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First female FGCU president, Aysegul Timur, officially installed

Aysegul Timur installed as FGCU president
Andrea Melendez/WGCU
Aysegul Timur installed as FGCU president

Dr. Aysegul Timur was installed Friday as the fifth, and first female president of Florida Gulf Coast University.

The ceremony was held on campus at Alico Arena and included three of the university's former presidents — Dr. Roy E. McTarnaghan, Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw and Dr. Michael V. Martin — area dignitaries, FGCU students, faculty and administrators.

Timur was selected to become Florida Gulf Coast University’s fifth president on May 4, 2023, following a unanimous endorsement from the FGCU Board of Trustees. Her presidency was confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors on June 22, 2023.

She became president on July 1, 2023, following the retirement of President Mike Martin.

Timur, an economist by training, is a Naples residentwith more than 24 years of experience in higher education. She earned a doctorate from the University of South Florida and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Istanbul.

After the official presidential Chain of Office was placed around Timur's shoulders, she addressed those gathered and spoke about her vision for FGCU.

Text of Timur's installation address:

Thank you, Provost Rieger, and to all of you in Alico Arena today.

Let me first say that I am humbled by the outpouring of support we have seen today for Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU is Southwest Florida’s university, and my heart is so full of gratitude as I look out over the crowd today.

In the audience today are many of our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and our biggest supporters from the Southwest Florida community.

We are the FGCU Family. And you make this enormous arena feel like home.

We have quite a few special guests with us today, and for some, it might be their first time inside this arena. Please allow me to begin my remarks by sharing the importance of Alico Arena and one of our best traditions here at FGCU.

When our prospective students and their families take a tour of campus, the bus drops them off at the front of this very arena. As they walk through the double doors leading to the gym floor, they are told all about the Athletics program, our biggest wins, the Dunk City magic, and how to join the Dirty Birds, our student cheering section.

And then, as they stand right here in the middle of the basketball court floor, they are told that all FGCU students start and end their collegiate journey right here in Alico Arena.

You see, each fall, on the first day of school, we host Eagle Revolution in this space. Think of it as a massive pep rally where there’s a DJ playing music and our cheerleaders, Egals, and Azul are pumping up our students for the year ahead. They hear from our student-athletes and world-class coaching staff, and they are encouraged by the faculty, staff, and campus leadership. It’s quite the first day, especially for our incoming freshmen, and as you can imagine, this arena is filled with cheers and school spirit.

Now, fast-forward a few years, those same students come back to this arena one last time. Once again, the arena is filled with cheers and the one-of-a-kind Eagle spirit, but also a few well-earned tears.

This is the location of FGCU's commencement ceremonies - the place where families and friends gather to celebrate all that their FGCU Eagle has achieved and all that is to come. In fact, we were just here in December honoring our fall graduates, and it was truly a heartwarming celebration of achievement, perseverance, and talent.

As I prepared myself for today’s ceremony, I kept thinking about how in this space – in this arena – we honor our past, we recognize the work that has brought us here, and we celebrate the future that lies ahead.

In a lot of ways, that’s why we are all gathered here today. We are honoring our phenomenal legacy in Southwest Florida and the passion and work that brought us through the past 26 years, and we are celebrating all that the future holds for this great institution.

And let me tell you, FGCU’s future is bright.

I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of FGCU’s future and that we are all on this journey together. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here and showing your support for Florida Gulf Coast University.

We heard so many wonderful tributes this morning, and I am deeply touched by the kind words that have been shared by the speakers on this stage and in the video that was shown. Once again, I am grateful for the support you have shown Florida Gulf Coast University.

Before we move on in the program, I would like to take a few minutes to share my gratitude.

First and foremost, I want to thank the best support system I could have ever dreamed of – my family. Mete, my husband of 25 years, has been the absolute best partner in life’s journey, and I am so proud of the people our children, Efehan and Alara, have become. You inspire me with your support and love, and it is such a comfort to have my family here with me today.

