There was an infectious sense of new beginnings in and around Florida Gulf Coast University’s Alico Arena Jan. 12. The cause for celebration wasn’t the turning of the calendar but rather the installation of President Aysegul Timur as the university’s fifth president.
Hundreds of FGCU students, alumni, faculty and staff joined the formal occasion, along with those Timur called the university’s biggest supporters from the Southwest Florida community. The event featured ceremonial processions of faculty in regalia and the symbols of the FGCU presidency, including the chain of office presentation.
All three living past FGCU presidents attended — Roy McTarnaghan, Wilson G. Bradshaw and Mike Martin. Timur recognized their contributions as well as those of the late Bill Merwin, who oversaw tremendous growth as FGCU’s second president.
“Thanks to their transformative leadership, FGCU has emerged as a regional comprehensive university that directly impacts Southwest Florida and beyond,” she said.
Timur also thanked Student Government, Faculty Senate and Staff Advisory Council leaders who offered well wishes on the arena stage. They represented more than 16,000 students and 3,000 faculty and staff, she noted.
“We are the FGCU family. And you make this enormous arena feel like home,” she said.
Addressing students and alumni directly, Timur commented, “It is not lost on me that you each have chosen FGCU to be your home away from home. Everything we do as a university is meant to help you succeed, not only in the classroom, but in life. I am so proud of the people you are becoming, and it warms my heart to see you engaged in today’s event. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your president.”
Timur noted the many ways FGCU and its students and alumni influence Southwest Florida. She said the university is proud to “feed the local economy” with a skilled workforce that includes teachers, scientists, construction managers and accountants. FGCU’s commitment to service-learning not only benefits the community, it helps build a foundation for civic engagement, a quality she believes Eagles carry with them through life.
“I am proud to say more than 5 million hours have been clocked in the Southwest Florida community by FGCU students,” she said, adding many students stay in the area after graduation.
“Believe it or not, that is unique to FGCU. Not every college or university can say that — not in Florida, not in the nation. And at FGCU, we say that with great pride.”
“Whatever our students end up doing after graduation, we know they leave here prepared for the workforce of today — and tomorrow. And we can say that with great confidence because of the amazing partnerships and relationships we have built with our regional employers.”
One of the goals she mentioned is for FGCU to be the strongest regional link in the State University System.
“We have incredible opportunities to align ourselves strategically with regional and statewide employers, and we want to do more. We need to do more.”
Timur honored FGCU’s past while looking ahead to its bright future. “Over the years, we have transformed from a sparsely populated commuter school to a bustling venue for community engagement. Today, we have more than 200 buildings on campus, and the names that adorn them recognize the community leaders who made this university possible.”
She called FGCU “a hub for intellectual and cultural events” and touted her pride in the university’s athletics program and lifelong learning opportunities through the FGCU Academy.
“We are also ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative education and partnerships, digital badging and micro-credentials, which are short-term, high-rigor academic programs that are helping develop the local workforce. In fact, we’re not just leading the way in the state, but the nation.”
In closing, Timur vowed to strengthen the university’s academic degree programs that meet state economic and workforce needs, expand scholarship and research to address problems locally and globally, and continue to improve the quality of life for Southwest Florida and Floridians.
“Through these efforts, we are reinforcing our partnerships and building upon our sustainability and resiliency practices. And we are ensuring that FGCU continues to be a great place to work because we are going to keep strengthening our organization.
“It will take all of us — our outstanding faculty, our incredible staff and the entire Southwest Florida community and beyond.”