Jackson Sasser wore a wool topcoat his first day as president of Santa Fe College. It was unusually cold outside as he walked to convocation, but Sasser immediately felt at home, he said.
On Friday, Sasser announced that after 17 years at the college, he will be retiring effective Feb. 1, 2020.
The decision to retire was a difficult one, Sasser said, but he is excited to be able to spend more quality time with his four grandchildren.
“It has scared me to death to contemplate for three or four years retirement because I’m one of those people who love my job,” Sasser said. “But it’s just been driven by very practical reasons, like how much you have left to spend quality and energetic time with those you love.”
During his 17 years as president, Sasser said he was able to expand Santa Fe’s international program, have four employees become Fulbright Scholars, a program that sends American faculty members abroad to teach or research, and grow the Honors Program at the college by accepting incoming students with 4.0 GPAs.
Sasser was also able to participate in a 2018 study about economic inequality in the Gainesville area. He said he believes there is much more to be done to address these issues.
“The new president has to join with the city and the county and the chamber to make a big difference in that area,” Sasser said. “It must be done.”
Many faculty members were shocked by the news and will miss Sasser after he departs, said Mayor Lauren Poe, a professor at Santa Fe.
“I was extremely happy for him but extremely sad for the college,” said Poe.
One of Poe’s favorite moments with Sasser was when he was a student for a day in Poe’s class. Sasser sat in the back of the classroom and tried fitting in with the students but “stuck out like a sore thumb,” Poe said.
“He’s just been an outstanding leader and an inspiration to me personally,” Poe said. “He really had a vision for the college that really set us up as a model institution for colleges around the country.”
Sasser said he is appreciative of his time at Santa Fe but looks forward to this next chapter in his life.
“I love this place. I love this college. I love the area that we serve,” Sasser said. “I’m excited for the opportunity for the new president because it’s a dream job for someone to come in and take us to the next level.”