Video by Marielisa Martinez
Although he expected it to end years ago, John Delaney’s run as UNF’s president is coming to an end in May 2018.
“I didn’t expect to stay this long,” Delaney told Spinnaker. “I had five years in mind, maybe seven but now, thirteen and a half years later, I wake up and it’s hard to believe this much time has gone by.”
The news that Delaney was retiring as president came as a bit of a surprise when faculty and students alike received an email from Delaney announcing that next year, he does not plan to renew his contract for the position.
He was asked by board members to consider remaining president but according to Delaney, it’s time for somebody new.
“I feel that it’s time to allow the university to see if somebody new can carry the university to the next level,” said Delaney.
While serving his second term as Jacksonville’s mayor–a run that began in 1995–Delaney was told that UNF’s president was sick and going to step down. Service in academia wasn’t really in his plans, but some people told him to at least consider the position. Delaney liked the idea of serving in this position the more he thought about it and in due time, he applied.
“In the summer of 2003, I was asked to be UNF’s president and I haven’t looked back since,” said Delaney.
Because this was his first job in academics, Delaney was advised to use his first year as president as an adjustment period.
“What they advise new presidents it to take the first year to absorb the culture,” said Delaney. “Every campus is a little different so the first year was about absorbing it all in and truly learning UNF’s culture.”
For Delaney, UNF reminded him a lot of Jacksonville in years past and that’s what eventually persuaded him to apply for the position.
“When I became mayor of Jacksonville, I could feel that the city was about to take off,” said Delaney. “I had that same feeling about UNF.”
“The founding faculty built a really strong base and gave me something great to work with.”
According to Delaney, the appeal of UNF is its unique ability to be a mid-sized university that operates like a small-scale liberal arts school.
“From a student’s perspective, being at UNF means that you are guaranteed a hands-on learning experience and the help you need to aim towards your desired profession,” said Delaney. “We are like a small private school that’s built around a liberal arts base.”
After his first year of soaking up the school’s culture, Delaney immediately took to improving the national status of UNF as a university.
“I felt like UNF wasn’t getting the credit it deserved and I wanted to put it on the map,” said Delaney.
The first goal to achieve was making UNF’s athletics division one, which according to Delaney, wasn’t too difficult as the transition from division two to division one was free.
By doing so, UNF became much more attractive in the recruiting room and the potential of bringing students here to play sports was raised.
The next goal was academic.
“We knew we wanted to recruit stronger and smarter students and continue heightening the faculty and our campus,” said Delaney. “We focused on programs that were right on the cusp of being nationally recognized and did what he needed to do to ensure they were.”
What they did certainly worked, because 60 percent of incoming freshmen are from out of state, according to Delaney.
Looking back on his time as president, Delaney is proud of what the university has accomplished, ranging from athletics, to academics and even the size, which has grown by 168 percent since his time as president began.
But most of all, Delaney is happy with the environment he’s helped shape here at UNF.
“The environment here is what I love most,” said Delaney. “We worked to give UNF a sense of place and I think we achieved that.”
What’s next for UNF?
Well, according to Delaney, UNF has an expansive search for the next president to begin.
“They’ll shape up the job description and begin advertising the position in the summer,” said Delaney. “They’ll respond to people in the early fall and in late fall, the search committee will ask some to come to UNF.”
While here at UNF, they’ll take that time to familiarize themselves with the university, our culture, the faculty and the students. Around this time next year, the candidates will be announced and the search committee will narrow down the choices. After that, the committee notifies the board of who they think best fits the position and the board will have the final say.
According to Delaney, we can expect to meet the new potential president a few months before his time as president comes to an end.