5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4 — President’s House
Hello! Thank you, everyone, for being here for this very special evening.
It’s truly an honor for Jean and I to welcome Eric and Molly back home to Florida State University.
And it’s a privilege to have Ed Jonas here — a talented artist who has been called “a gifted creator of truth, skill and vision.”
I’d also like to recognize special guests President Emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte and his wife, Patsy Palmer, and FSU Trustee Mark Hillis and his wife, Nan. I’m so glad they could join us.
Tonight, we pay tribute to Dr. Barron with the unveiling of a portrait that recognizes his important place in this university’s long and rich history.
Dr. Barron came to Florida State at a time when this nation was recovering from the Great Recession and this university was still reeling from deep budget cuts.
Across the country, veterans were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and trying to make the most of their GI Bills, but they were struggling to make the transition to college and graduate.
And at many institutions of higher education, administrators had forgotten that universities exist primarily to educate students and help them grow into the people they were meant to be.
Dr. Barron worked to make the best of the resources that we had, earning Florida State the designation of most efficient university in the nation for two years in a row during his tenure.
He took up a challenge posed to him when he met with some of our student-veterans to become one of the most veteran-friendly public universities in the country. Since then, I’m pleased to tell you that the combined retention/graduation rate among our student-veterans has risen from 69 percent to 86 percent.
And President Barron — himself an FSU alumnus — reminded us that at Florida State, we have always been a “student-centered” university, and we shouldn’t hesitate to say so.
Perhaps most importantly, he worked with lawmakers to develop benchmarks that led to Florida State being named a preeminent university. The designation came with additional state funding that has allowed us to invest in faculty hiring and student success.
And Dr. Barron articulated an aspiration to become one of the Top 25 public universities in the nation. Today, we are well on our way to reaching that goal, thanks to the foundation he established.
If we look around, Dr. Barron’s legacy is everywhere. This portrait that we are about to unveil ensures that future generations will also know something about our 14th president.
They will see in President Barron’s eyes a vision for Florida State University in the 21st century and a determination to chart the course.
That’s why we commission painted portraits — because an artist can often capture something that the camera cannot.
I think that’s what makes Ed Jonas such a spectacular artist. Beyond his technical skill and beautiful aesthetic, Ed reveals the humanity of each of his subjects.
You can see the human spirit in his works all over campus — from his sculpture of Francis Eppes on the Westcott Plaza, to the Sportsmanship monument in front of Doak Campbell Stadium, and now, this painting of President Barron.
I’d like to thank Ed for preserving the rich history of our university. Through his artistry, he is helping us strengthen our ties to the past.
Like President Barron and I, Ed is also an FSU graduate. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, and he has been following his passion as a professional artist for more than 40 years.
His work is included in many collections, including the National Portrait Gallery and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. He is co-founder and chair of the Portrait Society of America.
We are so proud to call Ed one of our own. He’s here to say a few words about working on this commission. Ed?
Thank you, Ed. And now, I’d like to ask Dr. and Mrs. Barron to join us here near the painting. I know Ed and I are excited to unveil it.
Now, I’d like to ask President Barron if he’d like to say a few words.
Thank you, Dr. Barron. And now I’d like to invite everyone to join us downstairs for dinner.