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Abare Announces Retirement as President of Flagler College

April 18, 2016 12:00 AM
William T. Abare Jr.

Flagler College President Dr. William T. Abare, Jr., announced that, after 15 years of leading the College, and 45 years working at the institution, he plans to retire, as president, in June of 2017. He made the announcement to the College community at a town hall meeting held Monday afternoon in the Lewis Auditorium.

“I have had many highlights in my professional career in education, but serving as president of this great institution has been the crowning achievement of my career, and, without question, the most rewarding,” he said.

Dr. Abare was appointed president of Flagler College in 2001, culminating a 30-year career at the college in which he served as Dean of Admissions, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Executive Vice President, and Executive Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs.

“Dr. Abare has been a great leader and done an extraordinary job as the president of Flagler College for the past 15 years, and for 30 years before that,” said Frank D. Upchurch III, chairman of the Flagler College Board of Trustees. “We are deeply grateful for all that Bill and his wife, Susan, have done for the College, and we look forward to celebrating the final year of his presidency with them in suitable fashion.”

Abare will continue leading the college for the next 14 months, while the Board begins a search for the next president. The Board has a succession plan in place, and will work with a presidential search consultant to launch a national search right away.

Upchurch said he was pleased that Dr. Abare has agreed that, following his retirement and a well-earned sabbatical, he will stay on at the college in a special advisory capacity.

Dr. Abare said, “As the 50th anniversary approached, it was time to turn over the reins to a new leader.”

“The more I thought about it, I realized there was never going to be a perfect time,” he said. “There will always be another initiative to begin, another program to get underway, another project to start and finish, another fundraising effort to mount. There isn’t a perfect time. I just felt like this was the right time.”

“The College is in great shape,” he said. “When I hand the baton to the next president, he or she is stepping into a great job, because the College is doing incredibly well. The future for Flagler is very bright.”

Dr. Abare's tenure at Flagler College

Under Dr. Abare’s leadership, the College’s enrollment increased from approximately 2,000 students in 2001 to over 3,000 in 2015, including the satellite campus at Tallahassee Community College and the Public Administration Program in St. Augustine. The number of full-time faculty nearly doubled from 62 to 112. The number of alumni has increased from 6,000 in 2001 to more than 16,000, an increase of 167 percent. The College’s finances are healthy and stable, and its endowment and operating reserve funds, which serve as quasi-endowment, have grown from $22 million to just under $80 million.

During his presidency, Abare has overseen numerous building projects on campus, including four residence halls (Cedar Hall, FEC Railway Buildings A, B, and C), the Ringhaver Student Center, the Molly Wiley Art Building, Pollard Hall (a classroom building), Hanke Hall (Admissions and Financial Aid), the locker room facility at the Flagler College Athletics, the restoration of the Solarium, the renovation of the interior of Lewis Auditorium, the restoration of the exterior of Ponce de Leon Hall, and the renovation of the dormitory rooms in Ponce de Leon Hall.  In May, the College will break ground on a 150-bed residence hall, 560 space parking facility, and 13,750 sq. ft. commons building. During Abare’s presidency, the College has invested more than $80 million in major capital improvements to its campus.

Under his leadership, the College’s reputation has grown, as evidenced by strong national rankings in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges in the South and Best Value Schools, as well as The Princeton Review’s The Best 380 Colleges, a popular college guide book.

During his tenure as president, new majors have been added in art history, coastal environmental science, public history, criminology, hospitality management and tourism, and finance. Minors have been added in mathematics, marketing, film studies, women’s studies, and management information systems.  In the fall of 2016, Flagler will offer its first master’s degree program in deaf education.

President Abare made the decision to move the College’s athletic affiliation from the NAIA to the NCAA in 2006 and guided the application for membership and transition to the NCAA Division II in 2008. He also led the college in joining the Peach Belt Conference in 2009.

Regionally and nationally, Abare has held leadership positions in higher education organizations.  He chaired the 30-member Council of Presidents of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, served on the board of directors of the Council of Independent Colleges, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, serves on the board of the Peach Belt Conference, chaired the board of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities, and is a member of the executive committee the Florida Campus Compact. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS/COC), which is the accreditation body for colleges and universities in 11 southern states.

Abare has been active in the local community and currently serves on the board of directors of Flagler Hospital, St. Johns Welfare Federation, Historic St. Augustine Research Institute, and the St. Augustine Foundation. He is a member of Memorial Presbyterian Church and is a member of the Church’s board of trustees. He is a member and past president of the Rotary Club of St. Augustine. He was the Charter President of the St. Augustine Little League.

Abare has received numerous awards, and one of the most significant awards was being named the recipient of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award.  Named for the former executive director of the Commission on Colleges, the James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award is the highest public recognition given by the Commission and is reserved for extraordinarily distinctive and effective leadership.

He received the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the University of North Florida. He was honored by the Salvation Army and the St. Johns Welfare Association for outstanding community service.

President Abare received the Evelyn Fortune Bartlett Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation for ongoing work toward preserving and maintaining the former Ponce de Leon Hotel and other historic properties on the Flagler College campus.

Abare holds a doctoral degree in administration in higher education from Nova Southeastern University, a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of North Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in science from Mercer University. His career began as a high school teacher and coach, followed by positions in admissions at Mercer University and in college relations at West Georgia College, before coming to Flagler in 1971.

“I am retiring as president, but I am planning to continue to work,” he said. “I want to spend more time playing golf, traveling with my wife, watching my grandchildren compete in sports and assisting my successor at the college in reaching new heights for the institution.”
Abare said, “I look forward to working with the campus community in the months ahead, and to supporting the board of trustees in any way I can during the search and transition to the next president.”

About Flagler College

Founded in 1968, Flagler is a four-year, residential college located in St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city. With an enrollment of approximately 2,500 students, the College offers 32 undergraduate majors and 34 minors and will offer its first master’s degree program in deaf education in the fall of 2016. The College has a satellite program on the campus of Tallahassee Community College and offers and evening program in public administration on its main campus in St. Augustine. The centerpiece of its campus is the former Hotel Ponce de Leon built by Henry M. Flagler in 1888 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Flagler is a member of the NCAA Division II and competes in the Peach Belt Conference.  Flagler College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.