UCF VP who worked un­der Hitt, Whit­taker leaves school

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By An­nie Martin

Grant He­ston, who worked closely with three UCF pres­i­dents as chief of staff, said Fri­day he has left the univer­sity.

Tapped by for­mer Pres­i­dent Dale Whit­taker to serve in the pub­lic-fac­ing role, He­ston over­saw the pres­i­dent’s of­fice dur­ing a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod in the univer­sity’s his­tory. He said in Novem­ber he would step down from the chief of staff post on Dec. 1 but in­tended to re­main at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida as vice pres­i­dent for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing.

But that changed, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment from In­terim Pres­i­dent Thad Sey­mour sent Fri­day to univer­sity lead­ers and staff in the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Mar­ket­ing divi­sion and pres­i­dent’s of­fice.

“We all know that 2020 will be a year of change for UCF. I want to start the year by shar­ing a lead­er­ship change,” Sey­mour wrote. “De­cem­ber was Grant He­ston’s last month at UCF. Af­ter more than 12 years of out­stand­ing ser­vice to the univer­sity, Grant is ready to tackle new chal­lenges.”

He­ston’s de­par­ture was the re­sult of a “mu­tual de­ci­sion,” he and Sey­mour wrote in sep­a­rate emails to the Or­lando Sen­tinel.

“I worked closely with Thad and HR about how to best con­clude my UCF ca­reer,” he wrote. “It’s pretty straight­for­ward.”

He­ston ad­dressed his for­mer col­leagues in the same email that in­cluded Sey­mour’s mes­sage about his de­par­ture.

“I came to UCF in 2007 with lit­tle fan­fare; it seems ap­pro­pri­ate to me that I de­part qui­etly, too,” he wrote. “I leave with pro­found af­fec­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the UCF com­mu­nity. Be­ing a Knight has been one of the most re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of my life.”

He ended the mes­sage by thank­ing

“When our next ad­ven­ture is soon fi­nal­ized, I’ll share the news,” he wrote.

He­ston, 46, be­came chief of staff when Whit­taker started as pres­i­dent in July 2018, re­ceiv­ing an an­nual salary of $286,841 in that role. As he leaves the univer­sity, he’ll re­ceive a pay­out of $39,425, equiv­a­lent to 60 days of pay.

He­ston had pre­vi­ously worked closely with for­mer pres­i­dent John Hitt, who held the post for 26 years, of­ten ac­com­pa­ny­ing him to pub­lic events and in­ter­view­ing him on-stage dur­ing the an­nual State of the Univer­sity ad­dresses. Af­ter Whit­taker re­signed last Fe­bru­ary amid a state in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the univer­sity’s use of left­over op­er­at­ing money for con­struc­tion, trus­tees ap­pointed Sey­mour to serve as an in­terim pres­i­dent. In Novem­ber, the Board of Trus­tees be­gan a search for a long-term suc­ces­sor.

He­ston wrote Nov. 8 in an email to his col­leagues in the pres­i­dent’s of­fice he would no longer serve as the chief his for­mer col­leagues. of staff. At the time, he said wanted to “help get UCF in the best pos­si­ble shape for a new pres­i­dent” but never in­tended to con­tinue af­ter trus­tees ap­pointed a re­place­ment for Sey­mour.

Sey­mour cred­ited He­ston with “trans­form­ing how UCF sees it­self and tells its story,” in the email that went out Fri­day.

“I’m es­pe­cially thank­ful for his lead­er­ship and coun­sel dur­ing this in­terim pe­riod. I know I speak for all of you when I say I ap­pre­ci­ate all he’s done for UCF and that I look for­ward to what he ac­com­plishes next,” Sey­mour wrote.

He­ston’s for­mer post will re­main un­filled for now, Sey­mour added.

“In terms of what’s next or­ga­ni­za­tion­ally, I want to pro­vide our next pres­i­dent max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity to build the team s/he wants,” he wrote. “There­fore, I will nei­ther hire for the VP po­si­tion now nor name an in­terim VP.”


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