. You'd think I would remember, but I don't. I think he was
given the opportunity to resign, but they would have canned him.
P: The object now of the board, to some degree, is personal. John would say, it's
okay if I'm representing the university, I can take the shots, but it's directed at me
personally and that really undermines the university, does it not?
R: Yes, it does. When he left, he had to leave. It was not good for the university,
but it was also bad timing in terms of finding his replacement. We had that ill-
fated presidential search where none of us felt that people of the caliber we were
anticipating were brought in.
P: I thought it was interesting that the candidates were brought in by an outside
head-hunter firm as opposed to a committee of academics and students.
R: Which is what we always had before. Well, we had a committee of academics
and students, but it was to hear the recommendations of the consultant, by which
time we were too far down the pipe to...
P: Although one of the candidates did end up as president UNC-Chapel Hill, so
there was at least one candidate that was pretty good.
R: I think he had dropped out before we even got down to the interview stage.
P: He was president of the University of Nebraska.
R: Yes. He was the only one we maybe would have considered.
P: How is the future of the UF presidency going to be determined? How long is
Chuck Young going to stay?
R: I suppose part of that depends on Marshall Criser [University of Florida president,
1984-1989, Chairman of the Board of the Trustees, 2001]. I think Chuck is
willing to stay for another year or two. He's seventy now, and of course getting
married this summer. Although I've asked him a time or two. I think he's
enjoying it, I think his bride-to-be is looking forward to coming, but I think until
there's some stability in our system, we're not going to be successful in tracking
a first rate candidate. Plus, there are too many vacancies right now. Some are
getting filled, but the University of West Florida [and] FAMU [Florida Agricultural
and Mechanical University] just got a new presidents. FAU is still searching. I
think John Hitt [president, University of Central Florida] is close to wanting to
retire. I think the struggles with the legislature are tiring out many, if not most of
our presidents, whether they are free to say so or not. I wasn't surprised when
Tony [Catonese, president of FAU] left FAU and he as much has said he was
ready for a change.
P: It must be painful in some ways to keep this struggle up year after year.
R: Yes. And every year you know you're battling eleven other universities with the
P: But according to Bob Graham [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1987-present; Florida
governor, 1979-1987], that's just going to get worse.
R: Until we change.
P: Talk about Charlie Reed [chancellor, State University System of Florida, 1985-
1997]. How would you evaluate his career?
R: I loved working with Charlie Reed.
P: I understand when he first started, because he had been Bob Graham's chief-of
staff, that there was some reluctance as to his qualifications since he didn't have
a terminal academic degree, but obviously, he was very smart about politics.
R: Right, but he's smart period. He's smarter than you give him credit for being, and
the hardest worker I probably ever knew. In line with what you were just saying, I
was on the committee to select the new chancellor and I initially voted against
him because I felt those things and it was sort of a foregone conclusion that
Charlie Reed was going to be the new chancellor and I thought we ought to give
the other candidates a chance and I honestly now don't even remember who
they were particularly. I think George Baedell might have been one.
P: He was one, yes.
R: And was Bob Bryan? I can't remember. Anyway, I quickly came to admire
[Charlie], and then when I worked with him for two years as chair, he was great.
Alex Courtelis [chairman, Board of Regents of Florida state university system,
businessman], who came on the board later and was there I guess, maybe the
year I became chair. He said, now Joan, you just have to let Charlie know you're
in charge of that meeting. So I got to where we'd always sit together in the front
of the room and Charlie, if he had something to say [and interrupted me], I
[would] put my arm over [his] and [he would wait]. The equity funding thing, I
remember I was very interested in getting that passed and I had some support
from some members of the legislature, but it didn't seem to be on Charlie's front
burner, although it was the Board of Regents'. We were walking down the hall of
the legislature one year [and] I remember Charlie [said], we're going to go in and
we're going to tell senator so and so such and such, and I said, let's sit down just
for a minute. I said, now Charlie, let's review our priorities. Number one is equity
funding for the universities. Number two is- and that was all it took Charlie... but
he was marvelous.
P: And he knew how to get the legislature to support his programs.
R: Absolutely. He was just what we needed.
P: I'm sorry I've forgotten, who was the woman from California who was chancellor-
R: Barbara- how can I forget, she was president of Wellesley. I'll think of it in a
P: She had somewhat of a difficult time, didn't she?
R: With the legislature. I think they thought she was, you know, New England elite
or something, she just didn't speak their language. I liked her. She's still
teaching at FSU I believe.
R: Barbara Newell [chancellor, State University System of Florida, 1981-1985]. She
built a house in Tallahassee and I know she stayed there for quite some time, as
far as I know she's still there.
P: How did Adam Herbert do as chancellor?
R: Unfortunately, less well than we expected. I thought Adam would be wonderful.
Public policy is his field and all of that and he's a very distinguished, learned,
articulate man, imposing. He looks like a chancellor. I don't know because I did
not work with him directly there. He sure was a great president for the University
of North Florida. [The] city of Jacksonville just embraced him, thought he was
wonderful. I continue to think he's wonderful. I don't think the legislature gave
him a chance. I think the governor ended up undermining him.
P: Once he opposed the medical school and the two law schools, that pretty much
did it, didn't it?
R: This is a man who has a lot of integrity and he's going to do what he thinks is the
right thing to do. I'm told that he maybe didn't communicate his thoughts until he
had them all sorted out. By then nobody else knew where he was and so he
really wasn't developing consensus for his program all along, which may be a
valid comment, but I didn't work with him in that way so I don't know. He's
always been very responsive to me as far as returning phone calls and gosh,
when daddy died, that weekend I remember he was on the road somewhere and
he would call again and again trying to get through on his cell phone just to
express his [sympathies]. He's a wonderful guy and I'm sorry he didn't have a
better chance to succeed. He was also working with a fractious group.
P: It was difficult.
R: There was a different feeling among the Regents I think then than there was in
that earlier period. We had a great relationship. We were half Republican and
half Democrat and it didn't make any difference, we all were on the same team.
P: Let's get into some specific detail about the decision to eliminate the Board of
Regents. The story is that Jeb Bush and I guess, John Thrasher, kind of worked
it out on a napkin in an Orlando restaurant. Where did this really come from?
