Seventeen men have served as the president of the University of Florida since the modern university was created from the consolidation of four predecessor institutions by the Florida state legislature in 1905.
The University of Florida is a public university, created and supported by the State of Florida. The primary campus of the university is located in Gainesville, and it has academic, agricultural, medical and other research facilities in Jacksonville, Orlando, and throughout Florida. The university traces its origins to 1853, the founding date of the East Florida Seminary in Ocala, Florida, the oldest of the university's four predecessor institutions. Following the 1905 merger of its predecessor institutions, the newly consolidated men's university and land-grant college was first known as the "University of the State of Florida." The name was officially shortened to the "University of Florida" in 1909. 
The University of Florida is one of sixty-two member institutions of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the association of preeminent North American research universities, and the only AAU member university in Florida.  Following the creation of performance standards by the Florida state legislature in 2013, the Florida Board of Governors designated the University of Florida as one of two "preeminent universities" among the twelve universities of the State University System of Florida.  
To date, the youngest president of the University of Florida has been Andrew Sledd, who facilitated the organization of the new university from the consolidation of its predecessor institutions in 1905. When the Florida Board of Control appointed Sledd as the first president of the new state university on June 7, 1905, he was five months short of his thirty-fifth birthday.  The longest-serving president of the university was John J. Tigert, who held the office for nineteen years from 1928 to 1947. The first university faculty member to become its permanent president was J. Wayne Reitz in 1955, and the first university alumnus to become its president was Stephen C. O'Connell in 1967.
The former president of the University of Florida is W. Kent Fuchs. Fuchs replaced Bernard Machen on January 1, 2015. Using the university's counting method (acting or "interim" presidents are not numbered), Fuchs is the twelfth president of the university. Eleven men have served as the university's permanent president, and five have served as its interim, or acting, president pending the appointment of a permanent successor. The current president of the University of Florida is Ben Sasse.
|Term||President||Background and accomplishments|
|Andrew W. Sledd was the founding president of the "University of the State of Florida," the newly consolidated men's land-grant college and state university in Gainesville. He nominated the initial faculty in 1905, established admissions standards and curriculum, and oversaw the transfer of assets from the university's temporary Lake City campus to the new permanent Gainesville campus in 1906. An ordained Methodist minister, Sledd later served as the president of Methodist-affiliated Southern University and became a prominent New Testament scholar at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. |
|Albert A. Murphree organized many of the University of Florida's first constituent colleges and schools, oversaw financing and construction of numerous new campus buildings, increased student enrollment from 186 to over 2,000, and was responsible for the beginnings of many of the modern university's traditions. Murphree oversaw the university's growth from a small state college to a major regional university, and he was widely recognized as laying the foundation for the university's later expansion and success. Murphree was a mathematics professor and the third president of Florida State University before becoming president of the University of Florida. |
|James M. Farr became the acting president of the University of Florida following the unexpected death of Albert Murphree. He was an English language and literature scholar, and served as the first vice president of the university from its legislative consolidation in 1905, and chairman of the English Department, until his retirement in 1934. As a professor, he was responsible for the beginnings of the university's honor system. In retirement, Farr wrote a narrative history of the university and its predecessor institution, Florida Agricultural College, called The Making of a University. |
|John J. Tigert, IV was an All-Southern halfback, a Rhodes Scholar, a college basketball and football head coach, the president of Kentucky Wesleyan College and the U.S. commissioner of education. As the longest-serving president of the University of Florida, he prompted the creation of University College and the imposition of new general education requirements, led the effort to finance and build Florida Field, was instrumental in the formation of the Southeastern Conference in 1932, advocated the creation of the athletic grant-in-aid, and oversaw the growth of the student body from approximately 2,200 to over 7,500. Tigert was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970. |
|H. Harold Hume became the acting president of the University of Florida following the resignation of John J. Tigert in 1947. Hume was a prominent horticulturalist, Dean of the College of Agriculture, the university's Provost for Agriculture, and author of numerous horticultural books and academic journal articles. He was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1965. |
|J. Hillis Miller implemented the University of Florida's post-World War II enrollment increases, the integration of women into the student body, and major expansion of campus facilities. Most notably, Miller was responsible for obtaining approval and funding of the university's Health Science Center and College of Medicine, the state of Florida's first public medical school and teaching hospital. |
|John S. Allen became the acting president of the University of Florida following the unexpected death of J. Hillis Miller. During his nearly fifteen months as interim president, Allen continued Miller's campus building projects and worked to improve veteran education. He was a professor of astronomy and executive vice president of the university, and later served as the founding president of the University of South Florida from 1957 to 1970. |
