The founding of FIU began with Senator Ernest “Cap” Graham (the father of former Florida governor and current U.S. Senator Bob Graham), who presented the initial proposal to the Florida legislature in 1943 to establish a state university in South Florida. Graham was ahead of his time, recognizing that Miami needed a state university to serve its growing population. While his bill did not pass, the Senator Graham persisted in presenting his proposal to his colleagues, warning them that Miami needed a state university.
In 1965, Florida Senator Robert M. Haverfield introduced Senate Bill 711, which instructed the state Board of Education and the Board of Regents (BOR) to begin planning for the development of a state university in Miami. The governor signed the bill into law in June 1965, and FIU was on its way to becoming a reality.
FIU’s founding president Charles “Chuck” Perry, who passed away in 1999, was appointed by the Board of Regents in July 1969 after a nationwide search. Just 31 years old, the new president was the youngest in the history of the State University System and, at the time, the youngest university president in the country.
Charles E. Perry
Florida International University was founded in 1969 with Charles E. Perry as president. Perry was 32 years old, the youngest public university president in the nation. He came to Miami a highly regarded education expert who had served as vice chancellor of the Florida Board of Regents, which oversaw the State University System. Florida Gov. Claude Kirk had recruited Perry to Florida in 1967 from Bowling State University in Ohio where he had earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, then climbed the ranks from an admissions counselor to the director of development.
As the founding president, Perry navigated the tricky political waters of establishing and funding a new university, which some actively opposed as a threat to existing universities. He was responsible for countless early decisions about the future of the 344-acre university that was to be built at the site of an abandoned airport in northwest Miami-Dade County. He assembled a team of founding administrators and hired the campus architect who designed FIU’s original master plan. Perry launched university operations in the abandoned control tower at the center of the campus with no phones, no drinkable water and no furniture. He also decided that the control tower should never be destroyed, dubbing it FIU’s ‘Ivory Tower.” Perry’s wife, First Lady Betty Perry played a critical role in the early years of FIU development, doing such things as taking the spouses of prospective deans on tours of Miami and entertaining a long line of dignitaries involved with university planning. She is also credited with starting FIU’s fine arts programs and served as a liaison between the university and community art and cultural groups.
In just three short years, Perry and his team turned the abandoned airport into an upper division university with six schools and colleges and a faculty of 300, 98 percent of whom had Ph.D.s. On opening day, Sept. 14, 1972 FIU had 5,667 students, the largest first year enrollment recorded in US higher education history. From the start, Perry understood the special role of an urban university to perceive and take responsibility for solving urban and technological problems. He also understood the growing importance of the economic and social relationship between Miami and Latin America. He was an early advocate of establishing an academic center for the study of Latin America, an idea that would be fulfilled three years after his departure by a young professor, Mark Rosenberg, who in 2009 became FIU’s fifth president.
During Perry’s seven-year tenure, FIU grew to 10,000 students, 134 degree programs, and five major buildings on a $50 million campus.
“We have chartered the beginning course for Florida International University,” Perry said. “How wisely we have planned and how well we shall implement those plays will be measured by those who will later come to judge us. Undoubtedly we shall alter our plans from time to time as we proceed, but the direction for this newly born institution has become clear. Only history will prove if we have chosen the correct route. We think we have.”
Harold Crosby was appointed president of FIU in January 1976, intending only to serve as interim president as a committee conducted a nationwide search. By August 1976, however, committee member could not reach agreement on any of the presidential candidates. Instead, the committee decided to recommend Crosby, an experienced university educator and administrator who agreed to serve for three years. A Florida native, Crosby was an attorney who had served as a state circuit judge for five years before becoming a law professor at the University of Florida. In 1961, Crosby had become the assistant dean of the UF College of Law and later, dean of university relations and development. In 1964, Crosby left UF to become president of the University of West Florida, a post he held for 10 years.
Crosby presided over a period of significant change and guided the university through a serious economic downturn. To respond to these changes, Crosby initiated a comprehensive self study of the university to examine objectives in every unit. He then revamped the organizational structure of FIU, creating the Division of Student Affairs and the first vice presidency position responsible for development. During his tenure, FIU opened the School of Public Affairs and Services. In addition, Crosby succeeded in opening FIU’s 1,700-acre North Miami campus, now known as Biscayne Bay.
Gregory Wolfe was appointed president in February 1979, bringing with him a distinguished record of international diplomatic service. Dr. Wolfe, a World War II veteran, had served as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. State Department and worked on the White House staffs of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He was a linguist fluent Spanish, French, German and Portuguese who earned a Ph.D. at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. From 1968-1974, Dr. Wolfe had served as president of Portland State University in Oregon.
Dr. Wolfe set out to ensure that FIU would be “higher education’s beacon in Miami.” During his tenure, Dr. Wolfe succeeded in winning legislative approval and funding to move FIU from an upper division university to a full, four-year university. FIU’s inaugural group of freshman arrived on Aug. 26, 1981 and they were feted as the “First-Class First Class.” By the mid 1980s, enrollment grew to 16,500 and the faculty numbered nearly 600. Three new schools were added: the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the School of Nursing and the School of Engineering. Dr. Wolfe also employed his personal expertise in world affairs to continue to foster FIU’s specialization in international studies.
Today, Dr. Wolfe is widely applauded for developing FIU’s north campus. He oversaw significant expansion to the campus, then known as Bay Vista, as student enrollment there grew to 2,800 students. During his tenure the north campus added its first student residential housing, a new student center, an Aquatic Center and a library, and began offering a host of adult education programs.
Upon his resignation, the Miami Herald editorial pages praised his presidency. “This young institution gained a new sense of identity and direction under Dr. Wolfe’s leadership. He was especially adept at articulating a vision of FIU as a truly international, multi-cultural institution serving Florida’s most populous region and beyond.” Dr. Wolfe remains a distinguished professor in FIU’s Department of International Relations.
Modesto A. Maidique
1986 - 2009
Modesto A. Maidique was selected as the fourth president of Florida International University in 1986. Under Dr. Maidique’s leadership, FIU grew to more than 38,000 students, ranking among the 20 largest universities in the United States. He oversaw the expansion of FIU from 54 buildings and 2 million square feet to 109 buildings totaling 7 million square feet. In fiscal year 2007-08 FIU reached all time records of graduating more than 100 doctoral students, surpassing $100 million in endowment funds and more than $100 million in research expenditures.
During Dr. Maidique’s 23-year tenure, FIU opened the College of Law, College of Engineering and the School of Architecture, as well as the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, the Green Library and the new Frost Art Museum. In 2000, FIU became the youngest university invited to join the nation’s most prestigious honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. FIU established a campus of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in Tianjin, China, graduating its first class in 2008. Dr. Maidique spearheaded the historic opening of the new FIU College of Medicine. On the last day of his presidency Aug 3, 2009, Maidique welcomed the inaugural class of students to the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.
A professor of management in the College of Business Administration, Dr. Maidique is an internationally recognized expert in executive and leadership education and high technology enterprises. Dr. Maidique came to FIU with an elite academic background. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development. He has held academic appointments at MIT, Harvard University and Stanford University. Widely published in leading academic journals, Dr. Maidique is contributing author to ten books including Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation, widely used in college classrooms. An article he co-authored, “The Art of High Technology Management,” is a bestseller for the Sloan Management Review.
Mark B. Rosenberg
Mark B. Rosenberg served as the fifth president of Florida International University. He was appointed in Aug. 2009. Having started his academic career at FIU in 1976, Dr. Rosenberg was the first FIU faculty member to ascend to the university’s presidency.