When reflecting on what kept him motivated to continue his career in education over the past 42 years, St. Pete Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock found the answer to be simple — the value of being able to watch students succeed.
“Whether it be going to a very exciting graduate program that they wanted to get into, being admitted to different positions or entering parts of the world that are in line with what they wish to pursue, seeing those kinds of things really makes this worthwhile,” he said.
Stepping down from his position as chancellor has been a long-awaited decision given the series of extensions his term has undergone during his six-year tenure at the St. Pete campus, according to Tadlock.
Despite previously announcing he intended to leave in a January 2021 statement, he said former President Steven Currall’s resignation motivated him to extend his term to the spring 2022 semester in order to give the university more time to select his successor.
The decision, he added, was also attributed to his desire to return to USF faculty to work with students directly in the College of Education.
“I’ve assumed many positions during my time in higher education, such as a provost and a president, but there has always been something compelling about teaching students in a classroom setting,” he said.
“My background is in educational leadership and administration, so I imagine the courses I teach will be for those individuals who are moving into higher… or public school education and administration.”
Tadlock assumed various leadership roles at a multitude of universities prior to undertaking his position at USF, including provost, vice president and dean of the College of Professional and Graduate Affairs at Bemidji State University and provost and interim president at Northeastern State University.
He began his career at USF as the vice chancellor of academic affairs in 2016, where he served a one-year term before transitioning to interim chancellor in 2017. Following shortly after, he became regional chancellor of the St. Pete campus in 2018.
During his time as chancellor, Tadlock overcame various areas of adversity, including the consolidation of USF campuses and managing COVID-19 protocol. He also assisted in advancing student success and planning the development of five new academic clusters, or buildings dedicated to areas of interdisciplinary study, at the St. Pete campus.
Beginning to work at USF seven years ago was a decision Tadlock said he found incredibly easy to make given the sense of community he felt.
“I assumed my role in St. Petersburg when it was a separately accredited university, and right away, I knew it embodied everything I valued about higher education,” he said. “It had a great team of people, a wonderful and diverse student body and I knew this was the kind of place that fit who I was.”
Having grown up poor with his family in South Carolina, he said his father’s resistance to the idea of sending his children to college assisted him in making the decision to join the AirForce, where he was able to serve for four years. His childhood allows him to appreciate how far he has come during his career.
He was first exposed to a college setting when he took a writing course at the University of Maryland as part of the military extended service program. Although he earned a “B” in the course, he said that was when he made the decision to pursue higher education, both as a program and a career.
That decision inspired him to attend Utah State University following his release from the military, where he was able to earn a bachelor’s in geography and master’s in secondary education before pursuing educational administration during his doctoral studies at Miami University in Ohio.
Without the continued support of the USF faculty members surrounding him, Tadlock said his achievements wouldn’t have been possible.
“I owe gratitude to a lot of people who have made this place so successful and that will continue to ensure the success of USF, this campus and our students,” he said. “No one does this work in isolation and no one is an island … there has to be people around you who carry the same ideals, principles and values that you carry, and I have been fortunate to have that here.”
USF has formed a national search committee to review candidates to fill Tadlock’s shoes and are currently reviewing files to narrow down candidates they would like to interview, according to the Regional Chancellor Search website. The next meeting with the applicants will be conducted virtually on April 25 from 1-3 p.m.
Regional Vice Chancellor of Student Success Patricia Helton said Tadlock’s passion for student success transcends the workplace, where his countless kindness and compassion toward fellow faculty is cherished.
“I feel supported and valued by him, and he truly cares about this campus and the people here. We feel it daily,” she said. “Chancellor Tadlock is a builder, he is creative and thoughtful and he always provides guidance while also empowering us to move our areas forward.”
Helton said his leadership ability provided a sense of solace to university faculty and staff in times of uncertainty.
“The word that comes to mind when I think of [Tadlock] is authentic,” she said. “He is always comfortable in his own skin and that combined with integrity has provided a solid foundation for leadership.”
Serving as a chancellor has undoubtedly been both a stressful and difficult endeavor, but Tadlock said he doesn’t have any regrets given the experiences he was able to create during his time at USF.
“When I first came to USF, this campus was a welcoming, inclusive location with great people that care about not only students, but communities,” he said. “My greatest achievement during my position is that it still remains that kind of place.”