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Final Four: PHSC Nears Decision on New President

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With roughly a month remaining before the final decision on their presidential search is made, Pasco Hernando State College has narrowed its field of candidates to four. After an exhaustive review of more than 50 talented individuals identified by Myers McRae Executive Search and Consulting, the search committee has tabbed Gilbert L. Evans Jr., J.D., Ph.D., Eric Hall, Ed.D., Jesse D. Pisors, Ed.D., and Saul Reyes, Ed.D., as the prospective successors to current President Timothy L. Beard, Ph.D. Upon Beard’s retirement, the most qualified of the quartet will take the reins in January 2024.

“I am grateful for an amazing and dedicated group of professionals from Pasco and Hernando Counties that helped us narrow the field of applicants,” said John Mitten, Chair of the search committee and Trustee for the PHSC District Board of Trustees. “With the very strong and national interest in this role, their task was not easy, but in the end, we all agreed that the finalists were clearly distanced from the remaining candidates.”

In an August 14 press release, the college discussed the background of each candidate. Dr. Gilbert Evans’ qualifications include receiving his associate in arts degree from St. Johns River Community College, a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in English and educational leadership from Florida State University, and a Ph.D. and J.D. from the University of Florida. The husband and father of two currently serves as the vice president for Legal Affairs and general counsel at St. Johns River State College and has held a variety of roles over the last 26 years. Evans’ work has been published in several educational and professional journals. His dissertation, titled “Job Satisfaction and Organizational Climate as Perceived by Community College Presidents,” was nominated for “Dissertation of the Year.”

Raised in Pasco County, Dr. Eric Hall earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary science education, a master’s degree in educational leadership, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of South Florida. The educator currently serves on councils such as the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors, Special Olympics Florida, and the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, and was appointed secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice by Governor Ron DeSantis in November 2021. The husband and father of two also holds the honor of being the state’s first senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education.

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The penultimate candidate on the list, Dr. Jesse Pisors, earned a Doctor of Education degree from Texas Tech University. An educator for over 25 years, he has served as the vice president of two public universities: Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMUSA) and the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV). During his time with TAMUSA, the university reached record-high enrollment, experienced 40 percent growth in graduate enrollment, and had substantial growth in philanthropy last year. The PHSC press release says Pisors’ leadership at TAMUSA showcases his dedication to inclusivity, as the university’s student body is over 75 percent Hispanic and 60 percent are first-generation students. Earlier in his career, Pisors also spent three years leading a private K–12 school in Mexico.

The final prospective hire for president, Dr. Saul Reyes, has also received his doctorate from South Florida—his being in higher education. With 35 years of higher education experience, Reyes has held the role of vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at the College of Central Florida and served as dean of student services at Polk State College. Dr. Reyes has also chaired multiple boards, including the Council of Student Affairs for the Florida College System and the Marion County Cultural Alliance, of which he is still chairman. He is a first-generation American, born to Cuban immigrants, and the first in his family to graduate from college.

What was it about these four candidates that stuck out over the rest? Was it their vision for the future of PHSC, or was it some other aspect of their character that shone through in the interview?

“The committee had the blessing of having strong candidates to choose from,” Mitten said. “However, these finalists answered our questions with the level of professionalism we are all looking for in a president, both in demeanor and in content. They each bring a different expertise and strength to the role.”

The college will hold a town hall on September 6, where the presidential finalists will be formally introduced at the PHSC Instructional Performing Arts Center in Wesley Chapel. They will then tour the institution’s five campuses on the seventh of that month for a meet-and-greet with the faculty and staff. The public event will give the committee an “opportunity to watch the applicant on campus interacting with the faculty, students, and public.” This will serve as an ideal occasion to test the candidates’ public acumen before an ultimate decision is reached.

“There has already been much prayer about this process and these applicants, but I would like to ask the residents of Pasco and Hernando Counties to also pray as we come into the most critical time of this important change, especially for the trustees to have wisdom in the selection,” said Mitten. “The students of the future will be greatly impacted by this decision.”

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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