By Matt Wiley
From a cow pasture, the Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch has risen to be the tallest point in Wesley Chapel, and what is sure to be remembered as departing PHSC president Dr. Katherine Johnson’s legacy on our area.
During a reception on June 18, Johnson celebrated and mingled with the staff and students at the Porter campus, located off Mansfield Blvd. in Wesley Chapel. On July 1, the title of PHSC president officially belong to Dr. Timothy Beard, who currently serves as vice president of student development and enrollment management. But, for the past 10 years of her 42-year career in education that started while she was a PHSC student — and through a whirlwind of change and growth — Johnson has held the top job.
“I told the Board 10 years ago that if they hired me and we continued to do good things together and everyone was appreciative of that, I would stay for 10 years,” Johnson explained. When she took over the job a decade ago, the school was still known as Pasco-Hernando Community College and had just three campuses. Now a full-fledged State College offering four-year degrees at five campuses, including the two Johnson helped open — the Porter Campus and another in Spring Hill (located about 30 miles northwest of Wesley Chapel) — Johnson clearly has made good on her commitment.
“Rarely in a 10-year period does a college open one campus, let alone two,” she said.
But, Johnson still remains quite modest about her achievements.
“I’m not one to think of one’s legacy,” she said. “I think the legacy of this institution is that we took advantage of opportunities when they came our way, the Porter Campus being a prime example. The Porter family was willing to provide the opportunity to expand higher education (in Wesley Chapel) and we took advantage of it. We were lucky with (former) Speaker (of the Florida House Will) Weatherford and the legislative delegation to have the appropriations come at the right time (to do so). We were in the right place at the right time.”
Johnson, 64, also said that she’ll be moving to Gainesville with her husband Chuck, who already is retired and 10 years older than she is.
“He’s been patient enough to wait for me and time’s a’ wastin,’ so we want to spend some time together in Gainesville,” she explained. “He loves the Gators. He can watch the University of Florida (UF) Gators play and I can find some part-time teaching opportunities at (UF).”
Johnson also said she hopes to teach some classes in higher education administration in UF’s doctoral program, adding that her experience could help instruct administrators about how to deal with the numerous issues that arise while managing a college campus.
And, speaking of administration, Johnson may be leaving, but her name will forever adorn the Administration Building at the PHSC Porter Campus.
“The Board (of Directors) shocked me and announced that they were going to name (the building) after me,” Johnson said. “What I really appreciate is that that’s my career in there. I started out as an academic advisor and, as a work studies student, I worked in financial aid and worked my way up to becoming a provost. So, administratively, that’s my mirror of my opportunities as a college professional. It’s so meaningful to me. I’m very proud and humbled to have that happen.”
Although she’s stepping down, Johnson said she doesn’t plan to stay away or not up-to-date with what’s happening at PHSC.
“I’ll only be two hours away,” she explained. “If Tim (Beard) invites me back, I’ll be at commencements. You don’t stay at an institution for this long, see this kind of growth, and just walk away. I’ll be staying in tune with what’s happening.”
Porter Campus provost Dr. Stanley M. Giannet said that he’s thankful for the direction that Johnson has taken the school and for the legacy that she leaves.
“We wish (Johnson) farewell with her retirement and we’re very grateful for the effort and support that she provided to the staff, faculty, students and family here at the Porter campus,” Dr. Giannet said.
He added that he thinks her two key achievements are the addition of PHSC’s new four-year degrees and, of course, the creation of the Porter Campus.
“Those are the two that stand out to me,” Giannet said. “(Bachelor) programs strengthen economic development for our college and community and the Porter campus strengthens economic development for our college and community.”
From the Neighborhood News, congratulations on your retirement and what you have contributed to the Wesley Chapel area, Dr. Johnson!
For more information about PHSC, please visit PHSC.edu.