COLUMBIA COLLEGE PRESIDENTIAL FINALIST: Randy Hanna would bring law background to the job

Friday, January 10, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:19 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 11, 2014

COLUMBIA — As chancellor of the Florida College System, Randy Hanna, 55, oversees more than 870,000 students on 28 campuses.

He's one of two finalists for the job of Columbia College president. 

Hanna is scheduled to visit Columbia on Tuesday to tour the campus of Columbia College and participate in an open forum for students, faculty and the public. The other finalist, Scott Dalrymple, will be on campus Sunday. (Read a profile of Scott Dalrymple.)

The Board of Trustees has said it will take student and faculty feedback into account when making the final choice between the candidates.

“This is an important decisions for the students, faculty and staff,” Hanna said. “I am very honored to be one of the two finalists.”

He said the next president will need to be a good communicator to help set the strategic mission of the college with the board and stakeholders.

“The operation is large and complex, and it is my hope that my experience would be beneficial with running a complex organization like this,” Hanna said.

Since 2011, he has been chancellor of Florida College System, which includes 28 community colleges and more than 870,000 students. The system encompasses 68 campuses and $7.3 billion in capital assets. In comparison, Columbia College has more than 30,000 students enrolled in 35 campuses in 13 states. This also includes online and military programs.

Julie Alexander, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs for the Division of Florida Colleges, has worked with Hanna for two years. She said Hanna is a visionary with an eye toward innovation.

“He is engaged and has a broad breadth of knowledge about community colleges and college issues in Florida and throughout the nation,” Alexander said.

Hanna identified three challenges facing higher education nationwide: tuition costs, competitiveness in online education programs, and the graduation and retention rates of the college.

“I think I bring a lifetime of experience in higher education, law, business and finance,” Hanna said. “I believe I could benefit the college as they face the challenges in higher education.”

Alexander said Hanna has a prominent statewide role within the Florida College System. She said he has a keen interest in online learning, competency-based education, and better student advising.

“He has a very strong work ethic,” Alexander said. “He is not a 40-hour-a-week kind of guy.”

She described his management style as "super supportive." He is down to earth and delightful to work with, Alexander said.

Larry Robinson, interim president of Florida A&M University, worked with Hanna on the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2005. Robinson said Hanna is a consensus builder and a team player who understands governance, administration, and the broader mission of colleges and universities. He said the two worked closely to develop the university's strategic plan involving input from multiple stakeholders.

“Among Hanna's strongest attributes are his high ethical and integrity standards,” Robinson said.

Hanna has been involved in higher education for more than 20 years. He has served on the boards of trustees for the University of West Florida, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. He served two terms on the Florida State Board of Community Colleges.

Hanna practiced law for nearly 30 years before his career in higher education. For more than 13 years, he served as the managing shareholder and chairman of Bryant Miller Olive, a multistate law firm.

He earned his law degree from Florida State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Emory University, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and agriculture from the University of Florida.

“Running a college or university is something you do on a collaborative base with all of the stakeholders,” Hanna said.

He said he liked the warm, welcoming atmosphere of Columbia and was impressed with the college and quality of staff when he looked at the college.

 “Columbia College has always taken the appropriate steps to ensure that it is serving the needs of students, and I would want to continue that tradition,” Hanna said.

In his free time, Hanna enjoys being in a running group, watching college sports — especially basketball — reading historical books and travel. He and his daughter have resumed rock climbing in a gym, and he has completed two Ironman triathlons.

“I am most proud when students succeed,” Hanna said. “That’s why we are here. Everything should be focused on the student and student success.”

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