A Conversation with Sanford Shugart, Valencia College’s Retiring President

Dr. Sanford Shugart.

Rachelle Echevarria

Dr. Sanford Shugart.

Rachelle Echevarria, Copy Editor

Dr. Sanford Shugart, current president of Valencia College, is retiring. Dr. Shugart, commonly referred to as “Sandy,” has led Valencia College as its fourth president since 2000. He is a published author, poet, and singer-songwriter, and has helped pioneer systemic changes in Valencia College that have resulted in the impressive advancements in student engagement, learning and graduation. Rachelle Echevarria spoke with Dr. Shugart, who will be retiring in June 2021.

What are your plans following retirement? Will you be staying involved in education and/or continue with music and poetry?

I will certainly continue to make music and to write in all sorts of media, it’s just who I am. I’ll still be me. A year ago last fall, I did a short tour in Eastern Europe, but yeah, the music is high on my agenda to continue to improve. I hope to do more recording and certainly a lot of writing. My family and I have a farm, a sort of retreat, in Virginia in the mountains, so I imagine I’ll be spending time there as well. I have also accepted an offer as a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute, though it isn’t finalized. I’ll keep working as a senior scholar with the Quo Vadis Institute in Salsburg, Austria, though that’s more of a volunteer position.

How has the process for retirement been?

The transition to new leadership has been my focus. I made my decision to ask the board to start a search in May because I thought the time was right for the board to find a new CEO. I’ve been really focused on getting through the pandemic and making sure the legislature treats Valencia well. Years ago I used to be a long distance runner, and the closer I get to the finish line, the more intense I run. I want to finish my presidency strong.

What are your thoughts on your accomplishments with Valencia?

When I think back to the arc of the twenty years, I feel grateful. It was mostly the function of the Team, and it takes that kind of cooperation and collaboration to make these accomplishments happen. I’m really grateful to have a Team that was willing to break the log of tradition and grapple with a lot of challenges to do what needs to be done. What I mean by that is that in everything, the students and their education were put first. And that’s the mission: education.

What legacy do you hope to have left?

I don’t think of legacy very much. I think more in terms of who and what do you serve than leaving a legacy. Legacies can be monuments to people’s egos, and that doesn’t interest me at all. I pray that I was useful, that I loved the students well and challenged them well and that I didn’t let them down. I have great faith that Dr. Plinske will take the college much further than I will be able to. I tend to think less about what we’ve accomplished and more about who we’ve been together. The accomplishments achieved are kind of a by-product of the faithful togetherness.

What would you say to those who credit some of their success to your leadership?

I think that figuring out who you are and beginning to sense the trajectory of what you want to do is a great accomplishment as an educator, and I’m grateful to have done it. You know, that’s the mission, and I’m honored to know that Valencia could lead them to that point.