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Richard Corcoran selected to become permanent president of New College of Florida

Richard Corcoran sitting during a meeting
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Corcoran's selection as president will need approval from the state university system's Board of Governors.

The Republican former state House speaker and Florida education commissioner has served as interim president since March.

The New College of Florida Board of Trustees chose Corcoran through a roll-call vote in which they were asked to name their top candidate among the three finalists.

Corcoran won votes from 10 of 12 trustees.

Also vying to become president were Tyler Fisher, an associate professor of modern languages and literature at the University of Central Florida, and Robert Gervasi, a former interim president at the University of Mount Union in Ohio.

Trustee Amy Reid, a professor who represents New College faculty, voted for Gervasi, and trustee Grace Keenan, who is the student member of the board, voted for Fisher.

Corcoran—a former Florida Republican lawmaker and state education commissioner— was named interim president in March as part of a sweeping overhaul that Governor Ron DeSantis started in January when he appointed a majority conservative board.

Trustee Mark Bauerlein said each of the three finalists were qualified -- but pointed to Corcoran's experience as a Florida lawmaker as a plus for New College. 

"The reason that I would lean toward President Corcoran -- Interim President Corcoran -- is because of the special circumstances," he said. The external issues, the political issues, the contacts in Tallahassee."

Trustee Christopher Rufo, a conservative education activist, said New College needed a different kind of leader in supporting Corcoran for the permanent position.

 “We now have a homogenous higher education system, and at New College we’re trying to break out of that and do something radically different,” he said.

But Trustee Grace Keenan said a student survey showed most students did not support Corcoran. 

"It is very clear from the students that he was ranked last," she said. "The top comment was that despite being interim president he had not come to speak to the students to open himself up for conversation about the presidential search his entire time as interim president."

Corcoran's selection means means the college can now enter into formal contract negotiations with him. The New College Presidential Search Committee in July approved a pay range of $487,000 to $868,000.

As interim, he was given an annual salary of $699,000.

This week, New College also got news that it has been accepted to the Sun Conference, which is associated with the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics, for its new athletics program. 

One of Corcoran's first priorities as interim president was recruiting student athletes as a way to boost enrollment at New College.

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