Florida Polytechnic University President Randy Avent will leave office next year, continuing a wave of changes in public university leadership.
Avent, who has been Lakeland’s sole president since it opened in 2014, announced on Monday that he will be stepping down from his job in July 2024 and returning to the faculty after a sabbatical.
“To lead the university from its inception to the strong campus we have today has been the privilege of a lifetime,” Avent said in the announcement. “I never imagined that I would be involved in creating a brand new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) university and shaping how it would serve students, industry, and the entire state.”
Avent said he is “confident that our board of trustees will conduct a successful presidential search and I am determined to ensure a smooth transition and continued success for Florida Poly. Thus, I will remain president until my successor takes his place.”
While he heads the state’s newest university, Avent is the longest serving president in the university system. University of West Florida President Martha Saunders is the second longest-serving president, having become Pensacola School President in January 2017.
The Avent announcement came as Florida Atlantic University and Florida New College, which are both part of the university system, are running under interim presidents. Also on July 1, Aysegul Timur, president of Florida Gulf Coast University, took her position.
Meanwhile, University of Florida President Ben Sass, Florida State University President Richard McCullough, University of North Florida President Moez Limay, University of South Florida President Rhea Lowe, and Florida International University President Kenneth Jessell have taken over their schools for the past two years.
The announcement, made on Monday, did not contain information about the process of finding a replacement for Avent. Trustees of other universities have hired search firms to help find and sift through lists of candidates.
But some of the searches, including the ongoing process of finding a new president for Florida Atlantic University, have generated controversy.
University system chancellor Ray Rodriguez this month directed the FAU to suspend the search after the school’s presidential search committee selected three finalists for the position. Rodriguez alleged that at least one candidate was asked questions about their sexual orientation and preferred pronouns, and that the selection committee improperly participated in a “straw poll” in which members ranked their preferred candidates.
Brad Levine, chairman of the FAU search committee, disputed the claim that the search process had been improperly conducted.
The suspension of the FAU process sparked speculation about the possible candidacy of Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, for president. Fine, a political ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, did not make the list of the three finalists.
Stacey Volnnik has served as acting president of the FAU since former president John Kelly stepped down at the end of last year. Previously, Volnnik was the chief operating officer and vice president of administration for the school.