|J. Wayne Reitz's administration was responsible for the largest expansion of the University of Florida's physical plant and the construction of over 300 campus facilities, and he oversaw the peaceful racial integration of the university. The university's first professor to serve as its permanent president, he was an agricultural economist and the university's Provost for Agriculture before becoming its president. Reitz remained actively involved in the university's fund-raising activities until his death in 1993. |
|Stephen C. O'Connell's presidential administration oversaw university enrollment increases, expansion of educational opportunities for African-American students, reorganized the alumni association with a new emphasis on private fund-raising, and kept the university open during civil rights and Vietnam war protests. O'Connell was the first alumnus of the University of Florida to serve as its president, and was a justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1955 to 1967. |
|E. Travis York became the acting president of the University of Florida following the resignation of Stephen C. O'Connell. York also served as the university provost and executive vice president, and was responsible for the founding of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), and was later appointed to be the chancellor of the State University System of Florida from 1975 to 1980. Before becoming provost, York was the head of the Alabama and United States agricultural extension services. |
|Robert Q. Marston was a Rhodes Scholar, medical doctor and research scientist. Marston established programs to attract National Merit Scholars, helped establish the State of Florida's Eminent Scholars Program, and dramatically increased the university's private financial support. During his tenure, the university matured into one of the nation's ten largest single-campus universities and one of the three most comprehensive in the scope of its academic programs. Marston had served as the director of the National Institutes of Health and dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. |
|Marshall M. Criser, Jr. guided the University of Florida's application to the Association of American Universities (AAU), initiated the most successful fund-raising campaign in the history of the University of Florida, reduced the size of the undergraduate student body while maintaining faculty and state funding, increased admissions standards and upper-division academic progress requirements, and dealt with the repercussions of NCAA football infractions. He had served as the chairman of the Florida Board of Regents and the president of The Florida Bar. |
|Robert A. Bryan became the acting president of the University of Florida after the resignation of Marshall Criser, and was responsible for the removal of the football and basketball head coaches for violations of NCAA rules and the beginning of new athletic oversight reforms. Memorably, he led the negotiations to bring former Gators quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner Steve Spurrier back to his alma mater as its new head football coach in 1990. Bryan had served as the university provost and vice president for academic affairs, and had helped to improve the university's academic programs. He later served as the interim president of the University of Central Florida in 1991 and the interim president of the University of South Florida from 1993 to 1994. |
|John V. Lombardi became the president of the University of Florida with the mission of leading it "into the top tier of American universities." Lombardi reasserted active control over the university's athletic program, guided the university community through the crisis and aftermath of the Danny Rollings murders, promoted the aggressive adoption of new technologies, and allocated funds among the university's colleges and departments based on productivity and tangible success. Before becoming president of the university, he was a Latin American history professor and served as the provost of Johns Hopkins University; subsequently, he was the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was a former president of the Louisiana State University System. |
|Charles E. Young led the university into the 21st century, guiding it through a difficult time of recession, coping with its new governing structure and the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, extending the university's capital campaign, and implementing its first strategic plan. Young had been a political science professor and served twenty-nine years as the chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). |
|Bernie Machen and his administration worked to improve diversity, sustainability, and graduate education. Machen had been the dean of the University of North Carolina school of dentistry, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs of the University of Michigan, and the president of the University of Utah. He now serves as senior adviser to the University of Florida board of trustees and President Kent Fuchs, raising money for endowed faculty positions and the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program that bears Machen's name. |
|Kent Fuchs assumed office on January 1, 2015. |
|Ben Sasse is the current president of the University of Florida. He assumed office on February 6, 2023. |
James Robert Cade was an American physician, university professor, research scientist and inventor. Cade, a native of Texas, earned his bachelor and medical degrees at the University of Texas, and became a professor of medicine and nephrology at the University of Florida. Although Cade engaged in many areas of medical research, he is most widely remembered as the leader of the research team that created the sports drink Gatorade. Gatorade would have significant medical applications for treating dehydration in patients, and has generated over $150 million in royalties for the university.
Samuel Ray Graves was an American college and professional football player and college football coach. He was a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he was the starting center and team captain for the Volunteers under head coach Robert Neyland. After playing in the National Football League for three seasons, he returned to Tennessee to serve as an assistant football coach, then left for a longer stint as an assistant at Georgia Tech under head coach Bobby Dodd. He was the head football coach at the University of Florida from 1960 until 1969, where he led the Gators to their most successful decade in program history up to that point. While at Florida, he recruited and coached Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier, who often praised Graves as a role model and mentor during his own successful coaching career. Graves also served as Florida's athletic director from 1960 until his retirement in 1979.