Was it a reaction to the Board of Regents opposition to the law school or was it a
R: I think it was both of those things. I think John Thrasher wanted the medical
school at FSU and they did a study and said one wasn't needed so the Board of
Regents recommended against it and I think John Thrasher then aligned himself
with those who wanted the law school, I guess with FAMU; although it ended up
in Miami, and then Orlando. That's where the political strength was so they
managed to do it. The other thing was John Thrasher wants to be president of
FSU as I understand it and I think that was the other part.
P: What was the essential idea behind the so-called seamless system? The
concept, as they explained it, is that it would be more efficient because it would
just be one board of education over the entire state educational system. What's
your reaction to that?
R: My reaction is it makes good rhetoric, but I am still waiting to see what it means.
To me, it's impossible for a seven person board to oversee K through 20,
whatever that means. Presumably every graduate school and every university.
We had a [fourteen] person Board of Regents that had enough difficulty
understanding all of the universities, but to be in charge of community colleges
[and K-12 is impossible]. So into that vacuum has come the legislature which
has done what one would [expect they would do]. Actually, the constitution as it
was amended, puts the legislature in charge of the universities. It says the
legislature will make policy for the universities, the Florida Board of Education will
carry it out and the Board of Trustees will implement. So it's almost a three step
devolution down to the-
P: But the power is not with the local board, it's still with the legislature. Or more
particularly I would say, with the governor because he appoints the Board of
R: He appoints them all.
P: And all the Board of Trustees.
R: Right. That's one of our points, he also can remove them at will. The one beauty
of the old Board of Regents system and of the proposed board of governor's is
that number one, ours would be for [a] longer term so it would transcend any
particular governor's term of office, but all of the Board of Trustees members
wouldn't be chosen by the governor. Some would be chosen by the board. So it
gets the governor out of having total control, and control is a big thing now, it's
felt, and if you aren't with the program-
P: You're gone. As I understand, the local trustees would have six appointed by the
governor, five by the board of governors and then there would be two others, one
from the faculty senate, and the president of the student body.
P: So technically, that would give at least an advantage in numbers over the
appointments by the governor, so it gives some balance here. What is your
assessment of the governor's appointments to the two boards you would know
best, and I know you chose not to be on the University of Florida Board of
Trustees. What do you think of those appointments and those at Central
R: They're fine people. I know many on both of them and they're top drawer. I
really have no criticism of them as individuals and I think many of the things that
they're going to be doing are important to do at the local level. Even when we
had a Board of Regents, we thought local boards of trustees was not a bad idea.
In fact, we even tried to advance the idea once, but it never got anywhere. But
there still needs to be somebody making policy for a system, right now there is
P: It seems to me that, of the appointees at the University of Florida, all except one
R: I saw statistics yesterday somewhere that it was maybe 63 percent Republican,
some small number of Independents, and 23 percent Democrat or something.
That's more Democrats than I thought were on there.
P: Yes, but that's the danger of these appointments right? That they're political
appointees who have done something for the governor.
R: And you know, Julian, that's the major point. The system has never been more
political than it is right now, and we always believed that universities ought to be
apolitical, of bipartisan interest to everybody. That we all ought to be together in
building a system that's good. You can't do that if each university is fighting the
other for the most in any particularly year. There's no plan, there's no rational
P: One of the things that's intrigued me, and I, of course, have a particular interest
in this that on none of these boards has there been a practicing academic. You
would think if you have at least one student, at least one faculty member, just for
that perspective. I wonder why that they never tend to even consider that. That
seems shortsighted to me.
R: It does to me too.
P: I know that on the University of Florida board, and this is no criticism, but one of
the guys is a car dealer in Virginia. I'm not sure that when the Board of Trustees
first started, for example, that they understood what tenure was.
R: I'm sure they didn't. I happen to think tenure's very important. I know that many
business people- and most of the people are business people, nothing wrong
with that, I was one too, but they have to understand that in the university
community it's not a local community. It's a national, [an] international
community and you have to be able offer in the first place, the academic
freedom, the protection that comes from tenure, and people don't get tenure
easily, as I learned. In fact, one of my big things was trying to make it easier for
women and minorities to achieve tenure because they so often had to drop out
for some reason and come back into the track and it was a little more difficult.
But I think people don't understand tenure, they see it as an entitlement that isn't
P: And they see it as lifetime employment. They don't understand you can have it
revoked if you violate any number of specific, not laws, but ethical standards.
R: And you would think this would be explained right up front.
P: Steve Uhlfelder [attorney for media in 2000 election; member, Florida Board of
Regents] has said that we need to at least restrict tenure. You can have tenure
on say, a five year basis, but then it would have to be renewed. What's your
view of that?
R: I just don't agree with Steve on that or maybe a host of other things. I'm not sure
Steve always believed that. I would not want this quoted, but I think Steve is
playing to the choir in Tallahassee right now. I shouldn't say that. But I can see
in year five where maybe like at FAU, they had the play where Jesus was
characterized as, you know that professor certainly wouldn't get tenure the next
year if the Board of Trustees had anything to do with it, and they're the ones who
approve tenure now.
P: Do you think it's correct that the Board of Trustees ought to be in charge of
R: No. Even when the Board of Regents used to be in charge of tenure and we- I
can't remember challenging one. I'm sure it happened a time a or two, but I think
their peers need to recommend and then there's going to have to be a very good
reason to overturn it. I'm not sure how it's working now on a local level.
P: I think if anybody knew how difficult it was and the procedure that people went
through to get there, to have somebody who doesn't really know the system to
overturn one of those decisions sounds to me to be unfair.
R: I think I would assign that to a faculty group if I were the Trustees.
P: Let me get back to the idea that you are now pursuing- this constitutional
amendment to create a single board of governors, and that would be seventeen
in all, is that correct?
P: You now have the Florida Supreme Court's approval for the amendment-
R: In record time I would add.
P: In record time, it's now constitutional. You have 460,000 signatures?
R: We are within two weeks of having 600,000 signatures. We have 500,000 now.
P: And you're going to have to have more because some of them always get
R: Yes, it takes [488,000] or whatever -
P: So you'll probably need 700,000?
R: [600,000] we figure will do it. Right now we have an 80 percent validity rate.
P: So you see that that is going to be successful?
R: It will be on the ballot.
P: Then how do you get that ballot approved?
