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FSU President Thrasher Gives Possibly Last University Address

Florida State University President John Thrasher.
Office of the President
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FSU

Florida State University President Thrasher gave possibly his last State of the University address before the Faculty Senate Wednesday. Thrasher announced in September he would be stepping down once the school names a new President. Thrasher’s Wednesday address focused on how the pandemic has changed higher education.

Lightening the intensity in the socially distanced crowd Thrasher opened what was presumably his last address with an icebreaker.

“When I said I’m looking forward to the next year last year obviously I didn’t know what I was talking about," said Thrasher.

The Senate who has gotten to know Thrasher who's been president since 2014 chuckled in response. Six years ago when Thrasher became the University leader he set out with a goal: finish off the school’s first billion-dollar campaign and increase its national standing. He’s done both. Yet, it hasn’t been all highs for Thrasher, who has also steered the school through tragedies and controversies.

“In many ways the challenges that we have faced over the years the shooting at Strozier Library, three hurricanes," said Thrasher. "The suspension of Greek life, the tragic loss of students and certainly one of our faculty members, the gun violence that we’ve experienced, the traffic crashes have all prepared us to respond to this pandemic.”

In 2014 an FSU grad and attorney shot and wounded three people at Strozier. In 2017 Thrasher shut down all fraternities and sororities after a pledge died from alcohol poisoning. The school was rocked again in 2018 when a faculty member and student were killed in a shooting at a local yoga studio. Now, a pandemic.

Thrasher noted how the FSU Innovation Hub, Learning Systems Institute, and FAMU-FSU College of Engineering worked together early on in the pandemic, creating face shields for healthcare workers at a time when personal protective equipment was becoming scarce.

"Our group developed a prototype to put their 3-D printers to work to make 2,400 face shields that were delivered to local hospitals, physicians, and front line workers," said Thrasher.

FSU, Thrasher says, has continued to adapt.

"Our faculty in particular are some of the most creative, hard-working, and dedicated people I have known," said Thrasher. "You displayed your creativity, flexibility, your ingenuity in March when we quickly transitioned to remote learning. For the faculty to convert 10,000 classes to remote delivery in just two weeks’ time is an extraordinary accomplishment."

Thrasher then turned his focus toward the student body, pointing out their success.

"We continue to have some of the best retention rates in the country. In fact, a record 95% of our freshman return for their sophomore year a rate that places us in the top 15 among public universities in America," said Thrasher.

The university also raised its four-year graduation rate to 74%, it was 70% in 2019.

Thrasher, a longtime staple in state politics, is set to retire soon. The University has launched a national search to find his replacement. Thrasher has been a state Senator, former House Speaker, and once chaired the Republican Party of Florida. He has called being president of FSU his “dream job.”