September 22, 2023
Parting thoughts from UWF's Judith Bense
Judith Bense was president of the University of West Florida for more than eight years.

Northwest Florida Roundup

Parting thoughts from UWF's Judith Bense

Carlton Proctor | 11/28/2016

Judith Bense is retiring at the end of this month after more than eight years as president of the University of West Florida. The fifth president of UWF and the first woman to hold the job, Bense leaves a legacy of growth, improved student experience and a new NCAA Division II football program.

» On why she was selected as president

No. 1, I was a known entity, having been a UWF faculty member for more than 30 years. The second reason, I believe, is that I had been very public about UWF’s archaeology program and its research. As a result, the community knew me; I’d been in the media a lot. And the third thing is my knowledge of Tallahassee and politics. (Bense’s brother, Allan Bense, was Speaker of the Florida House of Representative from 2004 to 2006.)

» On her early challenges

I really didn’t know the budget and facilities, and I didn’t know the people in other colleges very well. I learned very quickly that as president I had to put a huge amount of trust in my vice presidents. They can sink your ship if something’s going wrong in housing or with the budget, and they also can do great things for the university when given the chance.

» On why she created a football program

When I became president, UWF was a sleepy little school where everybody left on Thursday and came back on Tuesday. So one of the first things I did was look into starting a football program. Most people thought it was impossible, and so did I at the time. But we persevered because I knew football would be good for the university, good for the students and would be an economic driver for the community. I think it’s the best thing, in terms of community relations, this university will ever do.

» On her retirement plans

My plans are to complete a book about the three early European settlements I’ve researched here in the Pensacola area. I’m about 60% done, and it will probably take me a year or two to finish.

Taking Over

Martha D. Saunders is the new president of the University of West Florida. Saunders, previously UWF’s provost, received the votes of nine of the board of trustee’s 13 members. State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, received four votes. A Mississippi native, Saunders was president of the University of Southern Mississippi from 2007 to 2012. She received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a doctorate in communication theory and research from Florida State University.

Business Briefs

APALACHICOLA — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has limited commercial oyster harvesters to no more than three, 60-pound bags of oysters per day. The order also prohibits oyster harvesting on Saturdays and Sundays.

BAY COUNTY/PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Bay County Planning Commission approved St. Joe’s plan to develop 1,250 acres east of Panama City Beach. The project will include a sports park, elementary and middle schools, 1,760 singlefamily units, 440 multi-family units, 750 hotel rooms and some 160,000 square feet of office and retail space.

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — The U. S. Air Force has awarded a $360-million contract to the Choctawhatchee Electrical Cooperative to own, operate and maintain the electrical infrastructure at Eglin Air Force Base.

DESTIN — The Destin City Council has approved a sixmonth moratorium on new mobile vending permits along Destin harbor.

PANAMA CITY – Eastern Shipbuilding Group has been awarded a $10.5-billion contract — the largest in U.S. Coast Guard history — to build 25 next-generation offshore patrol cutters.

PENSACOLA – The Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition has moved into its new $10-million, 30,000-sq.-ft. facility in downtown Pensacola.

Pensacola officials have announced the termination of a manufacturing project that would have created some 200 jobs. In March 2015, DeepFlex had halted construction of a facililty that was to produce undersea oil and gas pipelines.

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