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Panama City Campus Annual Dinner

5:30 p.m. (CST) Tuesday, Oct. 11
Edgewater Beach Resort and Golf Resort
11212 Front Beach Road, Panama City

Good evening. It’s great to be here in Panama City!

I’m pleased to see so many of our friends in the Legislature here with us tonight.

This is an exciting time for FSU-Panama City, so it’s wonderful that we can celebrate together how much this campus means to us and this community!

The Panama City Campus is an integral part of Florida State University. That’s why we have plans to grow this campus and develop new programs.

I’m so appreciative of Interim Dean Randy Hanna for stepping in to provide strong leadership at a very important time. Randy has a broad range of experience in higher education, and I know he will help us advance the mission of this campus.

FSU-Panama City has been providing educational opportunities for Bay County area residents for more than 30 years, and we are constantly adjusting our offerings to make sure we are meeting the community’s needs now and in the future.

With Randy at the helm, there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon. He’s off to a fantastic start, and he and I are both grateful for the support from this community.

We are fortunate that so many people hold a special place in their hearts for FSU-Panama City — people like Bob and Judy Fleming.

They have the kind of spirit that epitomizes the deep and genuine connection between the campus and the community.

As we have heard tonight, donors like Bob and Judy — and many of you in this room tonight — are changing lives and helping students achieve their dreams of a college degree.

The generosity of all of our donors — here in Panama City, in Tallahassee and across the nation — is the reason why our “Raise The Torch” capital campaign is set to reach the $1 billion fundraising goal before the June 2018 end date.

The money raised through this campaign has helped us to implement bold ideas that will continue to distinguish Florida State as a preeminent university. We’re already seeing the results of these efforts.

Some of you may know that U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Florida State the 38th best public university in the nation! That’s a jump of five places from last year — the greatest gain of all the public universities in the Top 50.

That tells me that people all over the country are beginning to pay attention to the strides we have made in our pursuit of higher levels of academic excellence.

It also puts us closer to our goal of being recognized among the Top 25 public universities in the nation.

We know that rankings aren’t everything, but we understand that a higher ranking can increase the value of a Florida State degree — whether a student took classes in Tallahassee or Panama City.

And if you look around, you’ll see signs everywhere that FSU is on the rise:

  • This past year we announced a $100 million gift — the largest in FSU’s history — to establish our groundbreaking new Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship.
  • We have one of the highest freshman retention rates in the United States — 93 percent — and a graduation rate that is 20 percentage points higher than the national average.
  • Our circle of donors is growing, and we rank first among all Florida universities for the percentage of alumni giving back.

We’re preparing a new five-year strategic plan that builds on these strengths and gives us fresh momentum going forward. We think the plan captures an entrepreneurial spirit at FSU that has long distinguished it from other universities.

As always, our students come first. We want them to graduate with an appetite for lifelong learning and skills that are needed to succeed in 21st century jobs.

Florida State University is already excellent. But we know that focusing on our strategic goals will allow FSU to become even stronger five years from now.

We know the way forward, and everyone here is helping us light the way. Because it doesn’t matter if you wear your garnet and gold in Tallahassee or Panama City, we are all part of the same family.

Thank you for all that you do!

And now, it’s my pleasure to introduce Randy Hanna. Randy became interim dean of FSU-Panama City on Aug. 1.

He previously served as chancellor of the Florida College System and most recently served as a research faculty member at FSU’s Learning Systems Institute.

He earned a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, and, like me, he has a law degree from FSU.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Randy Hanna.