In 11 years as president of the University of Florida, Bernie Machen grew and enhanced every aspect of the university while putting it on a path to rise among the best public universities in the nation.
Dr. Machen was UF’s 11th president, serving from January 2004 through December 2014. During that time, he expanded UF’s research operation, elevated its educational programs and increased access for students from a diversity of economic backgrounds. He bolstered the university’s commitment to innovation, grew its endowment, and led a noted university wide sustainability initiative.
Additionally, in 2013, Dr. Machen launched UF on the nearly $1 billion UF Preeminence Plan. By the end of his tenure, the plan had filled more than 60 of at least 100 new positions for accomplished faculty members, established more than 100 new endowed chairs and professorships, and upgraded research and education facilities across campus. The plan is supported by $150 million in combined state-university dollars and an $800 million fundraising campaign.
Other milestones of Dr. Machen’s tenure included:
- Growth in annual university research funding from $470 million in 2003-04 to $702 million in fiscal year 2014.
- More than 3.1 million square feet in new construction on campus, including more than 628,000 square feet of new research space.
- Completion of UF’s $1.7 billion capital campaign, at the time the sixth-largest public university campaign in history.
- The Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, enabling the enrollment of more than 3,200 low-income students who are the first in their families to attend college.
- Development of the 40-acre public private partnership known as Innovation Square and creation of the Innovation Hub technology incubator, now housing more than two dozen UF spinoffs.
- Creation of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, the UF Water Institute and other key university institutes and centers.
Dr. Machen significantly strengthened UF’s hospital and health science research operations, bringing together the UF Health Science Center and Shands Hospital under UF Health. He added several major new medical research and care facilities, including the Biomedical Sciences Building, the Clinical and Translational Research Building and the UF Health Cancer Center. And he launched UF’s first major medical research facility outside Gainesville, the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona’s Medical City near Orlando.
His educational enhancements included the spring-summer Innovation Academy for entrepreneurially-minded undergraduates; “What is The Good Life?”, the first of four new classes in a new undergraduate curriculum; and the launch of UF Online, one of the first programs in the nation to offer four-year fully online undergraduate degrees.
Prior to his arrival at UF, Dr. Machen served for six years as president of the University of Utah, where he is credited with expanding the university’s health sciences program, stabilizing the university’s finances and bolstering diversity.
From 1995 to 1997, he was provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, and from 1989 until 1995, he served as dean of Michigan’s School of Dentistry. From 1983 to 1989, he was professor and associate dean at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry.
Dr. Machen is a past president of the American Association of Dental Schools. He also served as a member of the board of trustees of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee. His additional positions in national higher education leadership include serving as a member of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board; chairing the board of directors of the National Campus Compact and serving as president of the executive committee of the Southeastern Conference and chair of the Southeastern Conference Academic Consortium.
A native of Greenwood, Miss., Dr. Machen grew up in St. Louis. After attending Vanderbilt University for his undergraduate studies, he earned his doctor of dental surgery degree from St. Louis University and his master’s degree in pediatric dentistry and doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Iowa. He and his wife, Chris, a former neonatal intensive care nurse, have two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren.
Chris Machen worked to better the University of Florida and North Central Florida throughout Dr. Machen’s tenure – applying her trademark good humor and gentle resolve to furthering numerous campus and community causes.
Mrs. Machen may be best known for her leadership in advancing sustainability at UF. Her participation began shortly after the Machens arrived in Gainesville, when she learned of longstanding discussions among UF professors and students about an environmental initiative known as “Greening UF.” She quickly became immersed in the cause. With a patience and capacity for listening born of a longtime career in nursing – and the power of the presidency at her side – she helped align Greening UF with the university’s strategic priorities.
In 2006, UF hired its first director of sustainability. What had been a peripheral movement steadily mushroomed into a central university initiative – one that has fundamentally altered UF’s approach to buildings, transportation and waste. Today, UF constructs only LEED-gold certified buildings, encourages and rewards public and alternative transportation, aggressively recycles and has set a goal of UF reducing its waste to zero. All of these changes, says Mrs. Machen, are the result of “allowing UF faculty and staff to act on their best hopes for UF and the environment.”
Mrs. Machen’s commitment to sustainability was rooted in a lifelong love of the outdoors. As a girl, Mrs. Machen treasured her dad’s stories of riding pack horses with cowboys in Colorado. Those stories led to an interest in cowboy culture that she nurtured in Salt Lake City, where Dr. Machen served as president of the University of Utah. Mrs. Machen was active in the Nevada-based Western Folklife Center and its National Cowboy Poetry gathering.
When the Machens moved to Gainesville, she immersed herself in Florida Cracker heritage. As a former board member of the Florida Folklife Council, she helped develop the traveling exhibit “Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition.” The show appeared in conjunction with an exhibit of Florida cowboy photographs at the Florida Museum of Natural History in 2011.
Mrs. Machen elevated numerous other causes and organizations at UF. As chairwoman of Healthy Gators 2010, she lent her visibility to a continuing campaign to promote a healthy body, mind and spirit among members of the UF community. Healthy Gators spearheaded a campus-wide tobacco-free policy that took effect in July of 2010. The organization promotes healthy food and healthy eating and is campaigning for scooter-riding students to wear helmets.
In the Gainesville community, Mrs. Machen served on the Child Advocacy Board, the Boys and Girls Club Board and the Florida 4-H Board, among other organizations. Her most cherished community activity was far less formal. With local veterinarian Dale Kaplan-Stein, Mrs. Machen founded and continues to operate a clinic at Gainesville’s St. Francis House to provide care to the pets of low-income residents and the homeless. Since starting the clinic nearly four years ago, Mrs. Machen, Dr. Kaplan-Stein and volunteers have cared for hundreds of dogs and cats whose owners had nowhere else to turn. The clinic partners with UF’s law and medical colleges, with the law college distributing information about domestic violence and the medical college seeking to work with clients on health issues.
Mrs. Machen’s leadership and volunteer work at the university and in the community capped a 25-year career in nursing. She graduated with a degree in nursing from St. Louis University, taught nursing at the University of Iowa, and spent 12 years in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Hospital. Later, Mrs. Machen switched from the neonatal intensive care unit to pediatric home health nursing. She ended her career in 1996, when Dr. Machen became provost at the University of Michigan, the job he held prior to becoming president at Utah.
The Machens have two sons: Lee, an engineer at Intel in Portland, Oregon; Michael, an attorney in Chicago; a daughter, Maggie, a veterinarian and resident in small-animal cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania, and four grandchildren. They also have two dogs, two African leopard tortoises, a Harley, and a horse. The horse’s name is Zippy because, as Mrs. Machen says, he isn’t.
Chris Machen Biography (PDF, 64 kB)