Traynham stalls retirement to continue as provost

Luke Barber


Video shot and edited by Michael Herrera

President John Delaney announced his decision to officially keep Dr. Earle Traynham as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs on June 29.

According to Traynham, the provost is the chief academic officer of the university. In his position, he oversees allocation of budget and faculty resources to UNF’s five different colleges. The provost position remained open for applications until the position was filled.

The two-year search for a new provost was initially fruitless, notably the longest waiting period between provosts in the history of UNF, and was even extended a year. The search stalled as Traynham prepared for retirement once again, unwilling to continue serving as provost.

“I publicly said on the floor of the faculty association that I really had no interest in this job,” Traynham said. “I was happy to do it for a year or two, and then I’d be happy to get back to retirement. The truth of the matter is I found the job to be much more enjoyable than I ever imagined it would be.”

As provost, Traynham oversees allocation of budget and faculty resources to UNF’s seven different colleges.  Courtesy of UNF's website
As provost, Traynham oversees allocation of budget and faculty resources to UNF’s seven different colleges.
Courtesy of UNF’s website

Traynham’s delayed application was due largely to health complications. In Fall 2014, he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis – a calcium buildup on the aortic valve – after consulting the Mayo Clinic for a heart murmur.

Last February, Traynham underwent a successful surgery and began recovery shortly after. He officially submitted an application on March 27.

Delaney’s press release also said Traynham has a relationship with donors who are “poised to make a seven-digit contribution to the university that will add to our successes across campus.”

Delaney and Traynham declined to provide any additional comments on the contribution, but Traynham said they plan to reveal the lucrative deal in the near future.

“I’ll push as hard as I can to see that the colleges can realize as much of their strategic plans as possible,” Traynham said.

Traynham said during his tenure as provost he utilized outcome-focused planning, reorganized the office, and executed budget cuts, including the elimination of the associate provost position.

Additionally, Traynham assisted two colleges, the Coggin College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), in a leadership shift as the deans of both colleges were preparing to step down from their positions.

“I’ve worked with both of those colleges now on searches to find a replacement,” Traynham said. “In one case, the College of Education, the search failed; there wasn’t a satisfactory candidate.”

Traynham appointed Marsha Lupi as interim dean of the College of Education on July 1, 2014. Lupi will continue to serve until the board of trustees reopens the dean search this Fall.

“In the other case, the Coggin College of Business, we hired Mark Dawkins as the dean there,” Traynham said. “I’m really excited and pleased over that; I think he’s going to be a great dean. That has taken a lot of time and energy – working through that transition process of the deans resigning and hiring new deans.”

Dr. Jeffrey Coker also recently stepped down from UNF’s dean of undergraduate studies position, but was replaced right away by Dr. Dan Moon in June.

On top of seeking applicants for a new COEHS dean, Traynham said he promotes increased planning among the seven colleges and aims to align the given budget for a college with that college’s priorities.

Dr. Earle Traynham is the tenth provost and vice president of academic affairs at UNF. Graphic by David Guerrero
Dr. Earle Traynham is the tenth provost and vice president of academic affairs to serve at UNF.
Graphic by David Guerrero

Student life is also an area of concern for Traynham, whose son attended UNF.

“This campus is not as vibrant on the weekends as it should be – as it needs to be,” Traynham said. “If you can’t keep students interested in living here, then they’re less interested in going to school here.”

Furthermore, Dr. Traynham hopes to increase the total number of freshmen per semester, boost the retention rates of students and, in achieving both of these goals, maintain a steady increase in graduation rates.

“To me, a strategic plan should inform your decisions,” Traynham said. “You may not ever get where you want to be, but every decision you make when you have an opportunity to do something – to add a faculty member or change the curriculum – should always be moving you toward a goal.”

When Traynham was still in retirement in 2013, Delaney approached him about the interim provost position after receiving multiple university staff referrals. Originally, Traynham did not intend to stay at UNF for an extended period of time.

“I was happily retired, I would say. But I thought that this would be an interesting challenge and opportunity,” Traynham said.

“[Dr. Traynham] is a good decision maker, a good manager, and when he was dean, he was terrific at setting a vision for his college,” Delaney said.

Traynham came to UNF in 1973 to pursue a career as assistant professor of economics. In 1994, he became the dean of the College of Business.

President Delaney said Traynham orchestrated a major fundraising mission as dean. After developing a relationship with Luther Coggin, a philanthropist and former UNF Board of Trustees member, Traynham secured a $10 million gift in 2002 for what is now called the Coggin College of Business.

In 2008, Dr. Traynham went into retirement after 35 years of employment at UNF, due largely to Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).

DROP allows workers who are eligible for retirement to continue in their positions for up to five years, collecting retirement benefits on top of normal wages.

In those five years, Traynham traveled throughout Europe and taught economics courses at a few of UNF’s partner schools in Poland and Germany annually.

With his predilection for fundraising, Traynham has a keen interest in maintaining international focus on the university.

In 2014, Traynham coordinated a partnership between UNF and Hanban, a public Chinese institution, to offer courses on Chinese culture and language through the controversial Confucius Institute.

UNF’s search committee submitted to the president a short list of names for official provost candidates, including Traynham, shortly after his application submission in March 2015.

According to Delaney, the search committee comprises nine faculty-appointed members, five president-appointed members, two other employee representatives and one student representative.

“We had a terrific group of finalists and I think we’ve got a great pick,” Delaney said.

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