John Sowinski: On Charlie Reed, a legacy ‘beyond measure’

Posted by | December 08, 2016 | News | No Comments

The following is an excerpt from a guest column on FloridaPolitics.com by Consensus Co-Founder John Sowinski.

Editor’s note: Former Florida State University System Chancellor Charles Reed died Tuesday at 75.

Charlie Reed was a hard charger, a master legislative strategist, a fantastically successful leader in higher education, a consummate professional, and a class act.

Reed became Chancellor of Florida’s State University System at about the same time that I became Executive Director of the Florida Student Association, the lobbying group that represents the students of Florida’s State University System.

He left his job as Governor Bob Graham’s chief of staff to become Chancellor. It was 1985, and everyone in Florida’s higher education policy realm had had a healthy dose of respect for and fear of Reed. He wanted to raise tuition 15 percent per year. Students wanted tuition increases capped at no more than 5 percent per year.

Part of my job was to testify immediately after him at every Board of Regents and Legislative Committee meeting that dealt with the tuition issue and provide the counterpoints to his points. The undergraduate tuition increase landed close to 5 percent, but no permanent cap was created.

After the Session, I was summoned to the Board of Regents office for a one-on-one meeting with Chancellor Reed. I had no idea why he wanted to meet with me, much less alone. I thought he was going to take me to the woodshed, because he was a tough guy.

In fact, during that Session, I saw him use a legislator’s aide’s phone (no cellphones back then) to dress down a high-level university administrator for not towing the State University System position on a particular bill. My interactions with Chancellor Reed during the legislative session and at Board of Regents meetings were made awkward by the fact that we were diametrically opposed on the high-stakes tuition issue, and though we had spoken many times, we had never had a “casual” conversation.

I nervously went into his office. We shook hands, and I sat down…

To read the guest column in its entirety, visit FloridaPolitics.com.