George Robert Woodruff was an American college football player, coach, and sports administrator. Woodruff was a native of Georgia and an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, where he played college football. He was best known as the head coach of the Baylor University and University of Florida football teams, and later, as the athletic director at the University of Tennessee.
Albert Alexander Murphree was an American college professor and university president. Murphree was a native of Alabama, and became a mathematics instructor after earning his bachelor's degree. He later served as the third president of Florida State College from 1897 to 1909, and the second president of the University of Florida from 1909 to 1927. Murphree is the only person to have been the president of both of Florida's original state universities, the University of Florida and Florida State University, and he played an important role in the organization, growth and ultimate success of both institutions.
Marshall McAllister Criser, Jr. is an American corporate lawyer and former university administrator. Criser is a native of New Jersey, and earned his bachelor's and law degrees before becoming a practicing attorney. He was the eighth president of the University of Florida, serving from 1984 to 1989.
John James Tigert IV was an American university president, university professor and administrator, college sports coach and the U.S. Commissioner of Education. Tigert was a native of Tennessee and the son and grandson of Methodist bishops. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he earned his master's degree as a Rhodes Scholar.
John Stuart Allen was an American astronomer, university professor and university president. He was a native of Indiana, and pursued a career as a professor of astronomy after receiving his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Allen was the interim president of the University of Florida located in Gainesville, Florida, and subsequently became the founding president of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.
John Vincent Paul Maher Lombardi is an American professor and former university administrator. He is a native of California, and earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees before becoming a professor of Latin American history. Lombardi has served as the president of the University of Florida, the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the president of the Louisiana State University System.
J. Hillis Miller Sr. was an American university professor, education administrator and university president. Miller was a native of Virginia, and earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees before embarking on an academic career. He served as a psychology professor at the College of William & Mary and Bucknell University, the president of Keuka College, a senior administrator with the New York Department of Education, and the president of the University of Florida.
Robert Quarles Marston was an American physician, research scientist, governmental appointee and university administrator. Marston was a native of Virginia, and, after earning his bachelor's, medical and research degrees, he became a research scientist and medical professor. He served as the dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, the director of the National Institutes of Health, and the president of the University of Florida.
E. Travis York, Jr. was an American agronomist, professor, university administrator, agricultural extension administrator, and U.S. presidential adviser. York was a native of Alabama, and earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in agricultural sciences. He served as the director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, the administrator of the federal Extension Service, the interim president of the University of Florida, and the chancellor of the State University System of Florida.
Stephen Cornelius O'Connell was an American attorney, appellate judge and university president. O'Connell was a native of Florida, and earned bachelor's and law degrees before becoming a practicing attorney. He later was chosen to be a justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1955 to 1967, and served as the sixth president of the University of Florida from 1967 to 1973.
Hardrada Harold Hume was a Canadian-born American university professor, administrator and horticulturalist. Hume was a native of Ontario, and earned bachelor's and master's degrees before embarking on a career as a research botanist, horticulturalist and professor. After working as an academic administrator, Hume later served as the interim president of the University of Florida, serving during September 1947.
James Marion Farr was an American university professor and academic administrator. Farr was a native of South Carolina, and earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees before beginning his career as a professor of English language and literature. He was the interim president of the University of Florida from 1927 until 1928, and also served as the university's first vice president from 1905 to 1934.
Andrew Warren Sledd was an American theologian, university professor and university president. A native of Virginia, he was the son of a prominent Methodist minister, and was himself ordained as a minister after earning his bachelor's and master's degrees. He later earned a second master's degree and his doctorate.
Carl Van Ness is the Curator of Manuscripts & Archives Department in the University of Florida Libraries' Special & Area Studies Collections, and was appointed the University Historian for the University of Florida in 2006. He followed the former University Historian, Sam Proctor.
The history of the University of Florida is firmly tied to the history of public education in the state of Florida. The University of Florida originated as several distinct institutions that were consolidated to create a single state-supported university by the Buckman Act of 1905. The oldest of these was the East Florida Seminary, one of two seminaries of higher learning established by the Florida Legislature. The East Florida Seminary opened in Ocala 1853, becoming the first state-supported institution of higher learning in the state of Florida. As it is the oldest of the modern University of Florida's predecessor institutions, the school traces its founding date to that year. The East Florida Seminary closed its Ocala campus at the outbreak of the American Civil War and reopened in Gainesville in 1866
Lee Colson McGriff is an American former college and professional football player who was a wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) for a single season in 1976. McGriff played college football for the Florida Gators football team of the University of Florida. Thereafter, he played professionally for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their inaugural season in 1976.