R: Two polls that have been done independently of us, a [Mason-Dixon] poll, and
another one. Both said that if people voted right now it would pass and as many
Republicans as Democrats would vote for it. This was before the legislative
session ended. I have since heard numerous people, many of them Republicans
say, I am so disgusted with what the legislature has done, I'm going to vote for
the Graham amendment and I wasn't before. We think we can make it simple
enough that people understand it and to me the elevator speech is simply this: do
you want the legislature making policy and programmatic decisions for the
universities or do you want a citizen board? I can't think of very many people
who want the legislature making those decisions.
P: Some people see this as a political attack against Jeb Bush.
R: It has nothing to do with a political attack against Jeb Bush. Juan Galan, the new
president of the University of Florida Foundation, is so for this that he called me
from his boat on the Great Lakes and said, anything you want me to say just let
me know and I'll say it, and he's a big Republican.
P: Are you going to raise money and have statewide television ads?
R: Yes. We have and are raising money and we will have to have television ads to
counter the PAC that's been put together being headed by Carolyn Roberts, my
good friend, to oppose it.
P: Formerly, chairman of the Board of Regents, right?
P: What is the argument against it?
R: What they say is the seamless thing which you've already articulated and which
sounds good, but we already had two plus two, common course numbering. We
had all kinds of ways where we linked the system, and we've always been
concerned about [that we] could do more about our education colleges working
more closely with secondary schools to improve and so forth. But I think we
always had- and then we had the Pepsi Commission that worked on common
issues. So I think that was going on, although I'm not sure the people in power
today are aware of some of those things. But the argument against it is that we
need to give what we've got a try, they're taking it away before we've even given
this a chance to work. We believe it's already demonstrated [that] it's not going
to work just because of the last legislative debacle and that's not going to
P: And the new system is not going to be a reincarnation of the old Board of
Regents, is that correct?
R: No, it's not. First of all, it's going to be in the constitution, it's not going to be in
statute, and it does retain local boards of trustees. So it's not the old Board of
Regents. It provides more protection to the universities than the old Board of
Regents did because by being in the constitution, they can't be done away with
and they specifically are given the responsibility for the universities. That was
not clearly articulated in statute.
P: But people like Sandy D'Alemberte [President of Florida State University, 1993-
present; Florida state representative, 1966-1972; attorney] say that with the
Board of Regents, the concept is dysfunctional, it's too parochial, that we don't
need that anymore and that the new system will work more effectively.
R: If it's not parochial now, I don't know what it is. I can understand [the
universities] wanting this devolution of authority, they want to be in charge of their
own places. But honestly there are certain things I don't understand why they
even want to do. Why do they all individually want to negotiate with the faculty
unions? Why wouldn't they have more leverage if they were a single one?
They're all putting in place their own accounting systems now so I don't know
how they're going to be accountable or comparable when they're not measuring
things in the same way. There are certain things that I think ought to be at a
P: With the new Board of Governors, are they going to be in charge of community
colleges, or should there be a separate board?
R: It would have nothing to do with community colleges. We couldn't even talk
about community colleges because of the single subject rule in our amendment.
P: Right, but should there be a separate board for community colleges?
R: They believe so. I don't know if you know Ward Scott or not.
P: No, who is he?
R: He's part of our group and apparently head of a group of community college
people, and they wanted to be part of our amendment and obviously couldn't be,
but they think they still need their community college board.
P: So, if the amendment is approved and there's a Board of Governors, will this
educational board as it exists still be extant? I mean it will still survive, right?
R: Right. They just won't have responsibility for the universities.
P: So, their responsibility now would be community colleges and K through 12. So,
then maybe next time we'll need a new constitutional amendment, a separate
R: The Constitutional Revision Commission clearly wanted to give K through 12
more visibility, and that was the whole point, and it was the legislature that added
all this other stuff onto it which completely [blurred that emphasis].
P: It does seem to be a monumental task for a seven person board.
R: If you look at what they talk about, they aren't addressing the issues of the
university. Bob Graham points out another problem that they're having in
Washington is, always in the past, the Board of Regents has provided them a list
of worthy projects at the state universities for funding by the National Institute of
Health and other federal agencies. Now, each university gets just one,
regardless of merit. Well, you can't compare the University of Florida's research
projects with the University of North Florida or West Florida, and yet each one
gets one to present. He said it just makes no sense.
P: What it'll come down to do is who has the best lobbyist.
R: Yes, I guess so. But the University of Florida might normally have had three,
five, seven, ten or more of these things to present, but they're permitted one now
so that every university gets one. We're trying to make them all the same, and
P: What is your guess as to the outcome of the vote on this constitutional
amendment? Some people say most people in Florida are really not interested
in the subject.
R: I think it will pass. We're persuaded that it will pass.
P: But there will be some hard opposition I presume.
R: No question. They will have no problem raising money to oppose it, that's why
we have to do the same thing. It sounds like I'm anti-Jeb Bush, I'm not, but I am
with respect to what has happened to education. Touting himself as the
education governor who put more money into the schools this year than ever
before, and yet every newspaper editorial across the state is pointing out that this
is not the case. If you take into account inflation and the special session that
took money away and so forth and so on, it's really not addressing the growth. I
think people understand that. They know when there are thirty-six children in
their third grade class.
P: Is there any other option for funding? We'll never get an income tax, I feel
R: That's sure what we need though. If people understood that [even if] we have a
state income tax, it's deductible from your federal tax, it's money we need [in
order] to be the state we need to be. I'm not opposed to it, but you're right, we
probably won't get it.
P: What about the legislature's rewriting of the educational laws?
R: The 1800 page document? Not one page of which I have read.
P: I wonder how you do that in, what has it been, six months or something like that?
R: You know what they said they did, they had 200 people who were contributing
and so forth and it was a document of the people. But the main thing as you
read about it, not only the changes in the university, but [you] can't pass the third
grade if you can't read, and certain access issues and I don't know what all it
P: How would you assess the status of Florida's university system compared with
other university systems in the country.
R: There was a time when we could hold our own. We weren't the best, but we
were getting better all the time. I think if we continue the way we are now, we're
going to lose ground. As you mentioned, faculty are leaving, good deans are
leaving, good presidents are retiring. It's going to be harder and harder to
replace them with good people. I think people in other parts of the country are
looking at us and saying, why are they doing this? I know they are in Alabama
because they have [a] system [like ours] and they're trying to get rid of it. Why
[would] we want what they had? We're not a Michigan or a North Carolina or a
Minnesota or a Wisconsin or a California or a Texas.
