Kent Fuchs led the University of Florida into the ranks of the nation’s best public universities. With his kindness and sense of humor, he was immensely popular with students and inspired good will for UF statewide and nationally.
Dr. Fuchs served as UF’s 12th president from January 2015 to February 2023. He may be best remembered for guiding UF to reach a decades-old goal of joining the nation’s top-10 public research universities as measured by U.S. News and World Report’s Best College Rankings. The university then ascended into the top 5, a feat that few believed possible when he defined that goal in his inauguration address.
Under his leadership, the university topped $1 billion in annual research, completed a $4.6 billion capital campaign and added 2.8 million square feet of new facilities. UF created and filled 600 new faculty positions from 2015 to 2022, more than any other university in the country. Student first-time-in-college applications more than doubled, topping 65,000 for 6,600 positions in the 2022-23 academic year. UF launched a university wide artificial intelligence initiative and created significant new graduate, research, and clinical facilities and programs in other parts of the state, including the UF Scripps Research Institute in South Florida.
Dr. Fuchs spearheaded these advancements despite formidable challenges. Topping the list was the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in the spring of 2020, forcing sweeping changes to operations and academic offerings, including moving rapidly to all-online classes. Following that, UF pivoted quickly to hybrid and in-person classes, as UF Health protected the campus community through its Screen, Test & Protect COVID testing and vaccination program.
Whatever UF was facing, President Fuchs led with a warmth and affinity for what he called “purposeful fun” that delighted students and community members.
He was known for spending the first day of fall semesters in a chauffer’s cap, delivering students to their classes in a “VIP golf cart.” On multiple occasions he and his wife, Linda, spent a few days living with entering students in their residence halls. His annual April Fools pranks were legendary. For the first April Fools prank in 2015, he announced that he was switching jobs with the Gators head football coach. The next year, he told the world that UF would merge with its traditional archrival in football, Florida State University.
His pranks and other purposeful fun received widespread attention because of the flourishing of social media, which occurred roughly in synch with the Fuchs presidency. He was UF’s first president to use social media to communicate, often tweeting and amassing more than 30,000 followers on Twitter.
President Fuchs dedicated special attention to the tradition of commencement at UF. He reimagined spring commencement ceremonies to include a university wide ceremony in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as well as individual college ceremonies in which each graduate is recognized. He started a tradition of UF faculty members giving the commencement speeches at the university’s doctoral ceremonies. He presided over 117 ceremonies.
Previous to the UF presidency, Dr. Fuchs was provost of Cornell University. He served in academic leadership positions and as a faculty member of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell, Purdue and the University of Illinois. He earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois, and a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University.
After a sabbatical leave, he plans to return to UF as a professor in 2024, teaching classes during the academic year in his home department of electrical and computer engineering and in the summers spending time with Linda and their children and grandchildren on their family farm in Skaneateles, NY.