2019: A Year of Milestones for Stetson University

Wendy Libby sits beside the John B. statue
the couple holds their honorary degrees
Retiring President Wendy B. Libby, PhD, and husband Richard M. Libby, PhD, were named “honorary alumni” during Homecoming weekend.

Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby, PhD, announced her retirement as 2019 was getting underway. Before the year’s end, a new leader was named – President-elect Christopher F. Roellke, PhD.

The year 2019 was filled with milestones for the 136-year-old institution. In October, the Board of Trustees selected Roellke, currently Dean of the College Emeritus and Professor of Education at Vassar College, as Stetson’s 10th president.

He will start on July 1, 2020, following the retirement of Libby after 11 years in the top leadership role. Stetson’s first female president, Libby led the university to significant growth and transformed the institution during her tenure.

Also in 2019, Stetson named the first African American dean of the College of Law, Michèle Alexandre, JD, a leading civil rights scholar and trailblazer. A new dean, Elizabeth Skomp, PhD, was named for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Timothy Peter, DMA, was named dean of the School of Music.

The university announced that the Beyond Success – Significance Campaign exceeded its goal of $200 million and raised more than $218 million. Donors contributed more than $30 million for student scholarships and funds to build the Rinker Welcome Center and the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, as well as funds for a new Health & Science initiative.

Joseph Ginsburg speaks to the assembled crowd
Stetson student Joseph Ginsburg speaks at the dedication of the new Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Hillel House, named in honor of his late parents.

The first house for Hillel, the international Jewish campus organization, was dedicated on the DeLand campus. The campus received its first statue of university namesake John B. Stetson, as well as a second fountain, the Templeton Fountain, all through donor gifts.

In Athletics, the Hatters knocked off No. 1 seed Southern California in the first round of the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship before ending their historic run with a loss to Hawai’i.

Men’s rowing made its first appearance in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships, finishing fifth in Sacramento, California. And Stetson’s legendary baseball coach Pete Dunn was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

Here are the highlights as they appeared month-by-month on Stetson Today:


long line of people holding green ribbon; Wendy cutting it
President Wendy Libby cuts the ribbon on the renovated Carlton Union Building.

Worth the Wait: Stetson President Wendy Libby cut the ribbon during a Dedication Ceremony for the renovated and expanded Carlton Union Building.

Another Big Win: For the 23rd time in 37 years, a team from Stetson College of Law won the Chester Bedell Mock Trial Competition, a prestigious competition for mock trial teams from across the state.

A New Journal on Education Reform: Stetson’s Nina B. Hollis Institute for Educational Reform (NBHIER) published the inaugural issue of its new journal, Voices of Reform: Educational Research to Inform and Reform.

A Legacy of Giving: Linda Parson Davis ’73 retired after 41 years in alumni relations and development at Stetson, including most recently as Special Advisor to the President for Philanthropy.


portrait outside
Wendy Libby

Stetson President Wendy Libby Announced Her Retirement: Libby said she will step down in June 2020 after 11 years. During her tenure, Stetson saw significant growth in student enrollment, hired more faculty and increased faculty salaries. Libby also led efforts to add new buildings, renovate others and beautify the grounds.

Aquatic Center Opens: President Wendy Libby and a host of key contributors cut the ribbon on a nearly $7 million, two-story aquatic center on 10 acres along scenic Lake Beresford. The facility provides a permanent home for Stetson’s intercollegiate rowing program. The second floor will house Stetson’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience and provide room for academic field research.

The Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center sits on the shores of Lake Beresford.

The Stetson Promise: The University announced a new promise to students, beginning with the Fall 2019 semester. Incoming, first-year undergraduate students who select The Stetson Promise and follow a Course Advising Plan will graduate in four years or less. If they don’t complete their degree, through no fault of their own, Stetson will cover the cost of tuition for the classes required to complete their degree — up to one full semester or until they meet graduation requirements for their major, whichever comes first.

Solar Shines Even Brighter at the CUB: Solar panels installed atop the newly renovated and expanded Carlton Union Building generate more power than originally projected. The 231 solar panels, funded by the student Revolving Green Fund, are part of Stetson’s ongoing commitment to decrease its environmental impact.


New Law School Dean: After a nationwide search, Professor Michèle Alexandre, JD, was selected as the next dean of the Stetson University College of Law. She assumed the leadership post in June.

Ranked Number 1: Stetson University College of Law was ranked as the best school for Trial Advocacy in the U.S. for the 21st time. The survey by U.S. News & World Report also ranked the College of Law as No. 3 for Legal Writing.

Protecting Free Expression on Campus: After gathering input from faculty, staff and students, a Stetson task force received approval from the Stetson Board of Trustees for a “Statement of Principles of Free Expression,” affirming academic freedom and civil discourse.