Chancellor Rodrigues, thank you for your continuing support of our institution. You are an FGCU alum and longtime Eagle employee, and it is such an honor to have you back here on campus on behalf of the Board of Governors.

I’m also honored that many of my fellow presidents from around the State University System and beyond could be here as well. Thank you for taking time to travel to beautiful Southwest Florida and be part of today’s celebration. Your support is invaluable.

To our esteemed University Trustees, thank you for being here. I’m incredibly grateful for your passion for our institution, your endless support for our students and employees, and the impact you each have had on elevating what we do here at FGCU. I see the work and dedication you each have demonstrated at our university but also the Southwest Florida region and beyond. I look forward to the work that lies ahead.

And to the chair of our Trustees, Blake Gable, thank you for your dedication to FGCU over the past 11 years, in which you have shown great passion and interest in advocating for our students, employees, and programs. You are among the many FGCU alumni we have in the room. This is one of Chair Gable’s final events as a member of the University Trustees, as his term ends at the end of the month. Thank you for your service, Chair Gable. I truly appreciate your support and guidance. Please join me in applauding his contributions to the university.

Another great friend of Southwest Florida and FGCU is Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. You have tirelessly advocated for our region and helped elevate awareness about the issues impacting K-12 and higher education. It is an absolute pleasure to host you once again on our campus.

I want to also thank all members of the Southwest Florida delegation and other elected officials who are with us today. We appreciate your partnership. Your efforts ensure our students are on the right path for success.

Samantha Scott, thank you for continuing to care for our university as a graduate who is now the president of our Foundation, the fundraising arm of our institution.

Likewise, thank you to Ryan King for sharing how FGCU left an impact on your life. Your continued involvement with the Alumni Association is wonderful. To all of our alumni who are here today, thank you for coming home to mark this great occasion. I know I will see you soon at homecoming!

And to our institution’s shared governance leaders, thank you for your support. We heard from Emory Cavin with Student Government, Dr. Lyndsay Rhodes with Faculty Senate, and Jena Padilla with the Staff Advisory Council. They are doing phenomenal work advocating for our core constituents on campus, representing more than 16,000 students and over 3,000 employees. Thank you for your service to the FGCU Community.

To our employees in the room – our incredible, world-class faculty and staff - thank you for showing up on campus every day with passion and dedication to providing the best service and opportunities possible for our students.

And to our students, thank you! 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.

Before I go any further, let me thank my friends, the people who I have leaned on throughout my life’s journey. Thank you also to my tribe, the colleagues I work alongside, my mentors, the leaders who coached me over the years, and, most importantly, the Southwest Florida community. You welcomed me and my family 25 years ago, you adopted me as one of your own and, as I look out around the room today, I see so many of the people who took me under their wings.

You helped raise me.

And I want you to know that I am proud to call Southwest Florida home.

Finally, I would like to honor three very special guests at today’s event. With us today are three of our previous presidents - Dr. Roy E. McTarnaghan, Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw and Dr. Michael V. Martin. Can you all please join me in giving them a great big round of applause?

Thanks to their transformative leadership, FGCU has emerged as a regional-comprehensive university that directly impacts the far reaches of Southwest Florida – and beyond.

In 1993, about four years before our university opened its doors to teaching and learning, Dr. McTarnaghan was named our founding president. Back then, we still didn’t have a name, but we had the tremendous gift of 760 acres from Ben Hill Griffin III and Alico Inc. to build our campus. With a handful of employees under his wing, Dr. McTarnaghan made our community’s dreams a reality by bringing a four-year university to the region. Its name became Florida Gulf Coast University, and it was the first new public university to launch in Florida in more than 20 years.

From the very beginning, the mission was clear: FGCU would serve the five-county region by offering a high-quality education with direct ties to the local workforce.

