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10 months after Heller force-out, St. Pete campus gets new leader

In June 2002, USF President Judy Genshaft forced popular USF St. Petersburg Campus Executive Officer Bill Heller to step down after 10 years on the job.

Shortly thereafter, a search committee was established to find Heller’s successor. The committee faced a daunting task. Stacks of resumes from nearly 65 candidates stretched to the sky.

Months later, the committee produced 11 finalists. Then, it made four recommendations. Now, Genshaft has made her final decision.

Karen White will leave her post as College of Fine Arts dean at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and take the reins of the St. Petersburg campus.

White’s background is an intriguing mix of artistic accomplishment and administrative experience.

White is a concert violinist with more than 200 performances under her belt. She has worked as a professor, dean and in the University of Maryland System as an executive assistant to the chancellor.

Mark Wilson, who headed the search committee, said it was White’s unique blend of experiences that was impressive.

“She has the academic, the administrative and the personality prerequisites to make a superb (CEO),” Wilson said. “She has a tremendous understanding of how universities operate.”

White will inherit a campus not unlike the University of Nebraska at Omaha, her home since 1993. Both campuses are regional branches of large research universities. Both are set in urban environments. Wilson said her experience was important to the search committee.

“She’s very enthusiastic and quite knowledgeable about the role of universities in metropolitan settings,” Wilson said.

USF media relations director Michael Reich did not return multiple phone messages requesting an interview with Genshaft to comment on White. Genshaft did, however, express her excitement to the St. Petersburg Times on Sunday.

“I find her engaging, energetic and exciting,” Genshaft told the Times. “I just thought it was a very good fit with the community and faculty.”

White will begin work July 1. She will replace interim CEO Ralph Wilcox.

White’s early challenges will include guiding the St. Pete campus to its long-sought goal of separate accreditation and establishing on-campus housing.