FAU president calling it quits

Kelly Tyko

After 12 years as FAU‘s top administrator, President Anthony Catanese is moving on.

Catanese’s resignation will be official on July 1, when he leaves to become president of the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in Melbourne, a private institution with about 4,500 students.

“I think Florida Tech is a terrific private institution, poised to do great things in teaching and research, and frankly, I think I had achieved all the goals I had set at Florida Atlantic,” Catanese said on March 27 from Melbourne, where he attended a press conference. “After 12 years, I felt it was time to do something new.

“For more than a decade I’ve been captain of a jumbo jet, and now I’ll take the controls of a spaceship. It is time for me to take on new challenges, but I leave FAU with great confidence in its future and a sense of pride in all that has been accomplished,” Catanese added.

Besides leaving FAU, he’ll be leaving behind a $191,000 salary, a car, a $20,000 annual housing allowance, a $20,000 annual annuity and a new $2 million president’s house.

Yet he’ll be gaining a much fatter paycheck at FIT. Since FIT is a private institution, information on Catanese’s new salary is not public. Though according to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the last president of Florida Tech earned about $280,000 a year in 1999.

Statistics show that since Catanese came to FAU in 1990, the student body has more than doubled, the number of campuses has grown from three to seven, and the assets of the FAU Foundation have jumped from $18 million to $150 million. Also during his reign, 36 new degree programs were started and the school moved into NCAA Division I athletics. FAU also got a football team with Catanese’s push.

Among the accomplishments in which he takes most pride are the creation of FAU‘s new medical education program, in partnership with the University of Miami; introduction of a five-year professional degree program in architecture; and establishment of the four-year, residential Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College on the university’s Jupiter campus.

The FIT job wasn’t the first time people thought that Catanese might leave. In 2000, he applied to be president of the University of Florida, where he was once a dean of at their college of architecture. He withdrew his name after FAU professors and students circulated fliers and petitions asking him to stay.

Now that he’s leaving, a search for a new president will begin.

FAU board of trustees Chairman John Temple, who also served on the panel that hired Catanese in 1990, told the Sun-Sentinel that he will call a special meeting soon to discuss how to search for Catanese’s replacement.

“My recommendation to them will be, we’ve got to initiate the search process now,” Temple told the Palm Beach Post. “I’m also going to recommend a national search. Tony took this university to a whole new level and I think we can attract a great candidate to take it to another level.”

Catanese’s departure means four of Florida’s 11 public universities will seek new presidents simultaneously. Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, New College of Florida in Sarasota and the University of West Florida in Pensacola also are searching now.