Marshall Criser

Marshall Criser
Marshall M. Criser, Jr.

University of Florida President
Marshall Criser, circa 1989.
Born September 4, 1928 (1928-09-04) (age 83)
Rumson, New Jersey
Education B.S., University of Florida, 1949
LL.B., University of Florida, 1951
Occupation Corporate Attorney
University President
Employer U.S. Army
Gunster, Yoakley, Criser & Stewart
University of Florida
Mahoney, Adams & Criser, P.A.
McGuire Woods LLP
Spouse Paula Porcher Criser

Marshall McAllister Criser, Jr. (born September 4, 1928) is an American corporate lawyer and former university administrator. Criser is a native of New Jersey, and earned his bachelor's and law degrees before becoming a practicing attorney. He was the eighth president of the University of Florida, serving from 1984 to 1989.


Early life and education

Criser was born in Rumson, New Jersey, the only child of a meat-cutter and grocer, Marshall Criser, Sr., and his wife, Louise Johnson.[1] In 1941, his father sold his little grocery store and moved his family to West Palm Beach, Florida.[2] After graduating from Palm Beach High School in Palm Beach in June 1946,[3] Criser attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. He earned his way through undergraduate school at Florida as a construction worker and cafeteria cashier, while remaining an active member of various extracurricular organizations. Criser was president of Sigma Nu Fraternity (Epsilon Zeta chapter), student government and the Florida Blue Key leadership honorary society,[4] in addition to being a senior officer in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the business manager of the Seminole yearbook, and homecoming chairman.[5] He was also inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame.[4] Criser graduated from the university's College of Business Administration with a bachelor of science degree in 1949, and from its College of Law with a bachelor of laws degree in 1951.[4] After graduation from law school, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served two years of active duty before entering the private practice of law in Palm Beach County, Florida.[4]

Lawyer, regent, university president

Criser was a partner in the law firm of Gunster, Yoakley, Criser & Stewart in West Palm Beach, Florida for thirty-one years. He served as a member of the board of governors of The Florida Bar from 1960 to 1969 and as its president from 1968 to 1969,[6] and was also a member of the American Bar Association House of delegates. He was two-term member of the Board of Regents of the State University System of Florida from 1971 to 1981, having been appointed by Governor Reubin Askew, and served as the chairman of the Board of Regents from 1974 to 1977.[7] As chairman, Criser led the search committee that selected Robert Q. Marston as the new University of Florida president in 1974.[8][9]

The Florida Board of Regents selected Criser to be the eighth president of the University of Florida in 1984. He was the University of Florida's second alumnus to serve as its president.[4][10] His term as president is remembered for the enhancement of the university's instructional quality, the rapid rise of its admissions standards, the growth of its academic reputation, and its successful fund-raising among alumni and the business community.[7] His administration successfully completed the process of the University of Florida's admission to the Association of American Universities (AAU), the leading association of North American research universities, in 1985,[8] and forthrightly handled the football program's widespread violations of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules under coach Charley Pell that shocked the university community during the 1984–1985 academic year.[11] As an experienced lawyer, he supervised the university's own investigation of its football program, disclosed the results to the NCAA, and implemented reforms to ensure the integrity of the university and future compliance with NCAA legislation. Criser was responsible for initiating the university's first comprehensive capital campaign in the fall of 1988.[12] When completed three years later, in 1991, the capital campaign had raised more than $390 million dollars for the university's endowment.[13] At the time, the capital campaign realized the third-highest total of private donations ever raised by an American state university.[13]

For whatever time I am privileged to be president of this university, we will strive for excellence in academics and in our athletic programs. But, athletic programs at this university will operate for the benefit of this university. . . . The university will not be operated for the benefit of the athletic programs.

Marshall Criser, on the firing of
Florida Gators football coach Charley Pell.[14]

Criser advocated reducing class sizes to improve the quality of academic instruction, and proposed reducing undergraduate enrollment by 1,500 students while maintaining the size of the university faculty and budget.[15] The next three entering freshman classes were to be reduced by 500 entering students each.[15] He also made plans for raising the university's admissions standards and its upper division retention requirements, bolstering the academic counseling program, and rewarding faculty excellence in instruction, research and academic publishing.[15] The lost income from the smaller entering classes, and the costs of the other academic enhancements, were to be offset by increased investment income resulting from the capital campaign's additions to the university endowment.[16]