P: How would you assess the University of Florida on a national basis?
R: I think right now, it's competitive. Obviously, we're a member of the AAU
[Association of American Universities], we're at least among the top fifty or so.
Depending upon the program you talk about, we're better in some than in others,
but that's true of every university. I think we're going to fall back because of
funding. We're not getting the funding from the state and even though it's only
32, , whatever percent of the University of Florida's total funding because of
the contracts and grants and private support and all the other stuff, it's still
significant. I think if we continue with the instability and the politicization, which
most academics hate. I think the university is going to lose ground and I think in
ten years it will not be the flagship university in the state anymore because the
money's going to UCF and FlU. Don't underrate Mitch Maidique. He's out to
make FlU [number one], and he says he'll do it. He's the most determined person
I've ever seen and he's got support down there, including the Miami Herald and a
bunch of legislators.
P: One thing is absolutely clear, the University of Florida, at least on paper, is
getting a lot better students in terms of test scores and grade point average. In
fact, we're more selective now than Chapel Hill in some cases.
R: Is that right?
P: Well, not out of state, but overall.
R: And we still have a lot of merit scholars and all of that.
P: So in terms of the quality of the students, I think it's increased.
R: But you know Julian, there's always a lag time. It's just when we were better
than people thought we were it was because of that lag effect of people [not]
knowing how we were doing. Right now people still think the University of
Florida's going to be as good as it always was and I would like to think that it will
be, but in this environment, I don't know how it can continue to be. As long as
we're part of a state system.
P: Part of the overall assessment is, we're the fourth largest in population, but forty-
eight or something in per capital spending? In high school graduation we're at
the bottom in almost every category. So, even the quality of these students, in
terms of their education, is getting less so that now the optimal place for most of
these students is Santa Fe where they have to take remedial courses. A high
school graduate has to come in and learn how to read.
R: That's right, and FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] is not the
P: That's my next question. Why is that not the answer?
R: Because I don't think it was ever intended to be the answer. Too many teachers
are now teaching the test and they're leaving out all the ancillary peripheral
things that kids need to know [and] understand -
P: So what you're saying, they're educating for a specific body of knowledge and
they're not teaching kids to learn how to think or understand.
R: Right. And they're leaving out all the things that aren't on the test, which might
be very important like art, music, history. I think it's just reading and math and
maybe they're adding science next year.
P: Who makes up the test?
R: Some gurus in Tallahassee, I guess. I'm not sure I could pass it.
P: I would certainly hope so. The other element I see a lot of, is students are
getting college credit for taking these honors courses, or they can take these
CLEP [College-Level Examination Program] tests and CLEP out, and the sense
of it is, they can take these tests and they have in effect qualified for two
semesters of American History. I can tell you absolutely they are not qualified. If
I put them in my class and gave them my exams they wouldn't have a hope.
Again, that seems to be diluting the quality of education to sort of move people
through the system faster.
R: Yes, get them out a semester ahead.
P: I always thought education was learning.
R: Yes. Well, I have a son who went to Vanderbilt for four years before he went to
law school at Florida and he took a bunch of those things. Well, he did graduate
in three and a half years, but I don't think it was because of the tests, but he took
everything he could take. It wasn't to get ahead of anything. They almost make
you take them if you take those courses in high school. [If you take] the
advanced placement courses you take the test at the end. I agree with you
though. College is an opportunity to learn, expand your horizons, learn how to
think, risk in areas that you never tried before, and I don't think that's understood
anymore. It's not what the bureaucrats in Tallahassee think of the university as
P: Is it becoming too much like a business?
R: I think it's becoming exactly like a business. Get them in and get them out. You
look at what they talk about, seamlessness and access. Have you heard one
mention of quality? I haven't even heard the word come up. I'm serious, I look
P: Another issue, particularly at the University of Florida, is the importance of
athletics and we have, at least previously, a football coach who made $2 million a
year. I happen to know that the tight end's coach, who couldn't possibly have too
many people to coach, made something like $85,000 a year, which would be a
higher salary than most of the faculty.
R: There's something fundamentally wrong with the way we fund athletics in
universities and the University of Florida is an example, it's certainly not the only
one. As in everything else, the University of Florida wants to be competitive in
athletics and that's the way it's done. There have been more good articles lately
in the paper about that and I don't know how you undo it. I think the NCAA
college president's group talks about reforming athletics, but it doesn't happen.
P: They never do. And we know that looking at Tennessee and LSU [Louisiana
State University] and Minnesota that their people write term papers and kids are
not attending class and their getting special privilege which, in my view again,
undermines the quality of education. No one should have that kind of privileged
position no matter what they do, and the universities don't seem to support a kid
who works thirty hours a week in a job.
R: But there are lot of others that are working while they're going to school, you're
R: My daddy was one.
P: Is there any way of controlling athletics better? The University of Florida Athletic
Association is sort of independent, they have their own budget. John Lombardi, I
know, monitored them very carefully -
R: Got them to give some money to the library.
P: They did, and they built the dining hall and they built an advising center. They
have used their money for the benefit of the campus and I know that money is
volunteered to the university to some degree because people give through the
athletic programs, they go to the games. But somehow, from the faculty
perspective, there's just too much emphasis on athletics at an academic
institution and sometimes we scoff at the term student athletes.
R: Understandably so.
P: But what's the answer?
R: And yet there are a few student athletes, of course they're the ones we look at.
Who's the basketball player with a 3.7 average or whatever? There are some
who manage to do it, but they are the exception.
P: And I've had them in class and they're superb.
R: I hate to say it, you and I aren't going to change it.
P: Too ingrained in the institution or the culture?
R: Yes. And you look at the people who support athletics at the University of
Florida. They don't wink at paying $50,000 a year to sit in that box, that's their
reason for being. But my sympathies are with the academic departments, I
P: That's not to say we don't enjoy going to the games, and we expect them to win
R: At any cost.
P: Talk about your work with the University of Florida Foundation. I know you
served on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Finance Committee and, of
course, two years as president of the foundation. One of the great
achievements, that probably would not have been anticipated fifteen or twenty
years ago is this, what is it, $860 million fund campaign. That's pretty
extraordinary, even for a large state university. How did the foundation achieve
R: John Lombardi was there for most of that time so I would say that certainly didn't
hurt. Originally the goal was only $500 million.
