Q&A With UCF President Dr. John Hitt

What is the proudest achievement during your 21-year tenure?

“Getting the medical school up and running. Who knows the future, but right now that’s the answer. If you look at the difficulty in getting it done, and the way it changes how the university is perceived in academics as well as in other circles, it was the biggest achievement. It’s potentially the anchor for the medical city. “That [med city] is potentially a totally game changing kind of development for all of Central Florida.”


Your thoughts about UF following UCF and USF in the Florida High Tech Corridor Council:

“When [UF President} Bernie Machen came in, he, I think, perceived correctly that UF needed to think more about the metropolitan area.”


Your thoughts about university rankings?

“Rankings, generally, reflect the values of the people who put them together. That being said, we have excellent rankings in education, and I’m very proud of them. Largely, UCF suffers because it’s young, under-funded and doesn’t have a large endowment.”


What do you think about UF pursuing Top 10 status as a public research university?

“I think that’s great if Florida gets into the top 10. They’re our flagship university. Some people don’t like to say that or hear it, but they are our flagship university.

“That probably does reflect well on all of us. I think it’s good for the state. I don’t resent it in any way.


“The good thing is, in Florida when there’s something like this created, somebody gets money right out of the box, and within one, two, three years then others get the same thing.”


About universities as economic drivers:

“I just think if you look at the modern world, you don’t find successful city-state economies that don’t have a major research university. And, if we know we’re that essential to the success, we ought to be intentional about it.”


What has been the most challenging part of the job?

Lots of people and moving parts. Try to have balance in your life. “Don’t find yourself a sprinter in a long-distance race.

“You have to learn what you can do, and you’ve got to learn to balance your own life. And you have to learn what you can reasonably expect others to do.”


Most gratifying?

“You love the success of others.”


What is something that people do not know about you?

“I’m pretty boring. I grew up in a working-class family and was one of those kids whose life was transformed. I also helped to start the first American university in an iron curtain country, Bulgaria. Who would have thought a barefooted kid from Houston would end up having dinner with the president of Bulgaria on one side and George Soros on the other side.” (Soros is a Hungarian-American business magnate, investor and philanthropist.)