Presidential Search Committee Named: The Board of Trustees assembled a Presidential Search Committee, led by Board Chair Joe Cooper ’79, MBA ’82. “We are committed to attracting an outstanding leader who will lead our Stetson community as we embrace our vision of educating students to ‘Go Beyond,’ ” Cooper said.


A New Head Coach for Men’s Basketball: Donnie Jones becomes Stetson’s 22nd head coach in the history of men’s basketball, bringing more than 30 years of experience in college basketball.

Professor holds a snake in the woods
Terence Farrell, PhD

Stetson Researcher Discovers Parasites Infecting Pygmy Rattlesnakes: Stetson biology Professor Terence Farrell, PhD, is part of a research team that discovered exotic Burmese python carry a parasite that is causing major health concerns for Florida’s native pygmy rattlesnakes.

Stetson Retains Witt/Kieffer to Lead Presidential Search: A leading executive search firm, Witt/Kieffer was hired to support the Presidential Search Committee in its search for Stetson’s next president.

A New MHA/MBA Dual-Degree: Stetson and AdventHealth University (AHU) announced they will partner to offer an innovative, dual-degree, online program leading students to degrees in both a Master of Healthcare Administration in Strategy & Innovation (MHA-SI) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Stetson Announces New Cybersecurity Program: As cyberattacks become the fastest growing crime in the U.S., Stetson announced a new program leading to Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity will begin in Fall 2019.

Stetson Ethics Team Takes First and Second: Stetson students earn a first place and two second place wins at the International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition (IBECC), the nation’s oldest and most prestigious event for students to apply ethical solutions to business problems.

Stetson beach volleyball player Rachel Noble celebrates a big play on the sand court.
Stetson beach volleyball player Rachel Noble celebrates a big play on the sand court during the Beach Volleyball Championship. Photo/NCAA

Hatters Selected for NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship: After a week of uncertainty, the beach volleyball team was selected for the 2019 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The team upset No. 1 seed Southern California for a historic win before falling to Hawai’i in early May.

$2 Million and Counting: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program secured $2 million in tax refunds for local families over the past nine years. Co-sponsored by the United Way of Volusia-Flagler counties, Stetson’s M.E. Rinker, Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy and Stetson’s Center for Community Engagement, the VITA program’s volunteers helped file more than 2,000 tax returns, at no charge, for low-income families in the community. 


Two New Board of Trustee Members: The Stetson Board of Trustees approved the nominations of two new trustees, Laurel (Laurie) Kent and Lila Jaber. The board also awarded emeriti status to two long-serving trustees, Bonnie Brown Foreman and Jane Edmunds Novak. Two current board members, David Rinker and Charles (Chuck) Wolfe, were approved for additional terms.

Stetson Celebrates Commencement: Stetson honored 817 students with undergraduate degrees during its 133rd Commencement. Just days earlier, another 174 graduate students received their master’s degrees. Combined, Stetson’s graduating class of 991 students set a new record for the university.


Hatters Finish Fifth at IRA Championships: The men’s rowing team competed for the first time in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships in California and reached the Grand Final, placing fifth.

portrait outside
Elizabeth Skomp, PhD

A New Dean for College of Arts and Sciences: Elizabeth Skomp, PhD, was selected as the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, following a nationwide search. Skomp, who started in mid-July, had been associate dean for Faculty Development and Inclusion, and professor of Russian at The University of the South (Sewanee).

Saluting “Recruiter of the Year:” Retired Lt. Col. Oakland McCulloch was named national Recruiter of the Year by the U.S. Army Cadet Command, as part of the annual Cadet Command Excellence Awards. He was selected from among 273 Army ROTC programs at major universities throughout the U.S. and has helped to attract many talented young cadets to Stetson.

Timothy Peter, DMA

A New Dean for the School of Music: Timothy Peter, DMA, was appointed the new dean of the School of Music following a nationwide search. Peter had served as a professor and director of Choral Activities before being appointed as interim dean in 2018.


Stetson Profiled in Fiske Guide to Colleges: Stetson was included among more than 300 “best and most interesting” four-year schools appearing in the 2020 edition.

“Go Beyond:” Stetson launches a new brand campaign that includes such components as spirit, growth, aspiration and, mostly, university heritage.

Pete Dunn Honored Again: Stetson’s legendary baseball coach will be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame this fall.


colored lights in the fountain at dusk

A New Fountain for Stetson: The new Templeton Fountain came to life with 41 jets of water and colored lights, east of the Carlton Union Building. Troy Templeton, a Double Hatter and former university Trustee, and his wife Sissy donated the fountain and attended the dedication ceremony in October.

