Trustees name Provost Garnett Stokes to lead FSU as interim president

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Garnett Stokes' priority list is simple yet daunting.

Stokes, named Florida State University's interim president on Friday, intends to make sure that the many initiatives begun under President Eric Barron continue full steam ahead.

"It's so important that we keep pushing forward on all the things we're doing," she said. "I'm really going to be focused on just making sure we don't lose a step in this process."

Stokes, 58, was a dean at the University of Georgia three years ago when Barron hired her to take over the No. 2 position at FSU, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

In the aftermath of Barron's unexpected decision on Feb. 17 to accept the presidency at Penn State University, Stokes became the likely candidate to take his position on, at least a temporary basis.

FSU's trustees did not consider any other candidates at their Friday meeting, and agreed that Stokes would be allowed to apply for the permanent position if so inclined.

The board spent much more time debating the role of the 27-member presidential search advisory committee and whether it will have the authority to select an executive search firm at its initial meeting on March 21. It will, but it wasn't determined until a 12-1 roll call vote.

Stokes enjoys widespread support among FSU's faculty and leadership team, including members of the board of trustees.

"I felt we had an ally the moment Garnett set foot on campus," Susan Fiorito, vice chair of the Faculty Senate and a professor in the College of Business, said. "I feel really good with her as interim president."

Allan Bense, FSU's board chair, opened the discussion on an interim president by nominating Stokes. "I think she's a solid person and enjoys a good reputation around the university," he said.

Barron, attending his final board meeting, received unabashed praise for his leadership over the past four years. He fully endorsed Stokes following Friday's meeting.

"She's the perfect choice. It will be a seamless transition," he said. "Everyone agrees Florida State should continue on the path it's on right now, and there's no one better to make sure that happens. She will keep the pedal on the accelerator."

Stokes does not officially assume her new position until the close of business April 2, Barron's last day and midway through the Legislature's 60-day session. Stokes said Friday she is already making plans to meet with members of the legislative caucus as soon as possible, probably next week.

Stokes said she hasn't decided if she will apply for the permanent position. One of her first priorities, she said, will be to figure out who can step in and do her current job while she is interim president.

"I know how busy the job of provost is and I see how busy the job of president is," she said. "Neither job will get done well if I don't' recognize that it's impossible to do both."

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