P: That was called Embrace Excellence?
R: Performance That Counts. Embrace Excellence was the first one. This was
Performance That Counts, which went along with John Lombardi's bank, it's
performance that counts. If you perform you get money. It obviously exceeded
anybody's expectations, but the University of Florida was on a roll. There were a
lot of people that I think had never given to the university, who because of the
development of the foundation staff, were solicited and were responsive. John
Lombardi could close the deal probably nine times out of ten. I think I was
quoted somewhere, and I still believe it to be true, until we get a $1 billion
endowment, we're not going to be competitive. That's the league we're in and
it's not too much to expect that that's where we'll be the next time.
P: Where should this funding go? This so-called extra money.
R: Prior to raising the money, every department at the university was encouraged to
submit their wish list and I think that was honed down by however it's done,
probably differently in every department. There were buildings on campus that
needed to be renovated, some of the ones I had classes in were no longer
usable and thanks to the Keenes [Ken and Janet Keene, major donors to the
University of Florida]l think one or two of them have gotten [restored].
P: Keene-Flint is wonderful.
R: Yes, which is great. And obviously, there is that need that we've talked about for
enhancing salaries of professors and providing better stipends for graduate
students and scholarship money and that kind of thing to get to raise the
academic excellence of the enterprise, the Eminent Scholars Chairs, all those
P: What about the library? I noticed that John Lombardi was opposed to building a
new library building.
R: I didn't know that. Katherine [Lombardi] and I, we were on the library committee
trying to raise money for the library and that is the hardest thing because nobody
goes to school and takes library, and yet it's essential for everybody's thing. We
tried to get the Gator clubs involved because we had had at that time something
like 101 Gator clubs and I thought if every Gator club could give $1,000, it would
provide for the carrelss]. They needed to replace all these carrels and I thought
that would be an easy way to get $100,000 or $200,000. I'm not sure that very
many Gator clubs have identified with that.
P: I know one of John [Lombardi's] arguments was that now everything's online, you
don't need the building as much as you did in the past.
R: But I've heard a lot of lawyers who say everything's online too, but you still need
some books there.
P: What people forget about in these buildings, it's a place for students to study, to
get away from the dorm room.
R: But it's a repository for documents, I know they were trying to build a Latin
American collection and we've got so many statesmen who were leaving their
papers. Ferris Bryant [Florida governor, 1961-1965] [is] a case in point.
P: As John would tell you, the Latin American collection is known all over the world.
R: Sure. Unless you have those documents there, you can't share them digitally
with anybody else, so I think part of your standing as a peer institution is that
you've got a library with the resources to be part of that community of knowledge.
P: It's certainly a way that the quality of the university is assessed. If you look at
Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Berkeley, they all have great libraries.
R: And I think Charles Young when he came said immediately that's a place we
need to put some funding.
P: First thing he said was libraries and better undergraduate education, more
R: And nobody could disagree with that.
[End tape side A2]
P: Let me ask you about some of your other interests. I know that you were on the
Federal Reserve Board for awhile. Talk about that experience. How did you
come to be appointed and how long did you serve?
R: I served seven years. I started out taking the place of a woman who was an
academic who had to resign for some reason, and then I served two three-year
terms. I was an at-large member of the board and we're appointed by the Board
of Governors in Washington from a slate, they have a slate of two or three people
who had been presented to them, and then they determine who they want to
serve. So, that was how I got on. I think Duby Ausley who had served on it had
recommended me and Buell Duncan, former president of SunBank here had
served on it and had mentioned my name. That's the way most things happen,
P: We're in the Atlanta district?
R: Yes, the Jacksonville branch is in the Atlanta district which goes over as far as
New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi. It's quite a large district.
P: What were your major responsibilities?
R: We met once a month and our responsibilities were to prepare a report that was
more anecdotal than statistical in nature about things that were going on in the
economies of our particular areas. We were chosen from around the state and
we would meet on a Friday morning and would go up [to Jacksonville] would
have about a two hour meeting and we would all exchange our information. And
then one of us, we would take turns, would go to Atlanta for the meeting and
everybody had a representative there and would do pretty much the same thing.
Then, based on that, the president of the Atlanta Bank, who now is Jack Guynn,
would make a decision as to whether or not he was going to recommend a
change in the discount rate [to the Open Market Committee]. We would always
say whether we thought the discount rate ought to go up or down and why. We'd
all give our own opinion. So it was a very consensual kind of thing and I not only
learned a great deal about the Federal Reserve system and the way that
monetary policy is developed, but gained great respect for the people who were
involved in it.
P: So, what's your assessment of Alan Greenspan [chairman, Federal Reserve
Board, 1987-present] and his term as chairman?
R: He was there when I was there. He's an interesting man. I think he's been
marvelous for us. Of course I liked Paul Volker too. He is a very private man.
When he would come to our meetings, he would never come to the social hour,
but then he would come in time for the dinner. His prepared remarks were
always very brief, but then he would answer questions, and that's when he was
at his best. I remember having a very intense conversation with him about
something we talked about a little bit earlier. I said, it was distressing to me to
see the reliance of our community on tourism and on the kinds of jobs that were
being developed and I felt that that was really, in the long run, going to be a
deficit. He didn't exactly agree or he discounted it kind of, but I thought I was
right and I still do.
P: So what normally would happen? Each area, Jacksonville, would come up with
sort of a regional analysis and they'd send it to Atlanta and so each of the federal
reserve districts would then go to Alan Greenspan and they would say okay, this
R: Each of the twelve regional banks. Now, all of them did not serve on the open
market committee. They would all attend the meeting, but they'd rotate among
the presidents. [seven of whom] serve on the open market committee.
P: And then the open market committee is the one that decides whether to raise or
lower discount rates.
R: Right, and I think it was seven of the twelve presidents [who] serve in a rotating
way, and then the five governors make up a group of twelve. Alan Greenspan
basically is the one [who decides], I think it works pretty much the same way [as
in the districts]. They all kind of say what they think and then he makes the
P: The Federal Reserve Board got a lot of criticism for waiting too late to cut interest
rates. A lot of people said it wasn't enough at the time.
R: Too little too late, yes.
P: Would you agree with that?
