Celebrating 140 Years: 2003-2012, Decade Of A Historical First and Heightened Campus Life

Wendy Libby on stage

The Presidents

The 2010 inauguration of Wendy B. Libby as Stetson’s first female president.

The years of 2003-2012 saw the departure of H. Douglas Lee in 2009 and the arrival of Wendy B. Libby that same year.

Lee had become the university’s eighth president in 1987, following his start in 1978 as vice president for Development. After his retirement in 2009, he was named chancellor of Stetson. He died unexpectedly a few months later.

That brought Libby on to the scene in July 2009 as the university first female president. Prior to Stetson, Libby served as president of Stephens College in Missouri, the nation’s second-oldest women’s institution, from 2003 to 2009. She served as vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer at Furman University in South Carolina from 1995 to 2003. Her administrative and teaching experience in higher education began in 1980 at institutions that included Westbrook College (now part of the University of New England), the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut Health Center, The Ohio State University and Cornell University. 

In sum, Libby’s historical presence resulted in new academic programs and national rankings, along with the return of Hatter Football. Stetson experienced tremendous growth under her leadership. Before retiring in 2020, Libby continued to build on the university’s values-centered heritage and tradition of academic excellence and community engagement.

Patricia Wilson Softball Field

Patricia Wilson Softball Field, opened in 2003, is a National Field of the Year award winner.

Opened in 2003, Patricia Wilson Softball Field has been an emblem of facility excellence — a multiple-time National Field of the Year award winner as home to the Hatters women’s softball team. The complex features a game field and stadium, batting cages and practice area, and a team fieldhouse facility. The game field surface is clay with a Bermuda grass outfield and is outfitted with lighting suitable for televising night games, plus a robust sound system and a large scoreboard and video board.

Further, the complex features a two-story press box, a VIP suite, a broadcast booth, reserved seating area, general seating area, a concessions area and picnic areas — all while accommodating nearly 1,000 fans for games. 

Lynn Business Takes the LEED

The entrance of the Lynn Business Center, shown here in 2012, remains picturesque.

Representing more facility prowess, in 2003 the Lynn Business Center became the first building in Florida to be certified as a green building by the U.S. Green Building Council.

That designation, under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, occurred following the completion of a substantial renovation in 2003. LEED includes six primary areas of consideration: sustainable sites selection, water efficiency, energy conservation, materials and resource selection, indoor air quality and innovation in the design process.

Tampa Law Center

The Tampa Law Center is Florida’s first public-private partnership between a working court and a law school.

The Tampa Law Center, located at the gateway to downtown Tampa along the Hillsborough River, opened in 2004 as a developing hub for the area’s legal activity. Stetson offers classes for the part-time JD degree at the Law Center.

In addition, the Tampa branch of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal resides in the building. This public-private partnership between a working court and a law school is the first of its kind in Florida.

Adding a Hand to Campus

The Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center arrived in campus in 2009, as the home of Stetson’s extensive collection of art by Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938). (Notably, the Hand Art Center would later also receive LEED recognition.) The 5,000-square-foot center includes two galleries, one to exhibit rotating selections from the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection and the second to display other works from the university’s permanent art collection and special shows such as student juried art exhibitions. 

The building also has a foyer gallery and reception area, vault, preparation area and an art study/seminar room. Former Trustee and alumna Dolly Hand and her husband, Homer Hand, made the lead gift for the center.

Mary B. McMahan Hall

Building exterior
The 8,000-square-foot McMahan Hall opened in 2009.

McMahan Hall also arrived in 2009 (and would later become another LEED winner). Named by former Trustee Dick McMahan in honor of his wife, McMahan Hall recognizes the McMahans as longtime benefactors of the School of Music and the DeLand community. The building opened as the second facility on campus devoted to the School of Music. 

It houses four faculty offices, a percussion studio and practice facilities, as well as Feasel Rehearsal Hall, which accommodates the symphonic band, orchestra and the 200-member Choral Union.

Pet-Friendly Campus

Stetson became a pet-friendly campus in 2010.

In 2010, Stetson began allowing dogs of up to 50 pounds to reside on campus, on a limited basis. A year later, Stetson received the Wingate Award from the Halifax Humane Society, the area’s largest animal shelter, for furthering its mission of protecting animals from cruel and neglectful treatment and encouraging responsible pet ownership. Since then, Stetson’s pet-friendly campus has been recognized by several college guides and ranking organizations.

Today, Stetson hosts a service-dog program allowing students the opportunity to train and foster future service dogs. Also, the university’s Chief Happiness Officer is Athens-George Glenn, a Goldendoodle. 

Athletic Training Center

The ATC was a prelude to more NCAA Division I sports on campus, including the return of football.

On March 14, 2011, President Libby announced the university was bringing football back for the first time since 1956 (to begin play in 2013). On March 23, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for Stetson’s $6.7 million, 25,000-square-foot Athletic Training Center (now popularly known as the ATC) and a field renovation. 

The timing was no coincidence. The campus was being powered up for more student-athletes and an enhanced roster of NCAA Division I sports. In 2012, Stetson was one of a select few founding programs for the first season of collegiate beach volleyball (which competed in the first NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship in 2016).

Learn more about Stetson’s 140-year anniversary and join in on the celebration throughout the fall.

-Michael Candelaria and Stetson University Archives