Richard Florizone, a talented senior administrator for the University of Saskatchewan with a deep understanding of budgets and financial strategy, has landed himself a new job as Dalhousie University’s 11th president starting July 1.
Florizone, vice-president of finances and resources for the U of S since 2005, has been adept in cracking funding issues through several years of unprecedented infrastructure growth on campus.
He’s currently on administrative leave to work for the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation as an analyst. He was scheduled to return to the university next fall.
The IFC is based in Washington, D.C. and works to kick-start economic growth in developing and impoverished countries through strategic investment and market training.
Greg Fowler is acting as the university’s vice-president finance and resources in Florizone’s absence. According to the university’s bylaw, a search committee including one student must form to seek out a replacement.
Florizone will take lead at Dalhousie amid rounds of fiscal belt-tightening. The university has received a three per cent slash in the provincial operating grant for three consecutive years, leading to spending and program cuts and forcing the school to look at mergers and corporate sponsorships to make up for its shortfalls.
Florizone is tasked with reducing the costs of an expanding university without compromising the quality of education and research — a pressure almost identical to that felt by administrators at the U of S in recent years.
Florizone will succeed Tom Traves as president of Dalhousie. Traves is a history scholar who’s worked for universities throughout Eastern Canada and served as Dalhousie’s president since 1995. During Traves’ years in office, the university surged to become Nova Scotia’s flagship university and one of Canada’s top research institutions.
This year Traves, aged 64 and set on retiring following his tenure, is the highest-paid university administrator in the Maritimes with an annual salary of $393,000.
Florizone, on the other hand, will begin his term at age 44 and bring a vastly different skill set and management style to the East Coast university.
He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in physics from the U of S, along with a PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Outside of academia, he worked as director of strategy for Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal and project leader for the Boston Consulting Group in Toronto.
He’s also spent time as senior corporate liaison officer and fundraising consultant for Cambridge University in the U.K.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a pretty diverse career, working across the university, corporate and government sectors, in a lot of different countries, but my heart keeps bringing me back to the university,” Florizone told Dal News, Dalhousie’s official news outlet, as part of his visit to the campus last week.
“I’m incredibly passionate about universities and our mission of teaching, research and community engagement. So for me, this is a unique opportunity to use all my skills and experiences to, I hope, help make a great contribution to society.”
At the U of S, Florizone’s portfolio included drafting the budget and providing leadership to the departments of human resources, financial services, consumer services, corporate administration, facilities management and Campus Safety.
“He was an excellent leader in terms of both the student experience and also moving forward with major capital projects,” said Fowler, who is also the director of consumer services at the U of S.
As director of consumer services, Fowler reported to Florizone for four years. He says he has been constantly impressed by Florizone’s clear vision for the university and his tight grasp on the school’s fluctuating financial picture.Florizone was a driving force behind much of the university’s recent infrastructure expansion, including the Canadian Light Source and VIDO-Intervac, the universities world-class containment level-three vaccine laboratory.
He was also vital to the $30 million Place Riel Student Centre renovation and last year was awarded the USSU Doug Favell Staff Spirit Award, which is annually handed out to a university staff member responsible for enhancing the student experience.
Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn worked side-by-side with Florizone for several years. He touted Florizone for his out-of-the-box approach to some of the university’s fiscal hurdles.
“The one that definitely stands out for me is getting the student residences built at Campus Quarter,” Fairbairn said. “The university hadn’t figured out a way to make that work financially for 30 years.”
Florizone developed a public-private partnership with an Alberta firm that saw the residence project through from design to construction to operation. The cost-saving collaboration was the first of its kind for the university.
“That epitomized the kind of work he did,” Fairbairn said.
The university also benefitted from Florizone’s experience as a consultant.
After the 2008 global economic downturn, Florizone conducted a financial scenario analysis for the university to determine possible consequences of the recession. The methodology he used won a national award from the Canadian Association of University Business Officers.
Florizone beat out roughly 200 candidates to be unanimously chosen as president by the Dalhousie presidential search committee.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome a leader with his credentials,” said Jim Spatz, chair of Dalhousie’s board of governors and the chair of the presidential search committee.
“It is unusual to find someone with his accomplished academic background, extensive consulting and strategic planning experience in the business world, and his public policy contributions provincially and globally. Richard Florizone is the kind of leader that doesn’t come along every day.”
Photo: University of Saskatchewan/Flickr