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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014
Education

USF St. Pete chancellor leaves legacy of caring


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TAMPA - He recalls graduating in a class of 12 from a small-town Virginia high school and moving on to the University of Richmond.

"I was totally unprepared. Honestly," said William Hogarth, recalling his shell-shocked early college days. He said a mentor eventually took him under his wing and gave him the attention and discipline he needed to succeed.

"That's what I've tried to instill here," said Hogarth, the outgoing interim regional chancellor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "To let the students know that you care about them."

Hogarth, who yields next week to incoming regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska, apparently has accomplished that goal.

"I've always said it's more than textbooks," he said. "You're really preparing these kids for their life, their future. All of that doesn't come from a textbook. It comes from, can you deal with your faculty? Can you deal with adversity, with the stress of your first round of exams?"

Hogarth served just under a year, but it was a very significant one for USF St. Petersburg. The $21 million University Student Center, with a residential tower for 200 students and a full-service dining hall, opened on his watch. The school's entrepreneurship program was named the most outstanding emerging program in the country by the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

USF St. Petersburg welcomed its largest freshman class on record, with some 700 students.

There were major accomplishments - securing $5 million from the Legislature for a building for the booming School of Business - and more subtle ones, such as the installation of the 8-foot-tall, 850-pound bronze bull at the entrance to Harborwalk.

One of Hogarth's pet projects, a 1,100-gallon aquarium featuring several varieties of local saltwater fish, has been set up in the student center to, as a plaque proclaims, "remind us of the importance of marine life to Florida and the Tampa Bay area."

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Hogarth says his decades of experience in marine research and fisheries management actually served him well in the chancellor's job.

He is director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, a consortium of 27 various scientific and educational institutions around Florida that work collaboratively to maximize research and education resources. The institute is based at USF St. Petersburg.

He has served as dean of USF's College of Marine Science; as a member of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Board, which is studying the effects of the BP oil spill in the gulf; and was appointed by President George W. Bush as assistant administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"My background has been dealing with a lot of diverse communities of people," Hogarth said. "In my life I've dealt with heads of governments from all over, internationally. You deal with rank-and-file fishermen. You deal with children."

That experience has helped him build a strong and motivated faculty and what he considers the best learning environment possible.

He threw his name into the hat for the permanent job as regional chancellor, even though he initially said he wasn't a candidate. "I will have to admit, I sort of fell in love with the place," he said. He's a little disappointed he didn't land the job permanently, but said the university "made the right decision. I've been in research management all my life. I'm not really a true academician."

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Hogarth now devotes his full attention back to the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which he admits got short-shrift as the demands of the chancellor's job took priority. He will be missed on campus, said Mark Lombardi-Nelson, a senior entrepreneurship major and head of the student body.

"He was in there all the time, hanging out," Lombardi-Nelson said, gesturing to the student center. "Students developed a comfort being around him. I mean, that's the chancellor."

Hogarth's affinity for his students rubbed some the wrong way, but not the students themselves, Lombardi-Nelson said.

"I had just been elected student body president and here we have a completely new person coming in who could potentially be academic-focused, or city-focused. Chancellor Hogarth was those things, but at the forefront of everything, he was student-focused.

"Making sure we were at the forefront of every conversation takes a lot because of university politics," he said. "You can't exclude anyone who is part of the university. But the fact that he put students first really made a difference to us."

Wisniewska, who had been chancellor at Penn State Brandywine, takes over today. Hogarth said they've talked, but he won't meddle. If Wisniewska wants his advice, "I'm next door," he said.

Hogarth "has done a remarkable job in moving the institution forward and leaving a solid foundation for the incoming regional chancellor," said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. "We are glad that he's going to remain a part of the University of South Florida family and we thank him immensely for the wonderful job he's done over the past year or so."

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7834

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