In 1999, after successfully getting our institution up and running, Dr. McTarnaghan retired and we welcomed our second president, Dr. Merwin, who passed away in 2011. We often refer to his tenure as the boom years, as he took FGCU from its humble beginnings of a commuter school and transformed it into a more traditional regional comprehensive university. Under his leadership, we launched our collegiate athletics program, introduced on-campus housing, and expanded our academic offerings. FGCU nearly tripled its enrollment and the number of buildings on campus, and we experienced growth in private gifts and donations to the university, which put us on a trajectory no one saw coming.

Then came Dr. Bradshaw, FGCU’s third president. He took that momentum and ran with it. During his decade in office, Dr. Bradshaw oversaw a rapid growth in degree programs, academic facilities, and enrollment – all of which were connected to the living laboratory that is Southwest Florida. He led the institution through the great recession and helped promote the campus as a hub of activity for the Southwest Florida region, including the performing and fine arts, and cheering for the nationally known Dunk City basketball team.

And that brings me to Dr. Martin, our fourth president, who is also one of my greatest mentors and was the person who recruited me to FGCU five years ago. Dr. Martin guided our campus through a global pandemic that challenged traditional methods of teaching, learning, and business operations. He also led us through two devastating hurricanes that directly impacted Southwest Florida – Irma in 2017 and Ian in 2022. Despite these significant challenges, he took the momentum of his predecessors and helped our university soar to new heights. We expanded enrollment to over 16,000 at a time when other universities were losing students, and we grew our on-campus footprint with new buildings, programs, and partnerships.

I hope you see a trend with these phenomenal leaders. At FGCU, we have a strong history of building on our successes. We continue pushing the bar on excellence. We see room to be better and we go for it. And challenges – we know they are going to happen, but as Eagles, we see them as an opportunity to get creative.

That’s what we have learned from our history, and that’s what we have learned from our former FGCU presidents. And now it is my mission to continue that momentum.

It is truly an honor to have you with us today, gentlemen. Welcome back to the nest.

The history of leadership at FGCU brought us to where we are today, but everything that FGCU has achieved can be tied back to the pretty audacious goals our community and supporters said they wanted in our university.

And it is because of that incredible support and community love for this institution that FGCU blossomed, surpassing expectations every step of the way.

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.

We are home to 64 undergraduate degrees, 26 master’s degrees and seven doctoral degrees, with another one on the way! 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.

The scholarship and research produced by our top-notch faculty are making a difference with our students as well as the local community and beyond. I am sure you have seen their work on television and in various media outlets almost every day, showcasing the impact our faculty and students have made in the region.

Through their work, new partnerships are forged. An example is the university’s largest grant in its 26-year history that was the result of a partnership with the FutureMakers Coalition.

Today, FGCU is a hub for intellectual and cultural events, from lecture series and art exhibits to live performances that showcase the talent that is born in the Bower School of Music & the Arts. WGCU, our region’s public broadcast station, keeps you informed on the latest issues and trends, and our D-1 Athletics program offers all the excitement of professional-scale competition with our stellar student-athletes. Plus, we offer lifelong learning opportunities through the FGCU Academy.

Individuals from our community, just like all of you, believed in our mission from day one. They believed in what we could become for Southwest Florida.

And we are not done!

FGCU is growing. FGCU is maturing. And we have a bright, exciting future ahead of us.

We have incredible opportunities to align ourselves strategically with regional and statewide employers, and we want to do more. We need to do more. That is why it is my goal for FGCU to be the strongest regional link in the State University System.

Let me tell you, we are well on our way.

We are working on securing funding for our next academic building that will help expand the incredible programs tied to the Marieb College of Health & Human Services. Within the School of Nursing, we see many successes with our graduates, and it is a point of pride that our nursing students continue to rank Number One in the State University System for first-time pass rate on the national licensure exam.

The new health sciences building will eventually become home to the Shady Rest Institute on Positive Aging. This endeavor will include practical research to help us identify ways that our aging population can stay vital longer.

