John Cavanaugh

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John Cavanaugh
Occupation President, University of West Florida
Spouse Christine Kamenjar Cavanaugh

Dr. John C. Cavanaugh was the fourth president of the University of West Florida (UWF), serving in that capacity from July 15, 2002 to July 1, 2008. He is married to Dr. Christine Kamenjar Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. He studied psychology, earning his bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Notre Dame. Before joining UWF, Cavanaugh "held faculty and administrative positions at Bowling Green State University, the Medical College of Ohio, the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and was a visiting professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology."[1]

Representing the university, Cavanaugh was a proponent of the Community Maritime Park project and one of the three initial CMPA principals. The project is expected to expand UWF's downtown presence, including classrooms and research facilities for its underwater archaeology program and other departments. The university will also help administer the Admiral John H. Fetterman State of Florida Maritime Museum and Research Center.

On November 28, 2006, the University of New Hampshire announced that Dr. Cavanaugh was one of two final candidates for its own presidency.[2] The news, coming shortly after the September 5 referendum for the Community Maritime Park, surprised many in the Pensacola community and drew criticisms that Cavanaugh was already abandoning the project he helped promote. An article in the New Hampsire Union Leader cited a report by the Florida Auditor General that questioned the use of $75,000 in university funds to renovate the Dorr House as the president's house, as well as "lax oversight of how money from student fees was spent."[3] Cavanaugh later withdrew his candidacy for unspecified reasons.

In June 2007, the UWF Board of Trustees unanimously approved a five-year contract for Cavanaugh that offered the following:[4]

  • A $70,000 increase in his base salary, from $225,000 to $295,000.
  • An initial bonus of $50,000.
  • An annual performance bonus between $25-75,000, in addition to an annual raise of 5% or greater.
  • An independent retirement account that receives an additional 15% of his base salary annually.
  • A $250,000 "retention bonus" at the end of the five-year contract.

He also receives other benefits, including cost-free residence at the Clara Barkley Dorr House and an annual $14,000 car allowance. Because the Florida legislature caps salaries of state university presidents at $225,000, the additions will be paid by the UWF Foundation. The contract was announced as the University is enacting an enrollment freeze and other cost-saving measures following a veto by Governor Charlie Crist disallowing state universities to raise their tuition rates.

On May 12, 2008, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s board of governors selected Cavanaugh to serve as chancellor for the system's 14 universities.[5]

Community Involvement[edit]

Preceded by:
Morris Marx
University of West Florida president
Succeeded by:
Judy Bense


  1. - President's Bio
  2. UNH press release
  4. "Presidential paycheck." Pensacola News Journal, August 12, 2007.
  5. "Cavanaugh leaving UWF." Pensacola News Journal, May 12, 2008.