Colleges & Campus News

UCF and Hitt Recognized as ‘One of the Biggest Success Stories in Contemporary Higher Education’

By Rachel Williams |
July 16, 2018

John C. Hitt served as the fourth president of UCF. He recently stepped down from the presidency on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Josh Letchworth)

John C. Hitt served as the fourth president of UCF. He recently stepped down from the presidency on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Josh Letchworth)

John C. Hitt, UCF’s fourth president who retired on June 30, has been recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education for creating “one of the biggest success stories in contemporary higher education.”

“Many other college presidents have made similar gambits and found mixed results. Hitt is unusual for having accomplished them all, at one university,” according to the Chronicle.

When Hitt arrived in 1992, UCF was a midsize public commuter school. Twenty-six years later, UCF has grown from 22,000 students to 66,000; has become a research institution; and has opened a Division I football stadium, a medical school, and soon, a new campus in downtown Orlando.

“Many other college presidents have made similar gambits and found mixed results. Hitt is unusual for having accomplished them all, at one university,” according to the Chronicle.

The Chronicle credited much of UCF’s success to Hitt’s ability to form partnerships. During his tenure, he partnered with area state colleges, Electronic Arts, the military and defense industry, the city of Orlando and so many others to guide UCF’s growth and position the university as a supplier of quality talent to companies and industries.

Perhaps one of Hitt’s greatest achievements at UCF is broadening access to a higher education for more people, while also maintaining quality and attracting high-achieving students, Joshua Wyner, founder and director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, told the Chronicle.

Minority enrollment under Hitt’s leadership rose from 16 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2017, while the percentage of students eligible for Pell Grants also grew from 27 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2017. Over the same period, weighted GPA of incoming students rose from 3.30 to 4.06, and the graduation rate rose from 40 percent to 70 percent.

Dale Whittaker, UCF’s fifth president who took office July 1, told the Chronicle that involving others was key to Hitt’s success at UCF.

He would gather key people to “put our heads together, be creative, find our friends, get support,” Whittaker said.

“He’s listening very carefully to how the discussion is going. He’ll put in his piece when, and only when, he feels it will make a difference,” added Maribeth Ehasz, vice president for student development and enrollment services.

Hitt and his wife of 56 years, Martha, moved to Madison, Wis., to be near their children. He is now president emeritus, and he is helping UCF successfully complete the $500 million IGNITE fundraising campaign while also providing advice and counsel about the implementation of the Collective Impact strategic plan.

Read the full article from the Chronicle.