President, The University of Tampa
LTB Class of 1998
Dr. Vaughn came to the University in August 1984 as the Coordinator of the Marketing Department and holder of the Max H. Hollingsworth Endowed Chair of American Enterprise. Since then he has served as Director of the MBA Program, Dean of the College of Business and Graduate Studies, and Co-Chief Academic Officer. He became President of UT in January, 1995. Since then, the University’s annual budget has increased by over ten times from $28 million to about $300 million for the 2018-2019 year. The record growth has fueled dynamic improvements in both the academic and student life areas. About 600 new faculty, staff and vendor-contracted positions have been added during the past 23 years. Since 1997, $600 million of construction has been completed or is underway. Under his leadership and with the help of others, the University has entered a period of growth and expansion unlike any in its 85-year history. University enrollments have quadrupled during his tenure and new records have been set in each of the last 23 years. The University now enrolls about 9,200 students from all 50 states and 140 countries. President Vaughn’s goal is to create a comprehensive medium-sized private University that is noted for its academic excellence and a rich residential
student-based learning environment. In addition to spearheading the expansion, President Vaughn has acquired more community-based financial support than any UT President before him. Among fundraising achievements the University has raised almost $250 million in its first and second comprehensive capital campaigns.
He is active in various community service and leadership roles including serving as President of the Florida West Coast Chapter of the American Marketing Association, President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of The Planning Forum, Chairman of the Board of the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter, President of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, Chairman of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida and Chair of the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. He has been a member of Leadership Tampa, Leadership Tampa Bay, Leadership Florida, and the Florida Council of 100. Ron is well respected and highly recognized in the Tampa Bay community and has earned several dozen honors and recognitions throughout the years; the most recent ones in 2016 named the South Tampa Chamber “Citizen of the Year” and in 2017 received the
William M. Burke Award for Excellence in Experiential Education. A UT campus building (the “Vaughn Center”) is named in his honor. President Vaughn has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a MBA degree from Indiana State University, along with a Ph.D. in Marketing from The University of Georgia. President Vaughn also has substantial business experience having owned his own multi-office marketing research/consulting company where he served as president and consultant on several hundred projects for a broad clientele. Ron began his academic career at Bradley University as a faculty member and Chairman of the Marketing Department. Continuing his academic career at UT, he has served over 34 years as a
faculty member and in various administrative leadership positions including 24 years as its President.
Ron and his wife Renée, have been married since 2008. Renée serves as the first lady of the University and is very involved in supporting the University’s mission through numerous social, community and campus activities. Renée is the President of the Williams Consulting Group, a public relations and marketing firm in Tampa - founded in 2003 - with a proven track record of developing initiatives that support business development, community recognition and corporate leadership. Renée and Ron enjoy bicycling, fishing, traveling, reading, and long walks on the beach.
We spent some time with Ron and here’s his take on leadership, what LTB meant to him and the role of his organization with regards to our community.
LTB: How has Leadership Tampa Bay directly influenced your career?
Ron: LTB helped me to be more knowledgeable about the community and its various needs. As a result, we have elevated UT’s institutional community service and engaged the majority of our students and employees in service to over 300 organizations annually. Like LTB, we are trying to make a difference in developing responsible leaders and citizenry.
LTB: What does leadership mean to you?
Ron: Leadership means helping to facilitate positive change. The future will not be determined by the way the past was, yet we often wait too long to change and we must have leadership at all levels willing to facilitate change in response to the many challenges of our “permanent whitewater” world. As leaders, one of the greatest challenges is to develop, support, encourage and motivate others to help adapt and improve their products, services and organization. If you are not getting better, you are getting worse; there is no middle ground.
LTB: Are leaders born or made?
Ron: There is a large body of research on this question. While some people have certain characteristics and tendencies that impact their leadership abilities, much research shows that leaders are made through a “leadership spiral of development” that focuses on accumulating knowledge through diverse learning experiences. Then, with the competencies and lessons learned, one is better prepared to focus on facilitating positive change. This pattern continues as new learning and competencies evolve; one is more equipped as potential leaders to pursue new challenges.
LTB: What are some other leadership lessons learned?
Ron: Most people want to be a part of progress and to feel part of something bigger than themselves. As leaders, your example and efforts to do what is necessary will help to motivate others. People will work incredibly hard, sacrifice and do the near impossible when they understand a vision, goals and directions of travel.
LTB: A final thought to add on leadership and LTB recognition.
Ron: I’m honored by the LTB recognition. Of course, no achievement happens without the help of many others. No matter what’s accomplished, somebody helps you. Life and success depends on the labors of others. As an LTB alum from the founding class in 1988, I certainly received a lot of help from LTB classmates and many others. I thank my wonderful wife Renée for her support in so many ways and I thank my UT colleagues that persevere, work quietly and whose names are rarely on awards.