R: Now, looking back, probably, but it's very hard to assess. And [Greenspan is]
very good at this. He's very forward thinking and he's very much involved in the
effect that technology has had on our economic development and what role that's
going to play in the future. He's a very smart man. I had great respect for him,
as I did for all the governors.
P: He seems to be a little biased in terms of inflation.
R: Yes, always has been.
P: One thing he wants to do is control inflation. Would you agree with that, even at
a time of deflation?
R: Of course we experienced that rampant inflation, that I think has got them all
maybe going a little too far in the other direction, but they're determined that we'll
never again experience the double digit inflation that we had.
P: I think they remember when Jimmy Carter was President, what it was eighteen to
twenty percent or something like that?
R: Oh yes, it just destroyed -
P: What were the interest rates?
R: Up to almost 20 percent. Just ridiculous. So they almost overcompensate, and
again there's that lag effect. You do something and you hope it's going to have
an effect, and then you try again the next time. It's a fine tuning process that
nobody's perfect at.
P: He certainly was extraordinarily successful in the 1990s.
R: Yes, he was.
P: Is that the answer to the economy? Is monetary policy better than fiscal policy?
Obviously, it has a quicker fix.
R: It takes both, but I think monetary policy is more the fine tuning and fiscal policy
probably has the more dramatic effect of [the] two. This is my uneducated
opinion, but based on my seven years with tinkering with it.
P: Talk about some of your other interests. You're on the Edyth Bush Charitable
Foundation, what is that?
R: The Bushes were the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company out of
Minneapolis, Minnesota, and they retired down here in Winter Park and became
interested in the community. When Mrs. Bush died, the wife of Mr. Bush, she left
about $100 million to a foundation. So this is a small board, about five of us, who
respond to needs in the community, and right now our major emphasis is on child
poverty. We're determined to give at least a third of our money, which amounts
to maybe two to two and a half million dollars a year to try to address some of the
fundamental causes of child poverty in our area.
P: You're also on the board of the Crummer School of Business [part of Rollins
College in Orlando, Florida] where you got an MBA degree. Talk a little about
your responsibility in that job.
R: They call it the Board of Overseers and they meet quarterly and it's basically to
try to, and this is where I feel like sometimes I'm wearing two hats because I'm
very committed to the University of Florida, but trying to give the Crummer
School more visibility as a good business school. Its stature has grown
significantly in recent years and I think as Rollins has done better, we talked
about that earlier, it's more and more recognized, particularly in those U.S. News
and World Report things. Which, whatever you think about those kinds of polls,
people read them and that gives them some sense of how you are. I think the
Crummer School has been trying to ride those coat tails too.
P: Have you had much to do with the University of Central Florida?
R: I did when I was on the Board of Regents and they put me on their foundation
and I still am on their foundation as an honorary or emeritus member, I think it's
honorary. I was actually on their executive committee and kind of in the line. I
think they wanted me to work my way up to president. I got off the executive
committee because I began to feel a strain. I was also on the University of
Florida Foundation and was chairing the finance committee at the time and I
thought this just isn't right, I need to step aside for awhile. So, I have not been
attending the UCF meetings, I maybe go to one a year. They've got a wonderful
foundation, they really draw from the strongest business leaders in this
community, and it's helped them very much. They've got a capital campaign
going right now. But, I just felt I couldn't keep a foot in both camps while I was
playing a real leadership role on the University of Florida Foundation.
P: How would you assess the status of the University of Central Florida, obviously
it's a relatively new university, and how do you see its future?
R: I think its future, because of where it's located, is going to be very bright. John
Hitt has done better than any of us imagined that he would in terms of building
community consensus for the importance of UCF to the community. For so long
it was viewed as being out there because it's out in East Orlando and for awhile
there was a gap between the city, but he's really built a lot of bridges. They have
a campus downtown now, they have more deans that are working more closely
with groups in the community. As I say, they've got a capital campaign going
that is going to be I think fairly successful. They hope to build a Fine Arts center,
Performing Arts center, in conjunction with the city, downtown or somewhere. So
they're building a lot of bridges with the community and I think that is going to
give them a kind of support that Gainesville, being such a small town by
comparison, is not able to provide. I think in the institutions of the future, and
who knows what they're going to be, I think these kinds of institutions are going
to do well. They already have centers of excellence. Their Center for Research
and Electro-Optics and Lasers, CREOLE, is one of the two or three best optics
centers in the country. Their computer science people, always in the national
competition come in second, third. This is with MIT [Massachusetts Institute of
Technology] and everybody else. They have things that they do well, and I think
if they continue to focus on those they'll do well.
P: So the future's going to be really what we talked about before, it's going to be the
urban universities. It's going to be South Florida, Central Florida, FlU.
R: And one just hopes that the University [of Florida], the old land grant institution,
can define for itself something. To me the difference has been, and I tried to
emphasize this when I was chairing the foundation, is the University of Florida
has a statewide mission and somehow we've got to make people in all these
communities understand that, whether they went there or not, and more and
more it's the case that they didn't. Most people my age did because it was one
of the only three institutions in the state, but nowadays, if you're from around
here chances are you go to UCF if for no other reason than financial. You look in
the legislature, a lot of those people went to UCF. The head of Walt Disney
World [here] went to UCF. So that's a lot of clout.
P: It used to be probably, what, two-thirds of the legislators went to FSU or UF?
R: they're scarce.
P: Yes, and therefore [have] less clout.
R: So we somehow have to make them understand that we need IFAS, we need the
medical school, we need the veterinary school, we need support and we need
support for the fine programs that UF offers that they don't offer to the same
degree. Everybody ought to be proud that the University of Florida is an AAU
member. I doubt that many of them even know what that is, and it wouldn't
matter I guess if they did, but as a state we need to take pride in each other and
not be so [competitive] and I even feel this way about the University of Florida.
One of the things Robin Gibson and I are trying to emphasize about this EEF
amendment, the Education Excellence for Florida Amendment, is that it's not just
for the University of Florida, it's for the system because he and I both left the
Regents feeling very close to every single university in this state because each
one had something that made it very special. They're all good people and
they're all trying hard to do the same thing and they all want to be the best they
can be. I think we have an obligation to try to make that possible.
P: We are still the fourth largest state in the nation and have assets greater than a
lot of countries.
