Campus Life

Cavanaugh appointed Chancellor of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

This morning, the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education named University of West Florida President John Cavanaugh as their next Chancellor, effective July 1. The PASSHE Chancellor has direct responsibility for 14 universities and more than 110,000 students, making it one of the largest public university systems in the U.S. and one of the premier leadership positions in public higher education.

“The decision to pursue this position was not easy,” said Cavanaugh. “Having had the privilege of getting to know many of the presidents in the Pennsylvania System, it was clear it is a system on the move with a very bright future. Additionally, the location of Harrisburg means that all of our family will be within about a two hour drive. And when we recognized that both my wife Chris’s and my family trees have significant, long branches in Pennsylvania, it became clear that this opportunity was like going home.”

Cavanaugh was selected by the Board of Governors at the conclusion of a nationwide search. The search committee that screened the initial field of candidates was chaired by Aaron Walton, who also chairs the Board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Cavanaugh will succeed Judy Hample as chancellor of PASSHE.

“Dr. Cavanaugh is an outstanding leader with an impressive record of accomplishments throughout his career,” said Walton. “His broad range of experience makes him an excellent choice to lead the State System.”

During his time at UWF, Cavanaugh made significant progress in raising UWF’s recognition level across the region, state, nation and world, improving the quality of academic and support programs and business practices, creating new levels of pride in the university’s work force, investing in the region’s growth and development, creating greater levels of community engagement, and showing how collaboration can be accomplished with other educational, business and governmental organizations. He provided strategic direction for the university, especially in the areas of academic excellence, community engagement, fundraising, governmental relations and information technology. Cavanaugh also developed and implemented comprehensive partnerships with regional community colleges, including development of baccalaureate programs and enhanced articulation agreements. He redesigned the university’s budget and financial control systems and restructured the University Planning Council to ensure more open processes and effective planning.

“Chris and I take comfort in knowing that relationships survive, and past accomplishments lay the foundation for better things to come,” said Cavanaugh. “The difficult part relates to the many friends we have made here; we will truly miss you. We will also miss seeing the continued impact of the accomplishments we have achieved together. I fully expect to continue to hear great things about UWF.”

Cavanaugh holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Delaware. He also holds both a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, and he served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Research in Human Learning and the Institute of Child Development. He was named president of the 10,500-student UWF in 2002. Cavanaugh previously served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for three years, during which time he led all academic aspects of the comprehensive university, including budgeting, program development and staffing. He also held various positions at the University of Delaware, including vice provost for academic programs and planning and associate provost for graduate studies.

K. C. Clark, chair of the UWF Board of Trustees, will convene a meeting of the Board soon to name an interim president. The Board will work to ensure a smooth transition with the goal of keeping the momentum going that Cavanaugh set in motion.

“I have the greatest confidence in the team that Dr. Cavanaugh has put together at UWF,” said Clark. “The administrators and faculty are professionals that demonstrate their dedication to UWF on a daily basis. I am certain they will come together to continue the successes we have enjoyed in the past, and that during this transition period, we will all remain focused on our primary mission of serving our students.”

For more information, contact the UWF Office of the President at (850) 474-2200 or e-mail

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