John C. Hitt became the University of Central Florida's fourth president on March 1, 1992, and more than 25 years of remarkable results have followed under his visionary leadership.
When Dr. Hitt became president, UCF's enrollment ranked fifth in Florida and 115th in the nation. Since then, enrollment has tripled, making UCF the largest university in Florida and one of the largest in America. More importantly, the quality of academic programs, faculty, and students has increased dramatically; UCF has become a major metropolitan research university of global impact; and the university has launched more than $1 billion in new construction.
The projects include a new stadium, arena, medical college, student union center, regional campuses, student wellness center, a visitor information center, and community health clinic. Of the 318,205 degrees earned by students during UCF’s history, President Hitt has awarded 262,858 of them – or 83 percent. He has awarded more degrees at a state university in Florida than any other president in Sunshine State history.
Currently, he is the longest-serving president in the State University System of Florida, and he has been president of UCF for nearly half the years since the university opened in 1968.
"Simply stated, I believe Walt Disney and John Hitt have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant, dynamic place than any two people." — Jeb Bush, Florida Governor, 1999-2007 Meanwhile, President Hitt’s drive to establish UCF as America’s Leading Partnership University has made UCF synonymous with the economic progress and prosperity of Central Florida and the Sunshine State.
For instance, the president’s persistence in working with state, local, and federal government officials and private businesses led to construction of the UCF College of Medicine at Lake Nona. A cluster of related facilities has resulted in a Medical City that is the biggest economic boost for Central Florida since Disney World. In the years ahead, this collaborative effort is projected to generate up to 30,000 jobs and an annual $7.6 billion economic benefit for the region.
Since President Hitt’s arrival at UCF, research funding has escalated from $28.4 million to more than $100 million annually for the past 12 years. Research professors and students from various fields work with companies throughout Central Florida to develop new technologies and innovations that create well-paying jobs as part of the Florida High-Tech Corridor Council.
President Hitt founded the 23-county corridor council in 1996 with University of South Florida President Betty Castor. The University of Florida has since joined on, anchoring a public-private effort that has generated more than 3,200 jobs with a direct and indirect economic benefit of $1.3 billion.
The president’s unique approach to tackling opportunities, challenges, and problems has taken UCF from promise to prominence – and it has earned him many accolades. Those include being twice ranked No. 1 on Orlando Magazine’s list of Orlando’s 50 Most Powerful People, earning the Orlando Sentinel’s Central Floridian of the Year award, and being recognized by Washington Monthly magazine as one of the 10 most innovative college presidents in America.
He serves the public and higher education with distinction through a wide variety of organizations. For instance, he is an original member of the national University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of large public research universities seeking to improve educational access and academic success for low-income students. Dr. Hitt is also a member of the board of directors of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
Prior to arriving at UCF, Dr. Hitt served as the interim president at the University of Maine. His leadership experience also includes a decade as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bradley University in Illinois and other distinguished academic work at Texas Christian University and Tulane University.
Dr. Hitt grew up in Houston, Texas, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. He and his wife, Martha, whom he met at Austin College in Texas where they both attended, have been married for more than 50 years. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Dr. Dale Whittaker, UCF president-elect and executive vice president, will succeed UCF President John Hitt on July 1. Learn more about President-Elect Whittaker's plans and aspirations for America's Partnership University as he prepares to become UCF's 5th president. Also, see the full story about Dr. Whittaker's appointment and learn more about UCF's next president.