R: That's right. We were the fourth largest state back when I was chair of the Board
of Regents, and I kept saying we're the fourth largest state, we ought to be
somewhere in the pecking order there.
P: In a way, if it were Mississippi or [Alabama] you could understand because
they're poor states, but this is not a poor state.
R: And we're falling below Mississippi, Alabama, and some others in funding.
P: You are on the board at Shands [hospital in Gainesville]. What do you do
specifically in that job?
R: John Lombardi asked me to come on years ago. I was reluctant to do so. I said,
I'm already making so many trips to Gainesville I don't think I can do another
one. But he said I need somebody who can chair the finance committee that
really understands the finances. We're getting ready to reorganize the board and
Paul Metts is a CPA and he's kind of wagging the dog here. We need somebody
who could speak his language, so I came on immediately to chair the finance
committee and I still do. Since then, I chaired the search for the new CEO, Tim
P: What was your assessment of Ken Burns [dean, University of Florida College of
Medicine, 1997-present; vice president for health affairs, University of Florida,
2000-present; professor and chair, department of immunology, medical
microbiology, professor of pediatrics, University of Florida, 1976-1984]?
R: Brilliant man. I liked him personally. I'm sorry he left because I think he brought
a lot of visibility to the medical school. We only have so many of his stature. The
deans of some of the schools had some difficulty working with him, and I think
Craig is going to do a marvelous job, he already is. Maybe [he] communicates
P: It's an extremely difficult job.
R: Yes it is. And you know, when David Challoner [vice president for health affairs,
University of Florida Health Science Center, 1982-1998; dean, St. Louis School
of Medicine, 1975-1982] who was vice-president for health affairs went off, which
was some time after I went on the board, John [Lombardi] made the decision to
combine that and, in retrospect, maybe that was not so good because Ken
[Burns] just didn't do too well in both positions.
P: It's hard to see how anybody could.
R: So we separated [them] again and I think it's going to work a lot better. The
board also got way too big in that reorganization. They were trying to have
representatives from everybody in the world and it was mess. So one of the
things Tim has done is to reduce the size dramatically, get a lot of the people
who'd been on there forever but no longer were making a contribution, off and
now we have a real working board.
P: What is the future of Shands? At one point, as you probably know very well,
there was this huge deficit, and apparently that has been fairly well taken care of.
What is going to be the future, particularly now that they've taken Shands
Jacksonville and AvMed and Santa Fe and Starke and all these other hospitals?
Jacksonville must be a financial burden.
R: Jacksonville has a very different color and right now I'm chairing a task force
that's comprised of directors from both Shands at UF and also Shands
Jacksonville to try to work through those problems and I think we're going to be
successful. The City of Jacksonville is determined that thing's [are] going to work
and so they've put a lot of money into it, the state's given us a little. The federal
government is not cooperating with the cap on medicare.
P: Are there too many beds over there in Jax?
R: Right now. Shands Jacksonville has such tremendous debt. There's the
Methodist Bond debt and then there Sumitomo, and there's all these pockets. If
we could somehow satisfy the Methodist bondholders by paying off that debt,
and we think we've figured out a way to do that. We would like to just get rid of
that whole building and consolidate everything in a single institution which is what
we need to do to be effective. We've got a group working up there now that's
been assessing the performance of the various clinical specialities and all and I
think we're getting a handle on what it's going to take to make that thing work.
P: What about the other acquisitions?
R: The earlier acquisitions initially, were troublesome in that the agreement with
AvMed was not in our favor and one wonders how it was ever negotiated, but it
took awhile to work through that and now, it's at the point where I think we're
beginning to assimilate those entities better. Jody Mansfield, the COO, has done
a really good job of going to each of the smaller, Shands [entities], [for example,]
Starke and Lakeshore, and working with those administrators. A lot of it has
been lack of doctors who can bring in enough [patients]. They're all profitable
now with the exception of Lakeshore, [which is] losing [a] little. We did a study
that showed that if we were to take those [hospitals] away, we would actually
lose because they're absorbing the patients at that level that Shands Gainesville
could not take and efficiently manage.
P: Plus, I've noticed that they've expanded. There are a lot of rehab centers and
things like that apparently are doing quite well.
R: Yes, that's doing very well. Vista is making a lot of money.
P: What is the future of the University Medical School. Should we have more
doctors? Should that be expanded? There's a continual problem of local care in
the rural communities.
R: FSU is addressing that one, aren't they? That's what they say.
P: If they ever get accredited.
R: I think this is a problem for all medical schools because doctors don't want to be
primary care doctors anymore. They're having trouble getting pediatricians and
internists because they apparently aren't paid as well as the specialists, which
one understands, and their hours are more demanding and they don't have what
they need. So we're going to have to start recruiting and making it more
attractive for doctors to go into the areas that we need. Of course, the medical
school is a marvelous medical school. They get such bright kids and they do
well, and thanks to my friend Smiley Hill [Dr. Hugh "Smiley" Hill, doctor and
professor at University of Florida, Associate Dean of Student & Alumni Affairs],
they all seem to get placed wherever they want to be.
P: He's the best at that.
R: He is. You know, his wife Ann was in school with me and we were in the same
sorority. She was my big sister, and Ann was [in] our wedding. In fact, I still stay
with them some when I go to Gainesville.
P: What about health care in general, what's the future of that? There are so many
complaints about HMOs.
R: Yeas ago we thought managed care was going to take over the world and now it
appears that that is not necessarily so. I think consumers, and even doctors,
have become disenchanted with any kind of institution that can tell you what
procedure you can have and who your doctor can be and whether you can have
it or not even. I think that probably will never go away, but I think it will be part of
a broader system. I think there is beginning to be concern on the part of a lot of
people about access because there are so many people who have no insurance.
Small businesses that can't afford to provide insurance and even large business
that are putting more of the burden on the employee to provide more and have
bigger deductibles and all of that. I have a good friend who is a retired doctor
here who gave me an article not long ago that showed that there are groups in
the American Medical Association that are working toward universal access and
are going to be proposing some kind of thing that I don't totally understand [in
terms of] where the money's coming from, but it's kind of a redistribution of
Medicare/Medicaid money to encompass everybody. We all would get a voucher
for at least a certain level of healthcare, and those of us who could afford to pay
beyond that might opt for the really arcane operation that would be elective as
opposed to absolutely necessary and it would be a way of somehow paying for
P: The problem still for Shands is dealing with indigent care.
