The acting president of the FIU initially did not want the top job. He is now the only finalist

Roger Tovar says it is a measure of Dr. Kenneth Jessell’s humility that the acting president of Florida International University did not initially put himself in the running for the top job.

Jessel had said he wasn’t interested in the permanent position. Now he is the only finalist to be the school’s sixth president. (Other top contenders dropped out of the race because they didn’t want to advance unless they were the only finalists.)

Tovar, who heads the school’s presidential search committee, says he’s confident Jessel is the right person for the job.

Speaking about Jessel at a school board meeting on Thursday, Tovar became emotional.

“[I] had many opportunities to experience his work ethic, strategic thinking process and unwavering integrity. He is brilliant. And this one is important — he’s nice,” Tovar said, his voice cracking. “And he led the university through an important period of transition and a pivotal moment for the CRF.”

Jessell has led CRF since January, having previously served as the school’s senior vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer, and professor of finance.

He holds three degrees from Florida State University and spent 26 years at Florida Atlantic University, where he worked as a professor in the Department of Finance and Real Estate and rose through the ranks to become Senior Vice President of school financial affairs.

Jessel was named after former CRF President Mark Rosenberg, resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment.

Shortly after taking the helm, Jessell said he had no intention of serving until a replacement is foundtelling the Miami Herald he liked his previous job and wanted to “return to that position”.

Jessel was ‘shocked’ when he was recruited for the top job

Tovar, who is the vice chairman of the board, says he himself recruited Jessel for the top job. According to Tovar, they were having breakfast when he made his pitch.

“He was surprised when I finally said, ‘Dr. Jessell, why don’t you apply for the position of president of the CRF?’” Tovar said. “He was shocked. He was taken aback. »

One of Jessell’s concerns, Tovar said, was that Jessell initially said he didn’t want the permanent position.

“He said he would feel uncomfortable doing it because he said he was not a candidate. And I said, well, that’s 100% correct,” a Tovar said, “You weren’t a candidate. You didn’t ask to be a candidate. But I’m asking you to be a candidate. So he accepted.”

Jessell declined an interview request from WLRN on Thursday, citing scheduling conflicts.


Over the next three weeks, Florida International University will hold a series of town hall meetings for the community to weigh in on the candidacy of interim president Kenneth Jessell.

Tovar says that in his 13 years in college, and especially in the past eight months, Jessell has proven himself as a leader.

“Every time I looked and saw who was applying, my measuring stick was Dr. Jessell,” Tovar said. “And I would say, ‘Would that person do a better job than Dr. Jessell?'”

Dean Colson, chairman of the board, said the board would have a more in-depth discussion and ask Jessel questions after the school held a series of town hall meetings about his candidacy.

“I’ve known Dr. Jessell for a long time, but the last eight months have shown me… a side I didn’t know,” Colson said. “I can’t thank him enough for his guidance over the last eight, nine months. The transition has been interesting and it couldn’t have gone easier.

Jessel rises to the top of a group of 12 interviewees

In a presentation to the board on Thursday, Tovar said the presidential search committee interviewed a total of 12 candidates, whom he described as dynamic, diverse and qualified.

Tovar said the group included current and former university presidents, business leaders and government officials. Candidate identities are confidential due to new state law protect academic presidential research from public view.

Under the public records exemption, only the identities of finalists may be disclosed. The FIU also asked members of the presidential search committee to sign non-disclosure agreements, saying it was “imperative” that candidates were given “maximum confidentiality”.

Tovar said keeping the process behind closed doors allowed the university to attract applicants who would not have applied if their application had become public knowledge.

The FIU will organize public forums in the coming weeks

Over the next three weeks, the FIU will hold public town halls for the community to speak out on Jessell’s candidacy and ask him questions.

After the school receives public feedback, the board can vote on the nomination. Ultimately, it’s up to the Florida Board of Governors to confirm the appointment.

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