With nearly 45 years in higher education, Dr. James Olliver, who served St. Petersburg College from 1989-2015, will retire at the end of this month, setting the standard for excellence, innovation and leadership.
“Jim Olliver has given a lifetime of extraordinary leadership and service to St. Petersburg College and to our students,” said SPC President Bill Law. “Throughout his career he has been on the front end of education innovation focused on support for students and faculty. Even more importantly, Jim has used his considerable talent to forge a unique partnership with the community served most directly by our Seminole Campus, a partnership that is the best in America between a college and its community. He has won civic leadership awards from a grateful community and has been similarly recognized within his professional associations.”
During his first seven years at SPC, Olliver served as Vice President for Institutional and Program Planning. He helped secure an $11 million Project Eagle grant and has been the driving force behind SPC’s eCampus, Florida’s largest online campus.
In 1996, he was named provost of the Seminole Campus. The first classes were offered at Seminole Mall and groundbreaking for the new campus was in 1997. Olliver beamed with pride on Sept. 8, 2012 when more than 11,000 enthusiastic local supporters packed SPC’s Seminole Campus to see President Barack Obama.
Named “Mr. Seminole” by the Seminole Chamber of Commerce in 2008, he is perhaps best known for the partnerships and contributions he has made locally. His hands-on leadership style and drive have touched every part of the thriving Seminole Campus including:
- Creation of Career and Entrepreneurship Center
- Development of media-rich Digitorium for campus and community events
- Development of 40-acre Natural Habitat Park
- Expansion of Career Services and Orientation within SPC’s College Experience
- Supervised the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and Village Square
- Collaboration with City of Seminole for joint-use Seminole Community Library
- Location of UF Pharmacy and Dental programs on Seminole Campus
- Negotiating free PSTA bus service for SPC students, faculty and staff
- Partnership with Duke Energy to install solar energy panels
- Oversaw construction of Seminole Conference Center
- Supported creation of Seminole Innovation Lab
- Promotion of advanced degrees through University Partnership Center
Olliver also provided leadership to launch and grow a number of popular workforce programs including hospitality management, environmental science technology, digital arts (including web design, graphic design and video production) and entrepreneurship. Enrollment climbed to 23,000 student semester hours in Fall 2014.
In addition to the academics themselves, these programs have generated clubs and important campus activities like the Semmy’s in the Digital Arts program and the annual Business Plan and Elevator Pitch Competition in Entrepreneurship program. In 2013, the Advanced Videography class won an Emmy Award for “Away: A Story of Trash.”
“Dr. Olliver’s strong community-focus and passion for education has dramatically changed education within the Seminole Community,” said Jesse Coraggio, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Grants at SPC. “With leadership roles in such initiatives as the Seminole Community Educational Ecosystem – a community partnership between the local elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools as well as SPC’s Seminole campus – he has changed lives by providing accesses and opportunity through post-secondary education.”
His legacy of leadership will continue to spark inspiration in students of all ages long after he retires.
“Thanks to everyone at the College for truly making this my dream job,” said Olliver. “It doesn’t get any better than serving your community by providing educational opportunities and seeing students be successful.”
Mark Strickland has been named Interim Provost of the Seminole Campus for the 2015-16 year, starting June 1.
“Dr. Jim Olliver is an extraordinary educator, the likes of which we will be hard-pressed to replace,” said Law. “He has earned our respect and our best wishes as he embarks on the next stage of life. We wish him Godspeed.”