As a faculty leader said, Thrasher wasn’t the president they wanted, but he clearly was the one they needed.

John Thrasher has earned accolades as president of Florida State University the old-fashioned way — with results.


When he was first proposed as president, there was more than the usual skepticism, there was strong opposition. If you don’t believe us, ask former House Speaker Allan Bense, who was first in line to promote Thrasher and to whom Thrasher credits for the support he needed. Bense well remembers those days.


The university’s Faculty Senate even issued a resolution opposing Thrasher because he lacked traditional qualifications for the job.


True, he does not have a usual academic background. He has a law degree and not a Ph.D. Nor did he work his way up the university leadership ladder; but Thrasher brings other assets that have more than overcome any academic handicaps.


It is understandable that those who did not know him could not fully appreciate Thrasher’s gifts as Bense did.


First, as an alumnus, he brings a deep love of the university.


Second, as a successful businessman and legislator, he had no need for the job as a stepping stone. He called the FSU presidency “the best job I’ve ever had and probably the last job I’ll ever have.”


Third, Thrasher knows Tallahassee and the workings of the Legislature, so he could be effective in gaining more funding for FSU. He was speaker of the Florida House and one of the most influential members of the Florida Senate.


As FSU’s president he has been open and available to The News Herald, even when the news wasn’t great. We were impressed with his candor.


Last, and most important, he brings a maturity to the job that was illustrated by the way he handled a hazing incident.


In 2017, Andrew Coffey, a fraternity pledge, died following a party.


As a result, the Legislature passed a bill titled “Andrew’s Law” that sets third-degree felony changes for people who plan or recruit others for hazing incidents that produce serious injuries or death.


After the death, FSU temporarily suspended all Greek life while new policies were introduced.


Meanwhile, several of Thrasher’s “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” have been achieved since he took over five years ago.


“We wanted to be recognized as a Top 25 university and we wanted to raise $1 billion,” he said, quoted by Florida Politics. “I gotta admit, both of those were kind of daunting.”


Fundraising passed its goal with $1.2 billion in pledges.


In 2014 when Thrasher was hired, FSU was ranked No. 43 among public universities by U.S. News and World Report. In 2020, FSU had climbed to No. 18, tied with Penn State, Purdue and Pittsburgh.


This came about because FSU created a strategic plan with measurable goals.


Last year FSU received 60,000 applications for its freshman class.


Today’s students are brighter than ever, Thrasher said,


For the faculty skeptics, he gained state funding for raises.


As a faculty leader said, Thrasher wasn’t the president they wanted, but he clearly was the one they needed.


This guest editorial was originally published in the Florida Times-Union, a sister newspaper within Gannett.