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Business Observer Monday, Aug. 2, 2021 1 year ago

USF names prominent alum and community leader interim president

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Rhea Law, an attorney with deep ties to the university and the community named interim president of the University of South Florida
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

TAMPA — Rhea Law has been named interim president of the University of South Florida, replacing Steven Currall who ran the university for two years before announcing his retirement last month.

Law, a prominent attorney with deep ties to the university and the community, begins her term Aug. 2 — Currall’s last day as president. Her appointment, which was unanimously approved by USF's board of trustees, is subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors at its Aug. 31 meeting, university officials say. 

Law is not interested in the permanent position, the school added in a statement announcing her appointment.

According to the agenda from the board of trustees, the Draft Interim Presidential Contract calls for a base salary of $575,000, with "performance-based compensation based on annual evaluation" up to $275,000, non-guaranteed deferred compensation of $115,000 and a monthly vehicle and housing stipends of $8,000 per month.

Will Weatherford, chairman of the board of trustees and who recommended Law for the job last week, says she is the person “who can inspire confidence while listening to and advocating for our students, faculty, staff and community; who has the leadership skills to help us pragmatically move forward on key issues; who respects the critical role of our faculty; who understands and can help advance our strong research enterprise and clinical expertise, and who has the relationships across our region and our state to garner even more support for USF.”

Currall joined USF in 2019, taking over for Judy Genshaft who had led the university for 19 years. Before coming to Tampa, he was provost and vice president of academic affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

He was at the helm of the school as it dealt with the-19 pandemic, which upended how, when and where students learned and put a massive strain on both academics and budgets — USF saw its funding cut by $38.7 million. 

The university says he will stay at the university as tenured full professor at the school of business. He will research and teach organizational psychology.

Law is a graduate of USF and the former chair of the board of trustees. She got her law degree from Stetson University College of Law.

Until about two years ago, she was with the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Before that, she was CEO and chairwoman of Fowler White Boggs, and led the merger with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in 2014.

But Law is known throughout the area for much more. Over the course of her long career, Law became one of the most prominent and respected business leaders in the Tampa Bay area, holding top leadership positions with the Florida Council of 100; Tampa Bay Partnership; Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp; Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce; USF; Stetson; and others.

She told the Business Observer several years ago that before her law career, she worked at the university helping write grants and contracts. It was there, in the 1970s, where Law met and worked under her first mentor, William Taft. Unsure about a career path, it was Taft “who told me every day that I can do anything I want to do. After a while I started to believe him.”

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