Profile

Thomas Kent "T.K." Wetherell

President: January 6, 2003 - January 31, 2010

Florida State University

T.K. Wetherell was the first alumnus to become president of The Florida State University. In 2009-10 Florida State University enrolled the most academically talented students in the history of the university, increased the number of doctoral degrees awarded, set new records for research dollars and experienced a boom in campus construction.

An outstanding advocate for higher education, Wetherell was a leader among his peers, and he pushed successfully for universities to assess a tuition differential in an effort to make up for budget shortfalls and continue to offer high-quality education to students.

Soon after assuming the presidency, Wetherell launched the innovative and ambitious Pathways of Excellence initiative that included hiring additional faculty members in interdisciplinary clusters built around academic themes, substantial investments in new facilities, and significant investments in graduate-level programs with emphasis on creating new interdisciplinary doctoral programs.

Wetherell scored a major coup in 2005 when The Florida State University lured the Applied Superconductivity Center to campus from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where it had been housed for more than two decades. The center has become the material research division of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

The most visible component of the Pathways initiative may be the $800 million worth of new construction and renovations, including state-of-the-art chemistry, biological science, psychology and medicine buildings, that transformed the northwest corner of campus into a research quadrangle. Other projects included several new research facilities, three new residence halls, dining halls, parking garages, a general classroom building and the Alumni Center. A highly visible and extensive project is a $33 million renovation of Ruby Diamond Auditorium, located in the university's historic Westcott Building, creating a beautiful, acoustically superior, premier performance hall.

Under Wetherell's leadership, the university saw its students reach unprecedented national academic recognition. During his tenure as president, three students, more than all other universities in the State of Florida combined, were named Rhodes Scholars. The Rhodes is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards for international study. The success is in part due to the Office of National Fellowships, established by Wetherell in 2005, which guided students to win more than 40 nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, including three Truman Scholarships, three Goldwater Scholarships, the Udall Scholarship and 22 Fulbright Fellowships.

Thanks to the new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors, many students conduct research and work directly with professors beyond the classroom -- scholarly activities that were once reserved mostly for students at the graduate level.

Florida State increased the retention rate for first-time-in-college freshmen to approximately 90 percent through programs such as the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement, Advising First and the Academic Center for Excellence, and dramatically improved four- and six-year graduation rates. In addition, the university ranked No. 1 in the nation among top research universities in graduation rates for African-Americans.

During Wetherell's tenure as president, Florida State University's College of Medicine, the nation's first new fully accredited public allopathic medical school in the past 25 years, graduated its first class in 2005, opened six regional campuses, and established important research collaborations with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. The college ranked fourth in the nation for the percentage of its graduating doctors who choose to specialize in family medicine, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Wetherell also devoted significant attention to a matter close to his heart: preserving and honoring the history of his alma mater through the efforts of the Heritage Protocol Committee, which seeks to collect and preserve memorabilia and items related to institutional; construction of the Legacy Walk, a historical tour of campus that focuses on its architecture, sculpture and green spaces; restoring campus traditions, such as freshman convocation and a class ring ceremony for seniors; and campus beautification.

It also was important to Wetherell to foster a closer relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. During Wetherell's tenure, the university established a Seminole history course, began a new tradition of tribe members participating in every commencement ceremony, and unveiled a bronze statue at the University Center that depicts a typical Seminole family during the wars of the 1830s. In 2005, the Seminole Tribe of Florida approved a historic resolution supporting Florida State's use of the "Seminole" name. The resolution came amid the National Collegiate Athletics Association's scrutiny of the university's use of the name.

In athletics, Florida State's track and field team won the NCAA championship three years in a row, and one of the team's standouts, Walter Dix, won two bronze medals at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Florida State athletes received more post-graduate scholarships than athletes at any other Atlantic Coast Conference school during Wetherell's tenure. Two of the university's three recent Rhodes Scholars, Myron Rolle and Garrett Johnson, were star athletes.

Wetherell and his wife, Virginia, left a permanent legacy with a new President's House, a stately home on West Tennessee Street adjacent to the Alumni Center that was constructed and furnished completely with donated non-public funds and materials. The three-story house features a private dwelling for the president's family on the top floor, while the two lower floors are used for university functions and special events.

A career educator who served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1980-92, including two years as House Speaker, Wetherell earned his bachelor's and master's degrees as well as a doctorate in education administration from Florida State. He served as president of Tallahassee Community College from 1995 until 2001. Before assuming the presidency at TCC, he was president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida and was responsible for coordinating and promoting postsecondary higher educational opportunities and programs in Florida's private colleges.

He previously served in a number of positions at Daytona State College, including provost and dean of instruction, vice president and president of academic and university transfer programs, vice president of district planning and development and executive assistant to the president. Before that, he was associate professor of education at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach. He began his career as an academic counselor for student-athletes at Florida State before going to Florida Technological University in Orlando where he was assistant to the deans of housing and then director of housing and administrative assistant to the vice president.

Born December 22, 1945, in Daytona Beach, Wetherell attended Port Orange Elementary School and Mainland Senior High School, where he was active in service clubs, student government and athletics. He attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and played on the 1963-67 football teams.

On his retirement from the presidency, Wetherell became a tenured professor in the College of Education and President Emeritus.