“With all the big universities in Florida, we had 3,000 students, eight buildings, 29 academic degrees, no athletics … no research. I decided that to grow the institution, we had to reach out to the community, make it feel that it was their university,
create a sense of proprietorship.”
— William C. Merwin, second president of Florida Gulf Coast University, in a story from the publication, “FGCU: The First Decade”
This would be a pivotal year in Florida Gulf Coast University’s growth.
In June, official notification came that the University had earned accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in record time — a monumental accomplishment. Just months later, Dr. William C. Merwin would step on campus as FGCU’s second president, succeeding Dr. Roy McTarnaghan, who retired after the May 1999 commencement.
The accreditation by the SACS, which is the sanctioning body for degree-granting higher-education institutions in 11 Southern states and Latin America, assures quality based on six core values: integrity, continuous improvement, peer review/self regulation, accountability, student learning and transparency. The process starts six months prior to an onsite visit with the institution submitting compliance certification, and then the institution conducts an assessment of its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). That’s followed by an onsite committee visit, usually three days, to assess the institution’s educational strengths and weaknesses and evaluate its QEP to make sure it’s in compliance. FGCU passed its first SAC test quickly with flying colors and gained national recognition with the speed of its accomplishment.
President Merwin, meanwhile, picked up the ball former President McTarnaghan got rolling and ran with it from the moment he arrived Sept. 16, 1999. His administration would lead the University to expand from 29 academic-degree programs to 64 while the number of faculty and staff almost tripled to 1,200. President Merwin’s plan to grow the institution by engaging the community was a resounding success, and he summed up his own legacy in a story written for FGCU’s 10th anniversary:
“It all starts with a dream,” he said. “Maybe my legacy is as a dreamer, a visionary. I think about things other people aren’t thinking about.”
In June, official notification came that the University had earned accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in record time — a monumental accomplishment.
Dr. William C. Merwin joined FGCU as the second president. His administration would lead the University to expand from 29 academic-degree programs to 64 while the number of faculty and staff almost tripled to 1,200.