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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Florida Polytechnic inaugural president named

LAKELAND — Randy Avent, associate vice chancellor of research development at North Carolina State University, will be Florida Polytechnic University’s inaugural president when the school opens this fall.

Poly trustees voted Monday to give the job to Avent over Robert McGrath, director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Forty-three applicants and nominees were originally considered. A search committee narrowed the list to the two finalists last week, and ultimately recommended Avent to the board of trustees.

Avent and McGrath were in Lakeland for a meet-and-greet with the community on Sunday and were formally interviewed Monday morning. The unanimous vote came Monday afternoon.

“Dr. Avent personifies the innovative, entrepreneurial qualities that we hope to inspire in our future students,” board of trustees Chairman Rob Gidel said in a statement issued by Poly. “As an institution focused on hands-on learning, we’re proud to welcome Dr. Avent, who has impressive experience and demonstrated commitment to applied research and academics.”

Prior to joining North Carolina State, Avent worked with the Pentagon as chief scientist in the Office of Basic Research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, where he oversaw scientific programs and developed strategic plans for science and technology investments.

He also held several positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a masters from North Carolina State in electrical engineering, and master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill in biomedical engineering and mathematics.

He is a graduate of the Boston Executive Program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

“Dr. Avent brings great intellect, achievement, integrity and a strong vision for Florida Polytechnic University,” said trustee Don Wilson. “He is the right person to guide the university and establish Florida Polytechnic as a nationally and internationally recognized institution of higher learning.”

Avent, 55, is expected to report this summer. Poly trustees will begin contract negotiations immediately, and he must be confirmed by the state university system Board of Governors.

Florida Polytechnic opens this fall as the state’s 12th public university, focusing on the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. It will have about 500 students, 31 faculty members and 12 part-time faculty.

Construction continues on the university’s signature Innovation, Science and Technology building at Interstate 4 and the eastern Polk Parkway, and a residence hall is also under construction.

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