A tribute to Trevor Colbourn, UCF's 2nd president

Memorial Service for Trevor Colbourn, UCF's second president
All Saints Episcopal Church, Winter Park

February 2, 2015

We remember today a man who

  • had a distinguished scholarly career as an historian,
  • served this community with skill and commitment,
  • and worked tirelessly for the advancement of the University of Central Florida.

In the President’s Board Room in Millican Hall, the central administration building at UCF, hangs a portrait of the first four presidents of UCF. Seated in the foreground are Charlie Millican and Trevor Colbourn. Behind these two pioneering presidents stand Steven Altman and me. I often think how very symbolic this grouping is!

Trevor changed the trajectory of Florida Technological University. He anchored his university in the Central Florida region. And he left a legacy of academic rigor and integrity.

The two seated figures in the portrait provided the vision and hard work that laid the foundation upon which all of our university’s considerable successes and achievements have been built.

Steve and I, pictured behind the first two presidents of UCF, have most assuredly been their beneficiaries.   

Trevor’s legacy to our university and to his community is lasting. He was an authentic intellectual who valued the transmission of knowledge and who respected the essential role of research. He was also pragmatic in his understanding of the evolving role of higher education in the modern world.

At UCF, Trevor strengthened the university academically.  

  • He championed the broadening of the university’s mission.
  • He led the expansion of departments and programs.
  • He created the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the university honors program.
  • And, he advanced the university’s graduate and research missions.

The changing of the name Florida Technological University to the University of Central Florida during his presidency reflects his vision of a comprehensive university.

Trevor also understood the changing relationship between higher education and its community.

  • He established the Central Florida Research Park to encourage collaboration among faculty, business, and industry.
  • He supported branch campuses to better serve our region’s expanding population.
  • And he emphasized applied research that can solve the problems of our times.

His advocacy for football at UCF testifies to both his courage and his understanding of the evolving role of higher education. In spite of opposition from some quarters, he recognized that football would further the reputation of his new school and help to attract the best and brightest students. He started what has become an important tradition of successful student-athletes.

In short, we credit Trevor with the wisdom that transformed UCF into a full-fledge university: one  that emphasizes teaching, research, and service, along with intercollegiate athletics.    

Beryl was Trevor’s partner in his presidency while also raising their two daughters. She participated enthusiastically in the social life of the new university, sharing her personal warmth and her gracious hospitality with members of the community, faculty and staff, and students.

Beryl also merged community and university interests by founding the Town and Gown Council. And, she initiated the President’s Leadership Council, which continues to be one of the university’s premier student service organizations.

Trevor and Beryl were a formidable team leading a dynamic new university.

Upon his retirement from the presidency in 1989, Trevor’s commitment to UCF continued unabated.

He was named university historian, and he worked tirelessly on interviewing key university figures to expand his oral history of UCF. He also taught history full time, and he treasured his role as an educator and a researcher until his retirement in 2006.

A copy of that portrait of the university’s first four presidents also hangs in the Burnett House, the president’s home.

I pass it daily, and I often think how fortunate that UCF has had the right leaders at the right time. To have Trevor’s strong academic commitment along with his grasp of the changing nature of higher education has made all the difference.  

Trevor changed the trajectory of Florida Technological University. He anchored his university in the Central Florida region. And he left a legacy of academic rigor and integrity.

These have guided me during my nearly 23 years as UCF’s president. And for these and so much more, Trevor Colbourn will be remembered by us, by our Central Florida community, and by generations of Floridians that come after us.

Thank you.