ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - John Hitt, who has served since 1992 as president of the University of Central Florida and has overseen massive growth at the Orlando school, announced Tuesday that he will retire next year.
It was a long, heartfelt standing ovation from a standing-room-only crowd on Tuesday as Hitt made the news official.
“Thank you. If this goes on much longer I’ll never get through this,” he said, as he choked up.
Hitt has been at the helm at UCF for nearly 26 years, as the school has become the nation’s largest university. Hitt got even more emotional explaining that timing is everything, and now is the time for him to leave the presidency.
“I make this decision of good health and of my choosing. The time is right for this decision because I’ve never felt better about UCF.”
At the time Hitt took over at UCF, the university was known as a commuter school.
“When we first visited campus, we had a powerful feeling that UCF was a special place. We never could have imagined then how very special it would become,” said HItt.
The Knights have seen a night and day difference under Hitt. Structurally, 100 new buildings have gone up under his leadership. Academically, the school keeps getting more competitive. This fall’s incoming freshman class boasts a GPA averaging 4.05 and there are 88 National Merritt Scholars among them. Hitt said his proudest achievement has been the approval of UCF’s medical college.
“There was so much power against that, almost no one gave us a chance. What our folks did, is something that’s very characteristic at UCF, they turned the impossible into the inevitable. And the final vote was 15-1 in favor. The joy we felt in having prevailed with that would be hard for me to describe to you,” said Hitt.
In a room full of people who look up to President Hitt, the university’s Board of Trustee’s Chairman Marcos Marchena summed up what Hitt’s impact has been on UCF.and the Orlando area.
“Former Governor Jeb Bush once said that Walt Disney and John Hitt have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant dynamic place than any two people. I believe that to be 100 percent true. Thank you, Mr. President,” said Marchena.
Hitt’s last day will be June 30, 2018. Marchena said he is aiming to have a search committee named by November 15, to start the process of hiring UCF’s fifth president.
UCF had an enrollment of 66,000 students in fall 2016, according to the website.