Frank Brogan is leaving Florida at the end of this month, capping a long career in public service that includes stints as a classroom teacher, university president and lieutenant governor.
He became chancellor of the state university system four years ago at a time of deep acrimony between the Board of Governors and the Legislature. Brogan worked to ease that tension and, over time, strengthen the board’s oversight of the state’s 12 universities.
Before he moves on to a similar job in Pennsylvania, Brogan agreed to sit down with the Herald/Times to talk about his tenure as chancellor, the tough road ahead for Florida Polytechnic University and why the state needs a lieutenant governor.
Here are some excerpts:
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You had a year left on your contract with the Board of Governors and two years left in the deferred retirement program. Why step down now?
I had thought later this year I’ll start to look around, knowing that I wanted to keep working and knowing that at some point I would have to start to see what opportunities were out there. This one snuck up on me. I was contacted by the search firm handling the Pennsylvania job, and they broached it with me. My original reaction was a bit tepid only because of the timing.
Your first order of business as chancellor was to help end the legal battle between the board and lawmakers. Explain how you got it done.
I had some credibility here because I had just moved from the role of the president (of Florida Atlantic University). So I had the ability to say, ‘Look. From a president’s perspective, I can tell you of the conversations that I’ve had with many members of the Legislatures on this issue over time. I can tell you how we at the institution level feel the negative effect of the relationship between the Board of Governors and the Legislature over this issue. And it is not helping us as an institution or as a system get to where we need to go because people are mired in this issue.’
Do you consider the resulting settlement agreement your biggest accomplishment as chancellor?
My proudest achievement as I leave is the fact that I leave a system. We weren’t much of a system four years ago. We were a collection of really fine universities, each very much with their own personality [and] very much doing their own thing. But as I depart, I will be able to look back on it now and recognize that we’re still very fine universities. But more than that, universities that are part of a much better, well organized and nationally recognized system of state universities.
You served four years as lieutenant governor. It’s been nearly six months since Jennifer Carroll stepped down, and Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t named a replacement. Does Florida need a lieutenant governor?
I happen to agree that Florida’s governance structure should include both a governor and a lieutenant governor. We are the fourth-, soon to be third-largest state in the nation. Any governor who sits in that office today needs a partner in a state this large, this complicated, fraught with all of the challenges that we have.
Florida Polytechnic is slated to open in less than a year, but the campus is still under construction and the school needs to raise millions of dollars for scholarships. How confident are you that Polytechnic will be ready on time?
You’re looking at a boulder to push up a mountain on this one. Now can we do it as a state? We don’t have a choice. There’s a statute that has to be followed and a need that has to be filled. So we’ve got to keep working on the timelines, the deadlines, the accreditation issue and ultimately recruiting beyond just faculty, the students who are going to want to be a part of this. But I can’t stress the enormity of sea change between the (Board of Governors’) original approach to the creation of a polytechnic university and the language that came in that statute to the same end. Night and day.
Will Polytechnic open on time in Aug. 2014. Yes or no?
It’s going to be a tremendous challenge to have it ready by that date.