Honoring Billy O. Wireman

Billy O.Wireman, a native Kentuckian and all-around athlete, came to Florida Presbyterian College as a 26-year-old founding faculty member to teach physical education. Having just completed his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt, he was recruited by the first Dean of Faculty, Jack Bevan, and the first President,William H. Kadel.Wireman remembered,"They laid out the vision of the College, and I'll never forget it - I've quoted it a thousand times - 'To capture the imagination not only of Florida but of the American public as well.'"

The College captured Dr.Wireman's imagination. He created an intellectual approach to physical education, taught students how to sail, started a tennis team, and pulled together a respectable basketball team in a program that had no athletic scholarships, no gym, and a handful of talented young players who had come to college primarily to get an education, not to play intercollegiate sports.

The young Dr.Wireman also turned out to be a gifted development officer who understood how to capture the imagination of others. After Dr. Kadel's departure in 1968, the College Trustees called Dr.Wireman to serve as the second President of FPC. When the decision was announced to a group of 600 students and faculty in Fox Hall, the applause shook the windows. Dr.Wireman was only 35 years old - one of the youngest college presidents in the country.

During his nine-year tenure as President, he led the College through a tumultuous period affected by the social upheaval of the time. He secured over $11 million in gifts from Trustee Jack Eckerd that helped establish financial stability for the institution. In honor of Jack Eckerd's generosity and faith in the College, Dr.Wireman led the initiative to change FPC's name to Eckerd College on July 1, 1972.

During this same period, Dr.Wireman spearheaded an official change in relationship between the College and the Presbyterian Church. In June 1971, the two Presbyterian synods transferred full control of the College to a selfperpetuating board of trustees and changed their role from owners of the College to a "covenant relationship" between the College and the Church.

Dr.Wireman also championed a significant curricular and departmental overhaul known as "Project '73" that resulted in, among other innovations, the three week Autumn Term orientation for freshmen that is still in place today.

Dr.Wireman went on to serve as President of Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina, for 24 remarkable years. Under his leadership, Queens tripled its enrollment, created new graduate programs, transitioned its status to Queens University, and built a $33 million endowment. Dr.Wireman also established an international studies program and traveled frequently around the globe. In his retirement, he continued a rigorous schedule of travel, writing and publishing, and volunteering, including serving as an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. After a three-year battle with cancer, Dr.Wireman died at the age of 72 on July 16, 2005.

"Billy provided opportunities for people. He was, as he refers to others in his latest book, "a servant leader" - strong, independent, energetic, intelligent and caring."
James R. Harley
Professor Emeritus