Having a direct tie to the living laboratory that is Southwest Florida is something we excel at. Take for instance, The Water School. Not only does the research coming from that school benefit Southwest Florida, but we are using an interdisciplinary approach and state-of-the-art resources to teach the policymakers and scientists who will find the solutions to the real problems facing our world.

The Water School is the model we are replicating campus-wide, ensuring we are addressing real-world issues that face not only our local community, but beyond.

It is a point of pride for our institution that we feed our local economy with a skilled workforce.

Our alumni are your school counselors and children’s teachers or school administrators from the College of Education. They are our community's biologists and forensic scientists, who graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Our U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering graduates build our community as civil engineers and construction managers, and students coming out of the Lutgert College of Business are your go-to experts on finance or accounting.

We support the tourism industry with graduates from FGCU’s Resort & Hospitality program, and our professional golf management program is one of only 18 PGA-accredited programs in the nation — and the only one in Florida. And many of our graduates are building their own businesses, thanks to the knowledge gained through the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship.

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.

At FGCU, we are constantly learning about the new jobs being created in the various industries and the type of skills that are necessary for students entering our workforce regionally and beyond. This helps us understand where the gaps might be – such as in skills or competencies. Knowing where the needs are helps us act quickly to address it in our academic and short-term credentials.

We’re also connecting our students to the local workforce through internships, job shadowing opportunities, and co-op experiences, which gives them real-world experience as they learn.

Our priority is making sure our students get paid while they do real work. This means our students are building strong relationships with the local community.

We double-down on this connection because every undergraduate student is required to complete service-learning hours. This helps build a foundation for civic engagement, a quality our students will 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.

I tell you this because we know our students stay local when they connect locally.

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.

Our students stay local.

As I look out at the audience, I see so many of our long-time constituents and supporters. We are partners. And with this in mind, we have crafted the strategic vision that will guide our future.

About a month ago, the FGCU Board of Trustees unanimously approved our strategic direction for the next five years. The plan is called “Innovating for Student Success: FGCU’s Journey to Excellence." The strategic plan goes before the Board of Governors at the end of the month for final approval, and we will then begin the exciting work of bringing the document to life on our campus.

The plan is our roadmap, outlining how decisions, funding allocations, legislative budget requests, and the day-to-day functions of the university will be made for the next five years. At FGCU, our goals and objectives are flexible enough to respond to the ever-changing world we live in, but with measurable outcomes.

And we ensured that the plan is in alignment with the State University System of Florida and the Florida Chamber’s 2030 Blueprint.

With this plan, we are going to strengthen our high-quality academic degree programs that meet state economic and workforce needs. We will expand our cutting-edge scholarship and research to address problems from the local region on up to the global society. And we are going to continue to improve the quality of life for Southwest Florida and Floridians overall by collaborating with our community.

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.

I like to think about this as my 3Ps – Passion, Partnerships and Performance.

We will ignite our passion, digging deeper into the roots of our student-centered education model, where we prepare students for their future careers and their personal lives. We will strengthen and expand our partnerships, ensuring that everyone we interact with – our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community – has a reason to be proud that FGCU is Southwest Florida’s regional comprehensive institution. And we will focus on performance, certifying that we will not only achieve excellence in all that we do at FGCU, but that we have the power to sustain and grow it.

FGCU is going to build on the momentum it has gained over the last 26 years, and we will do all of these things together.

It will take all of us - our outstanding faculty, our incredible staff and the entire Southwest Florida community and beyond.

It is our long-established leadership principle at FGCU that every resident of Southwest Florida has some reason to be glad our university is here in their backyard.

That was true in 1993, back before we had a name. That was true when we opened our doors in 1997. And 26 years later, it remains true.

And you – every single person in Alico Arena today - are proof that is happening. Altogether, we are investing in education and intellectual capital to transform knowledge into action every day in meaningful ways.

FGCU is your university.

And I am so proud to serve as the fifth president of this great university.

I thank you for joining us here today. Please join me in showing your Eagle pride.

Wings up and go Eagles!

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