Dr. Thomas Kent “T.K.” Wetherell became the 13th president of Florida State University on January 6, 2003. A career educator with more than 30 years of experience in the State of Florida’s educational system, Dr. Wetherell is the only FSU president with experience in all four major divisions within higher education, having held positions in the offices of academic affairs, student services, business affairs, and college development. He has held leadership positions in two-year as well as four-year colleges, and he has served as a faculty member in both public and private institutions of higher education.
An outstanding advocate for higher education who has been called the state’s most politically astute university president, Wetherell has proven to be a leader among his peers, and he pushed successfully for universities to assess a tuition differential in an effort to make up for budget shortfalls and continue to offer high-quality education to students.
Soon after assuming the presidency, Wetherell, the first university alumnus to serve as president of Florida State, launched the innovative and ambitious Pathways of Excellence initiative that included hiring additional faculty members in interdisciplinary clusters built around academic themes, substantial investments in new facilities, and significant investments in graduate-level programs with emphasis on creating new interdisciplinary doctoral programs.
Wetherell scored a major coup in 2005 when The Florida State University lured the Applied Superconductivity Center to campus from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where it had been housed for more than two decades. The center has become the material research division of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
The most visible component of the Pathways initiative may be the $800 million worth of new construction and renovations, including state-of-the-art chemistry, biological science, psychology and medicine buildings, that have transformed the northwest corner of campus into a research quadrangle. In addition, other projects include several new research facilities, three new residence halls, dining halls, parking garages, a general classroom building and the Alumni Center.
Under Wetherell’s leadership, the university saw its students reach unprecedented national academic recognition, including three students who were named Rhodes Scholars — one of the oldest and most prestigious awards for international study. The success was in part due to the Office of National Fellowships, which guided students to win more than 40 nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, including three Truman Scholarships, three Goldwater Scholarships, the Udall Scholarship and 22 Fulbright Fellowships, since Wetherell established it in 2005.
During Wetherell’s tenure as president, Florida State University’s College of Medicine, the nation’s first new fully accredited public allopathic medical school in the past 25 years, graduated its first class in 2005, opened six regional campuses, and established important research collaborations with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
Dr. Wetherell has been inducted into Florida State University’s Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the prestigious Moore-Stone Award, the Circle of Gold Award and the university’s Distinguished Service Award. In addition, he has also been awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Flagler College.
Dr. Wetherell served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1980 to 1992, the last two years as Speaker of the House. During his tenure in the House he served as chairman of the appropriations committee and the higher education committee. The Miami Herald named him one of the Top Ten Legislative Leaders in the House each year from 1987 until 1992.
A third-generation Floridian, Dr. Wetherell was born on December 22, 1945 in Daytona Beach, Florida. He attended Port Orange Elementary School and Mainland Senior High School, where he was active in service clubs, student government and athletics. He attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and played on the 1963-67 football teams. He still holds the record for the longest kickoff return in Florida State University history. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social studies education from FSU in 1967 and 1968, respectively. He earned a doctorate in education administration from FSU in 1974.
Wetherell is married to Virginia B. Wetherell, who served as Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from 1991 to 1998 and previously served as a state legislator representing Pensacola. She currently is president of Wetherell Consulting Services. They are the parents of three children, Kent, Blakely and Page, and have two grandchildren. Wetherell’s personal interests include athletics, outdoor recreation, travel and aviation.