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Interim FIU president Kenneth Jessell likely to be named president

TALLAHASSEE - After stepping in as interim president after Mark Rosenberg's abrupt resignation, Kenneth Jessell appears likely to be named president of Florida International University.

Roger Tovar, a member of the university's Board of Trustees and chairman of its presidential search committee, said in an update released Wednesday that Jessell is the only presidential candidate who will be recommended to the trustees.

Jessell was the university's chief financial officer and senior vice president for finance and administration before being appointed interim president in January.

"I have observed and worked with Dr. Jessell for years in his role as CFO and have had many opportunities to experience his work ethic, strategic thought process, and unwavering integrity," Tovar said in the written update. "He is brilliant and kind and has steered us through an important transition at a pivotal moment for FIU."

Tovar said Jessell initially indicated he did not want to be considered for the presidency. 

The search committee considered more than 70 candidates, the update said.

"We recruited him because many of us thought he was ideal for the position and several members of the community reached out to the search firm to nominate Dr. Jessell," Tovar wrote. 

"We are thankful he ultimately decided to answer the call to become a candidate."

The update also said Jessell was the only candidate being recommended to the Board of Trustees "due to an unwillingness by other individuals to continue their candidacy unless they were the sole recommendation of the committee."

Under new state law, the names of other applicants have not been released and meetings of the search committee were closed to the public.

Rosenberg, who had served as president since 2009, abruptly resigned in January. Initially, he cited personal health issues and the deteriorating health of his wife but later acknowledged that his exit came after he caused "discomfort for a valued colleague."

"Regrettably, these issues spilled over to my work and I caused discomfort for a valued colleague," Rosenberg said in a statement at the time. "I unintentionally created emotional (not physical) entanglement. I apologize to you. I take full responsibility and regret my actions."

Jessell had served as chief financial officer and senior vice president since 2009, after working 26 years at Florida Atlantic University, according to information on the FIU website. 

He has bachelor's and master's degrees and a doctorate from Florida State University.

Tovar said in the update that FIU will hold a series of open forums with Jessell over the next three weeks. 

After that, the Board of Trustees will be able to consider the search committee's recommendation.

The Jessell recommendation came as Florida Atlantic University, the University of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University also are in the process of seeking new presidents.

Florida Atlantic trustees this week named Stacy Volnick to become interim president in January after President John Kelly leaves the post at the end of 2022. 

Volnick is the university's chief operating officer. 

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