Eckerd College President Damián J.Fernández, Ph.D., announced today that he will step down from his position this summer after serving as the institution’s leader since July 2020.
In a letter to the community, Fernández acknowledged that he joined Eckerd in the middle of a pandemic, and reopening the campus safely to in-person classes became the chief priority of his tenure.
Still, with the help of dedicated staff and faculty, he developed a strategic vision for innovation in the liberal arts emphasizing problem-centered, place-based, purpose-driven education—hands-on and high-impact—for our times. This vision includes the creation of the Eckerd College St. Pete Center for Engaged Citizenship and Social Impact, and a program to elevate inclusive excellence.
He brought to life long-held campus goals, including the Eckerd College Community Farm and Living Shoreline Project. “During the past two years I have been inspired by what Eckerd is and what it can become,” Fernández wrote. “We have embraced change, while we have preserved what matters most to Eckerd. Change is not supposed to be easy. We have worked hard; we have differed on occasion and reached agreement on even more. We must be proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together.”
Eckerd College Board of Trustees Chair Ian Johnson ’89 also communicated the Board’s support of Fernández’s decision and well wishes for his future in a letter to the campus community. “We will miss President Fernández’s passion, energy and vision for achieving excellence in a liberal arts setting. We will also miss his humor, wit and intelligence,” Johnson wrote. “Many of us are honored to have experienced his friendship. We wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do next and are certain he will continue to achieve great things.”
The Board of Trustees expects to meet next week to appoint an interim president for the coming academic year and to begin its planning to conduct a national search for a new president. Fernández’s last day in office will be Aug. 1, 2022.