LB: Today is February 24, 2006. I am Lou Bowers and I am interviewing Dr. Steve Permuth, former Dean of the College of Education, and currently a professor in the Educational Leadership Department in our College. Thank you, Steve, for coming in this morning to share some of your thoughts and experiences here at USF. Before we go to USF could you give us a bit of your back ground, personal, and professional experiences prior to coming to USF?
SP: I’ve been in education as a profession for now over 40 years. I started as a high school teacher in mathematics in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I became the middle school and high school principal in Southeastern, Minnesota. Then, I went to the University of Wisconsin where I was assistant professor of secondary education. From there, I moved to Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where I was an associate professor of educational administration and eventually was the dean of their college of education as well as the associate dean of their graduate school, and at the same time dealing with research. From there, I moved down to Bellarmin College, which is now Bellarmin University, in Louisville, Kentucky, to become a vice president. Then, I went to Cleveland State University to become the dean of the College of Education. From there, to one of the best and most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had and that is being the dean of the College of Education at USF. About six or seven years ago, I returned to the faculty here, and I am enjoying it very much.
LB: Well, your graduate degree, was that from the University of Minnesota?
SP: The master’s degree is from the University of St. Thomas. My doctoral degree is from the University of Minnesota.
LB: Well, had you heard about USF prior to applying to for the dean’s position here?
SP: In reality, no. It was a combination of variables that drew me here not the least of which was two horrible winters in Cleveland, Ohio. I came to Florida a lot on vacation. I thought I liked it so much there might be some good opportunities in Florida in terms of being a dean or there might be some opportunities of being a professor here. Plus, really I think the sincerity of the search committee played a significant role because at that time I was looking at three of four different positions and I think the search committee and especially the faculty at USF were big draw. I felt exceedingly comfortable and again I never regretted that decision.
LB: Now, Betty Castor was the president when you arrived.
SP: Yes, yes.
LB: And, Mike Kovac?
SP: Mike Kovac was the interim provost.
LB: Now how did you find the College when you first arrived? I don’t think we were in our new building yet. We were in the planning stages, right?
SP: While we were in the planning stages, one of my roles was to help step in and deal with some of the decisions, little things like color of brick and whether or not we were going to the penitentiary yellow that was prevalent on campus. Others decisions were whether we would try to innovate little things like the color of glass, moving from plain glass to green, things that aren’t maybe of consequence to a lot of people, but were a consequence to me.
We decided to move the elevator from one end of the building to the other, so that the Stavros Center could have elevator capability. Yet, it was funded under a different source. The movement of the Dean’s Office from the fourth floor to first floor. These are all kinds of little decisions that when you talk about facilities to people, they normally have a big yawn. But when you realize that this is where a lot of our life is going to be spent as professors and students, the importance of the building the entry way, the artistic design involving students in our local school districts to work with us, and creating that was all a part of a really delightful decision process making during my tenure here as a dean.
LB: In addition to the College of Education building, while we are talking about buildings, I think the Pizzo Elementary School was that planning going on?
LB: You were involved in those negotiations and planning with administrators from the Hillsborough County Schools as I recall?
SP: A lot of that had started under Dean Katzenmeyer. First of all, there were some difficulties discerning the appropriate land use because of some environmental impact statements. But then I think eventually people with good will and good heads got together and worked on selecting a site for the school. It wasn’t just Pizzo in isolation. It was the dream of moving Pizzo in a relationship with the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). That was part of that dream and now that we have an overpass over Fowler Avenue joining Pizzo and the Museum of Science and Industry that part of that early dream of now 15 years ago has become realized. We’re very delighted to have Pizzo Elementary School on our campus. You plant the tree and then you just hope somewhere in the future you see the fruits of the labor and its 15 years later and its there. That is also an exciting part of what we did. Going back to the College of Education building, the other thing about the building was making sure the fiber optics reached the walls and ran throughout the building. At the time we were the most technologically ready building on the campus, and I think to a degree we are pretty much still there today.