On May 4, Aysegul Timur entered the Cohen Student Union to a standing ovation. Minutes before, she had received a unanimous endorsement from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Board of Trustees as president-elect to serve as FGCU’s fifth president.
A native of Turkey, Timur is simultaneously the first immigrant and woman selected to lead the university.
“I care so deeply about what I do and deeply about students and deeply about faculty and staff and the community that we serve,” Timur said. “That is so important to me.”
In 2019, President Mike Martin, with Dean Christopher Westley’s encouragement, hired Timur to develop strategic relationships across the five-county region the university serves. It seems these two economists saw what FGCU’s future could be with Timur representing FGCU. It didn’t hurt that she’s also an economist.
“I can’t think of anyone better suited to build on the foundation Dr. Martin has created over the last five years,” said Westley, dean of FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business. “But to that foundation, she brings a lot of well-earned credibility as a higher ed and community leader with a record of adding value to every project she commits to. Her work ethic, values and ability to get things done will make this an exciting time for our university and region.”
Moments after the trustees’ decision, Martin said, “Dr. Timur has been a wonderful, powerful, impactful member of our team, and she will continue in that regard. I think this marks the next great era of FGCU, and she’ll be a great leader to take us into that era. I think for everyone at FGCU — students, faculty, staff, friends, legislators and others — this is a very good day.”
Martin’s ringing endorsement is important to the long-term success of Florida Gulf Coast University, but Timur was keen to distinguish herself from the retiring president.
“I have my own leadership qualities and strengths,” she said during her closing remarks in the Board of Trustees’ interview. “I call that ‘Aysegul Timur 5.0,’ as the fifth president. What it means is that my passion, my inclusive, adaptive and collaborative leadership, my innovation, my wide range of communication — internally, externally — sharing [a] common vision, storytelling, strategies and transparent financial perspective, [my] data-driven approach, and finally my deep roots and trusted relationships in the five-county region — with that, I can hit the ground running on day one.”
Support for Timur is strong
During her interview, Timur called FGCU “a leading economic engine in the region and beyond.” She would know. In four short years, Timur has cemented herself as a workforce development leader. Her efforts were underlined when she secured a nearly $23 million grant to establish the Southwest Florida Equitable Jobs Pipeline. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Good Jobs Challenge grant will allow FGCU to develop workforce training programs to help unemployed and underemployed Southwest Floridians obtain the necessary qualifications for jobs in health care, education, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics.
Perhaps the greatest example of her leadership in this area is the success of FGCU’s partnership with Arthrex. Reinhold Schmieding, the president and founder of Arthrex, was in the room with FGCU trustees throughout all four presidential candidate interviews. He was also the first to offer a public comment and endorse Timur before the trustees voted to select the next president.
“Thanks to Dr. Timur’s innovative leadership, over 500 FGCU graduates are now Arthrex employees, which has sustained our ability to invest and grow in Southwest Florida,” Schmieding said.
Arthrex designs and manufactures surgical devices, provides surgical skills education and is the largest corporate employer in Collier County. Schmieding noted his company has 4,000 employees and over 20,000 annual visitors, equating to an annual economic impact of over $2 billion in Southwest Florida.
The company has a strong relationship with FGCU, Schmieding said, because of Timur’s “enthusiastic collaboration and support.” He also mentioned specific initiatives that connect FGCU with the community’s needs, such as 48 student scholarships and bringing an MBA program to Arthrex.
“Dr. Timur’s hands-on initiatives [have] led each achievement every step of the way, providing us great assistance and confidence in overcoming the limited access to university-educated labor in Southwest Florida,” Schmieding said. “She is a true champion of higher education we respect and admire. On behalf of the 4,000 Southwest Florida employees and their families at Arthrex, we strongly endorse Dr. Timur as the next FGCU president.”
Beyond Schmieding, May 2023 grad and former FGCU Student Body President Grace Brannigan supported Timur. “I think she’s incredibly kind and incredibly smart and resilient,” said Brannigan, who served on the Board of Trustees and also on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee that helped pick Timur as a finalist.
Timur’s accession as the first female president of FGCU puts her in a small but mighty group of women in Florida’s history.
“I know she is going to be phenomenal, and we are going to remember this day as historic,” said Lisa Johnson, associate vice president for enrollment management. “She is the first female president of Florida Gulf Coast University. We made history today!”
Maria Roca, a founding FGCU faculty member, agrees.
“After 26 years, it’s very exciting for Florida Gulf Coast University to have a woman president, and Aysegul Timur is the perfect choice to fill that role. She is smart. She is thoughtful. She knows FGCU. She knows the region. And on top of all that, she is an incredibly compassionate woman,” Roca said.
Making Southwest Florida home
Timur learned English around the same time FGCU was founded. “My journey started 25 years ago,” she said. “Maybe it doesn’t resonate with [everyone], but [it can be a hardship] moving from another continent, coming to a different culture and country.”
Timur earned her doctoral degree in business administration at the University of South Florida in 2006 and her bachelor’s and master’s in business administration at the University of Istanbul.
Her decision to leave her home country and immigrate to Southwest Florida struck a chord with FGCU students.
“Dr. Timur’s story is reflective of the story of lots of FGCU students and lots of students in the state of Florida,” Brannigan said. “That’s the kind of leadership this community needs, someone who doesn’t just want to help or improve FGCU but wants to connect with them on that level and understands them on that level and understands more of what it’s like.”
Throughout her two-plus decade career in higher education, Timur has established herself as a leader. At FGCU, she started as assistant vice president of strategic initiatives, strategy and program innovation in the Office of the President before being promoted to vice president and vice provost for strategy and program innovation. Before coming to FGCU, she worked her way up the ranks at Hodges University from teaching assistant to senior vice president of academic affairs.
It’s important to note that Timur calls Collier County home and looks forward to strengthening FGCU’s ties with that community among the others in the five-county region. She serves as chair of the Collaboratory Board of Trustees, a member of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Board of Trustees, a member of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, immediate past chair of the Leadership Collier Foundation Advisory Council and a member of the International Women’s Forum’s Florida Suncoast Board of Directors.
“I’ve become part of this Southwest Florida family,” Timur said during her interview. “This community is my family. Now I have [a] bigger family with FGCU.”
“I know our students, I know our faculty, staff, partners and business leaders, superintendents, nonprofit leaders and the legislators,” Timur said at the end of her interview with the trustees. “I know FGCU, and I know [the] Southwest Florida community.”
Timur is FGCU’s president-elect. The next step is confirmation by the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors, which is slated to be on the June agenda.
With her eye on the future, Timur told FGCU trustees, “We will be the best regional comprehensive university. I know we will go after innovation, I know that we will go after vision, and we’ll do it together.”
In a nod to her predecessor, President Martin, Timur added, “Let the momentum continue.”