216 Hatters Recognized for Academic Excellence: A record number of Stetson student-athletes made the ASUN Honor Roll, posting a 3.0 GPA or better during the 2018-19 academic year.

A Busy Move-In Day Welcomes the Incoming Class of 2023: About 550 first-year students moved into residence halls before the start of Fall 2019 semester – a little bigger class of incoming students, university officials said.

Big Man on Campus – John B. statue arrives: Stetson gets its first statue of namesake John B. Stetson on the DeLand campus.  The statue is seated on a bench near Palm Court, allowing students, visitors and others to take a selfie with the renowned hat maker. Troy Templeton and his wife Sissy, who donated the statue, dedicated it to retiring President Wendy Libby and gave her the sculptor’s first maquette as a gift at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in October.

Stetson Named Among Best U.S. Colleges by The Princeton Review: For the fifth year in a row, Stetson was selected as one of the 385 Best Colleges in the U.S. by The Princeton Review. Only about 15% of America’s four-year colleges receive this honor.


Stetson University Ranked No. 5 by U.S. News & World Report: Stetson ranked No. 5 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges list of Best Regional Universities – South. In addition, Stetson appeared on five additional lists in the same category: Best Undergraduate Teaching, No. 11; Best Value Schools, No. 11; Most Innovative Universities, No. 14; Campus Ethnic Diversity, No. 34; and new this year, Top Performers on Social Mobility, No. 36.

New Health and Science Building Set to Break Ground in May 2020: Stetson has hired an architectural firm and appointed a building committee of faculty and administrators to lead the design of a new health and science building. The University hopes to break ground on the 30,000-square-foot building in May 2020, just before President Wendy Libby retires. Hyatt and Cici Brown, longtime Stetson University Trustees and supporters, donated $18 million for the Health and Science initiative.

Another Victory for Glenn Wilkes Sr.: The legendary leader of men’s basketball at Stetson was inducted into the Naismith Coaches Circle at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Stetson Receives NSF Grant for New Microscope:  A grant from the National Science Foundation provided the funding to purchase an inverted fluorescent microscope system for use by undergraduate students and faculty in biology, health sciences and physics.

Stetson’s Centurion Sales Program Receives $2.5M Endowment: Donor Leopoldo Fernandez Pujals provided a $2.5 million gift to fully endow the Centurion Sales Program, named in honor of his late father, Genaro Fernandez Centurion.


Another No. 1 Ranking for the College of Law: The Trial Competition Performance Ranking by Fordham University School of Law ranked Stetson College of Law as No. 1 nationally in trial competition performance. 

President Libby named Higher Education Woman of the Year: The Daytona Beach News-Journal and its Volusia/Flagler Business Report named President Wendy Libby as the 2019 Higher Education Woman of the Year and honored her as an Influential Woman in Business.

Commencement 2020 Returning to Scenic DeLand Campus: Stetson announced that, beginning in May 2020, the undergraduate commencement ceremony will move back to campus and indoors to the Edmunds Center.

Maureen Breakiron-Evans

Beyond Success – Significance Campaign:  Launched in 2013, Stetson’s fundraising campaign exceeded its goal of $200 million and raised more than $218 million. That included more than $30 million for student scholarships and funds to build the Rinker Welcome Center and the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, as well as funds for a new Health & Science initiative.

Stetson University Trustees Elect New Chair: Alumna Maureen Breakiron-Evans, a retired CPA, will become chair of the Board of Trustees on July 1, 2020, the Board of Trustees announced.

President Elect, Dr. Christopher Roellke, Welcome Reception - DeLand

Christopher F. Roellke, PhD, Elected 10th President of Stetson University: The Stetson Board of Trustees elected Christopher F. Roellke, PhD, currently Dean of the College Emeritus and Professor of Education at Vassar College, to become the 10th president of Stetson University, effective July 1, 2020. Roellke was introduced to students, faculty and staff during a visit in November.


Former Hatters Star Jacob deGrom Wins 2nd Straight Cy Young Award: Jacob deGrom with the New York Mets won the Cy Young Award and joined former Hatter teammate Corey Kluber as a two-time winner of the award.

Stetson dedicates Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Hillel House: Stetson dedicated its first Hillel House on campus for Jewish students, thanks to a $2 million gift by the Winter Park-based Ginsburg Family Foundation. The renovated 1930 Tudor-style home is named for the parents of Stetson student Joseph Ginsburg, who met while students at Stetson.


exterior shot of building

Stetson Named One of 248 Best Business Schools in the U.S. by The Princeton Review: Stetson’s School of Business Administration was recognized as one of the leading institutions for graduate business education in the nation by The Princeton Review. The honor appears in “Best Business Schools for 2020” for Stetson’s on-campus Master of Business Administration.