Gov. Crist appoints two UF trustees


Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Gov. Charlie Crist aims to bring some new blood to the University of Florida's governing board, appointing two new trustees Wednesday who have been contributors and supporters of his campaigns.

Crist tapped Daniel Ponce, a Gainesville resident and attorney, and Dr. Steven Scott, a retired physician from Boca Raton and chairman of Scott Holdings, an umbrella company for several health-care organizations.

Crist's decision to appoint Scott, who has made political contributions to Republicans and Democrats in Florida and beyond, goes against the recommendation of UF's sitting trustees. UF's board had solidly backed the reappointment of incumbent David Brown, a Jacksonville attorney who has served on the board for four years and sought another term.

Ponce, 59, was tapped to replace Manny Fernandez, a former chairman of the board who resigned with more than three years remaining on his term. Unlike Brown's seat, UF trustees didn't put forward any suggestions for Fernandez's replacement.

Both appointments still require state Senate confirmation.

Ponce, who practices law in Miami, is a longtime Bull Gator who has also contributed to numerous UF projects beyond athletics. He's also been a chief fundraiser for the university, organizing the 2006 Gator Gala that raised $6.1 million for athletic scholarships. The gala was the largest single fundraiser in UF's history.

As a certified public accountant and attorney, Ponce says he's well-suited to help oversee a major enterprise like UF.

"If I have any skill set, it would be in that area, (determining) how to get more from what we do," said Ponce, a UF graduate and former president of Florida Blue Key. "But by no means do I believe that the University of Florida should function like a business corporation in its entirety."

Ponce eventually became a supporter of Crist's 2006 campaign, but he is a registered Democrat who initially worked as finance chairman for Rod Smith. Had he won the Democratic nomination, Smith would have faced Crist in the general election.

Scott, a registered Republican, is a graduate of Indiana University who completed his residency at Duke University. One of his primary aims will be bolstering UF's endowment, he said.

"I think the University of Florida is a great institution," said Scott, 59. "I get a little tired about hearing about the schools in the Ivy League and so forth."

As trustees, the board's two new members will be charged with approving performance bonuses for UF President Bernie Machen, who is now the nation's sixth-highest paid public university president.

"You deliver me the sixth-best academic center in the country, and I'll deliver you the sixth-best pay in the country," Scott said.

"I don't have a problem with (the bonuses) being high or low, but I do expect the merits to be there for the pay."

Jack Stripling can be reached at 352-374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.

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