After resigning as the university president in 1989, Criser returned to the practice of law in Jacksonville, Florida, with the law firm of Mahoney, Adams & Criser,[17] and its successor, McGuire Woods.[18] When the Florida Legislature reorganized the governance system for the state's universities in 2001, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Criser as the founding chairman of the newly constituted board of trustees of the university.[19] He served on the corporate board of directors of Barnett Bank, BellSouth, Florida Power & Light, Rinker Materials and Shands Hospital, and, at the request of Governor Bush, he later served as the chairman of Scripps Florida Funding Corp.[17] He also served as a member of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.[20]

Eastern view of Marshall M. Criser Hall, principal student services building of the University of Florida. Criser Hall was named for Marshall Criser.


The University of Florida named its new student administrative services building, Marshall M. Criser Hall, in honor of Criser in 1991.[4] Criser Hall includes the Marshall Criser Student Services Center, the Office of Admissions, and the Registrar's Office.[4] The University of Florida College of Law honored him with the endowed Marshall M. Criser Chair in Electronic Communications and Administrative Law.[12]

In 2007, Criser and his wife Paula made a $1 million gift to Shands HealthCare to support the Shands at the University of Florida Cancer Hospital, a new $388-million treatment facility completed in 2009.[21]

Criser and his wife are the parents of six children, including Marshall M. "Casey" Criser, III, the president of AT&T Florida and a member of the University of Florida Board of Trustees.[22]

See also

  • History of the University of Florida
  • List of Levin College of Law graduates
  • List of Presidents of the University of Florida
  • List of Sigma Nu brothers
  • List of University of Florida alumni


  1. ^ Samuel Proctor, Marshall M. Criser Interview, Samuel Proctor Oral History Project, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, p. 1–2 (2005). Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  2. ^ Proctor, Criser Interview, p. 4.
  3. ^ Proctor, Criser Interview, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g University of Florida Foundation, Named UF Facilities, Marshall M. Criser Hall. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  5. ^ Carl Van Ness & Kevin McCarthy, Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future: The University of Florida, 1853–2003, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, p. 82 (2003).
  6. ^ The Florida Bar, Past Presidents of The Florida Bar. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b University of Florida, Past Presidents, Marshall Criser (1984–1989). Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Julian M. Pleasants, Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, p. 67 (2006).
  9. ^ Associated Press, "Search Begins Today For New University Of Florida Prexy," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 4C (July 25, 1973). Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  10. ^ The first alumnus to serve as Florida's president was Stephen C. O'Connell. University of Florida, Past Presidents, Stephen C. O'Connell (1967–1973). Retrieved July 25, 2009.
  11. ^ See, e.g., "Florida's Pell is Dismissed," The New York Times (September 17, 1984). Retrieved July 21, 2009. See also Pleasants, Gator Tales, pp. 67, 79. "Florida had enough transgressions that it was significant, that it was inexcusable, that it was absolutely contrary to the way a university should conduct its program." Id. at p. 79.
  12. ^ a b University of Florida Foundation, Endowed Professorships & Chairs, Marshall M. Criser Chair in Electronic Communication & Administrative Law. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Pleasants, Gator Tales, p. 79.
  14. ^ Jack Hairston, "UF axes Pell as football coach, Gainesville Sun, pp. 1A & 8A (September 17, 1984). Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Pleasants, Gator Tales, p. 78.
  16. ^ Pleasants, Gator Tales, pp. 78–79.
  17. ^ a b "Criser to become law partner in Jacksonville," Gainesville Sun, p. 1B (August 17, 1989). Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  18. ^ Mahoney Adams & Criser, P.A. subsequently merged with the national law firm of McGuire Woods in 1997. McGuire Woods, LLP, Marshall Criser Lawyer Profile. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  19. ^ "News to Note: Criser to lead UF trustees," Orlando Sentinel (September 8, 2001). Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  20. ^ National Collegiate Athletics Association, NCAA News, "Former Alabama A&M soccer coach wins infractions appeal," (February 10, 1997). Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  21. ^ University of Florida Foundation, Foundation News, "Criser Gift to Cancer Hospital Shows Former UF President's Resolve for Success," (April 5, 2007). Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  22. ^ University of Florida, Board of Trustees, Trustees. Retrieved April 22, 2010.


  • Pleasants, Julian M., Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesvile, Florida (2006). ISBN 0-8130-3054-4.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.
  • Van Ness, Carl, & Kevin McCarthy, Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future: The University of Florida, 1853–2003, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2003).

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