R: [For] Shands Jacksonville it is the problem, and that's why we've been trying to
get the City of Jacksonville to take on more of that burden. I think that institution
alone has a preponderance of indigent care in Jacksonville and some of the
other hospitals, St. Vincent's and some of them, just don't want to participate in
that. We don't mind doing it, but we have to be compensated for it, and I think
they understand that.
P: As you indicated earlier, people who don't have any medical care, they have to
go to the emergency room.
R: Exactly, and that's where they go, right. If Shands Jacksonville can get the
proton beam, and that's periodically in doubt because I'm not sure just where
they're going to put it, but that would be a real coup for that hospital I think.
P: What exactly is that?
R: It's like an MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging], but it focuses the image so that it
doesn't destroy the good cells along with the bad cells. It's particularly effective
in certain kinds of cancers, prostate being one, and it's only available right now in
Los Alamos and maybe one other place so it would be kind of a coup for them to
P: Two honors that you've received, which I'm sure you're pleased with, in 1994, the
University of Florida picked you as a distinguished alumna, and in 1997, for
outstanding achievement. What was you reaction to the selection for those two
R: Always surprised, maybe more so with the second than the first. I was very
honored to be a distinguished alumna, but I think that kind of maybe goes along
with being president of the foundation, like they can't leave you out. The other
one was, I guess, celebrating fifty years of having women at the university. I
certainly don't think I'm among the fifty most outstanding women to have
graduated from the university so, I think that one probably pleased me even
P: One thing that we see that's dramatically different is the number of women
faculty members and women administrators. It has improved significantly over, I
would say, the last ten years so that now for Betty Castor was president of the
University of South Florida and was succeeded by another female president,
nobody thinks anything about that. Whereas twenty years ago, that would have
been very unusual.
R: Twelve years ago, I remember coming and speaking to the women faculty at the
University of Florida about some of the issues that they were dealing with that
were eye-opening to me and were part of my education, particularly with tenure
track problems and if they had to drop out to have a baby. One woman said, her
supervising professor or whatever he was, called [and] gave her five days after
the birth of her baby and she had to be back doing everything she did [before].
There was just no working with or understanding. They didn't want exceptions
made, they just simply wanted to have opportunity to do what they thought they
could do. So that's encouraging.
P: Salary equity has been addressed. There's still a gap.
R: Salary was a problem too, yes.
P: It was a grave problem, but I think to some degree that's been addressed. Not
completely yet because it is such a large differential, but it seems to me in that
context we've done better. One of the areas where we don't seem to have done
as well, at least at the University of Florida, is with minority students. What
would be your suggestion?
R: We were doing better there. We put a big emphasis on that for awhile really
trying to consciously make the environment comfortable for them, anticipate
problems they might have, really grease the skids as it were. I don't know if the
One Florida Plan and all that has helped or hurt, I read both things. Are you
talking about minority faculty now?
P: Mainly students because I was going to ask you about the Florida One Plan.
What is your assessment of that?
R: I didn't see how it could help us any.
P: They say the numbers will be up next year, but it may well be because the
university has actively pursued minority students.
R: And they're working very hard with some of the high schools.
P: A lot of these kids go to Florida A&M, they feel more comfortable.
R: And it's understandable, yes. Florida A&M is an impressive place, especially
their business school. I spent one whole day there and my gosh, Sybil [Mobley[
[dean, FAMU business school], whew! She's got those students there dressed
up when they're in the elevator and you'd walk in the elevator and they'll stick
their hand out and introduce themselves, I mean they know just how to act.
Have you ever been there?
R: They've got each floor of the business school [like a different international
financial center], one's like Hong Kong, one's London, and it's decorated that
way so that they will be comfortable going to any place and functioning in that
community. They've got the money. It's the most phenomenal place I've ever
been. It's no wonder their [graduates are] just lapped up the minute they
P: Does that have a lot to do with president Humphries?
R: That was Sybil Mobley I think. She's the dean, she's on the boards of a lot of
major corporations and she's gotten them all to give a lot of money. Fred
Humphries [president, FAMU, 1975-2001] too, though, did a lot for that school.
He believed in it, and he got good students to start coming back, and he attracted
good faculty. I didn't always agree with him, but I loved him.
P: What's the future of higher education in Florida?
R: I would like to say we're going to come to our senses and we're going to fund it
properly and we're going to be able to be competitive. You're talking about
higher education as a whole and not just the University of Florida?
P: Yes, higher education as a whole.
R: Given where we are right now in the instability of the political environment and
the move toward enfranchising so many two-year schools to be four year schools
and all of this, I don't know where that's going to go. I can't imagine it's going to
go very far successfully, and I would hope that it will come to a screeching halt
and we'll once again focus on making the universities the best they can be. The
community colleges to function for the reason they were originally intended:
access to four-year institutions and serving the communities in which they exist
to provide technical training. They say, everything is cyclical and that the
pendulum will swing and I really hope we'll go back to a focus on quality. All I
can say, is what I hope will happen because I'm not a very good predictor of the
future. I never would have predicted this. If you had asked me ten years ago
what I thought it would be now, I would say we would be among the five best
systems in the country because that's the way we thought we were going. We
had a master plan, we knew where the money needed to go, we knew where the
good programs were. Politics got in the way, not just recently, but eight, ten
P: Are term limits a factor?
R: Term limits are a horrible factor, yes. Because now, legislators can't take the
long view. They just have so long to go in and have their impact and they feel
like if they're going to go on to their next elective office, which is what most of
them want to do, they've got to bring home the bacon and that's what they're
P: Is there anything we haven't talked about that you would like to discuss?
R: Is there anything we haven't talked about?
P: I'm sure I've missed several things. Anything else that comes to your mind?
R: Not on the face of it, just to say, and this is just my personal desire, I really hope
that we can put our universities in the constitution because I think it's where they
belong. The twenty-three states who have them in their constitution have great
university systems, North Carolina is the only exception and they've just got a
good thing going, but our proposal really parallels what they're doing. I think our
universities are so important to our state for so many reasons, not just for our
students, but for our economy and for where we are in the world community. I
don't think we can give up on them and I care about them a lot and I will do
whatever I can to get them where I think they need to be.
P: On that note, I want to thank you very much for your time.
R: Thank you Julian.
[End of the interview]