May 16, 2011 — New College of Florida today announced that Dr. Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson, Jr., has decided to retire as president of the College to return to the classroom, effective July 1, 2012. Following a one-year sabbatical, he plans to rejoin the New College faculty as a professor of religion in the fall of 2013, reclaiming his vocational roots as a classroom educator and researcher.
Michalson has served as president of New College since July of 2001, when the College gained independence as the honors college of the State of Florida. At his retirement, he will have served as chief administrative officer of New College for sixteen of the past twenty years, including five years as Dean and Warden (1992-1997), while the College was still part of the University of South Florida.
“Clearly there comes a time when an institution benefits from fresh vision and renewed energy,” stated Michalson in announcing his decision. “While I’m certainly proud to have provided stability during the College’s transition to full independence and national recognition, my sense is that now is an excellent moment to begin the next chapter in New College’s history, as underscored by this year’s celebration of the College’s fiftieth anniversary.”
Michalson is the longest-serving president in the history of New College, whose past presidents include Dr. George F. Baughman (1961-1965), Dr. John Elmendorf (1965-1968, 1969-1972), Dallas W. Dort (acting, 1972-1973) and Dr. Arland F. Christ-Janer (1973-1975). After joining with USF and the State University System in 1975, the College was led by a succession of chief academic officers until becoming the 11th member of the State University System in 2001.
“I cannot emphasize too strongly what an honor it has been to serve as New College’s president during this dynamic period in its history,” continued Michalson. “I am proud to have been part of such a wonderful team over this past decade, since the College’s success truly reflects a collective effort.”
Michalson’s retirement was accepted with admiration and regret by former State Senator Bob Johnson, chair of the New College Board of Trustees and longtime advocate of the College.
“President Michalson’s announcement marks the culmination of the greatest years in New College’s history,” stated Johnson. “The leadership transition team put in place eleven years ago resulted in numerous national achievements and record numbers of graduates who have become Gates, Fulbright, Truman, National Science Foundation or other Fellows. Without President Michalson’s leadership, vision and passion for liberal arts education these successes could not have happened. He has been a personal mentor and friend, and I’m gratified that Mike plans to remain in our community as a New College professor.”
Recognized as a foremost scholar on Immanuel Kant and the philosophy of religion, Michalson is the author of four books and currently has a contract pending with Cambridge University Press for a new scholarly book, at the request of the publisher. He served as American consulting editor of The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought and is the recipient of five NEH research grants. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology and earned his doctorate “with distinction” from Princeton University.
In speaking on behalf of New College’s administration and faculty, New College Provost Char Callahan expressed a deep appreciation for Michalson’s skills both as an administrator and as an academic leader.
“Mike’s contribution to New College goes far beyond the typical college president,” said Callahan. “He has provided overall direction and guidance for the academic program for much of the past 20 years, and has been a staunch advocate and eloquent spokesperson for the value of a liberal arts education. It has been my privilege to work alongside him for that period. We are profoundly grateful that he will remain connected to the College, and most importantly to our students, through his classroom teaching.”
Michalson has taught a class at New College during all but two of his years as president, engaging students in subjects such as Faith and Reason and Kant’s Religious Thought. His classes are always popular among the students.
Prior to his arrival at New College, Michalson taught at Davidson College from 1975-77 before beginning a fifteen-year stint at Oberlin College, where he chaired the Religion Department and directed the Danenberg Oberlin-in-London program. He was also a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) “Distinguished Scholar” at Bucknell University and a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University in 2001. He has held visiting posts at Yale, Princeton and Linacre College, Oxford.
As an administrator, Michalson has been a leader in regional higher education, having served as president of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities and of the Southern University Conference, both associations of college and university presidents. He is currently a trustee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges. His other board affiliations include the Leroy Collins Institute, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Humanity Working to End Genocide. Michalson is also a member of the Honorary Advisory Board for the Children’s Guardian Fund.
He lives in Sarasota with his wife, Susannah, and their son, Elliott.