Dr. J. Stanley Marshall, former FSU president and conservative standard-bearer, dies at 91

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Former Florida State University President J. Stanley Marshall, founder of the James Madison Institute (JMI), died Sunday morning at his home at Tallahassee’s Westminster Oaks community after a lengthy illness.

Marshall was surrounded by family and Shirley Marshall, his wife of nearly 50 years. He was 91.

“Florida truly has lost a friend,” said JMI president and CEO Dr. J. Robert McClure in a statement. “For the many who knew him, Dr. Marshall was an iconic leader and a lifelong educator known for his boundless energy and his passion for the people and causes close to his heart.”

“His unwavering focus and dedication to improving people’s lives led to JMI’s founding in 1987,” McClure added. “We can’t adequately express in words all he’s meant to our staff, our board, and all those involved with JMI past and present. As the work of the Institute continues, we can best honor Dr. Marshall’s memory by holding fast to the principles he held dear to guide us into the future.”

A Pennsylvania native, Marshall was only six weeks shy of his 19th birthday when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II, prompting his service in the U.S. Army.

After the war, Marshall became a high school science teacher in upstate New York. By 1958, he was teaching physics at the State University of New York when Mode Stone, Dean of Education for FSU, recruited Marshall to lead a new program to train high school science teachers.

The move to FSU came at a crucial time for America, as the launch of Sputnik in October of 1957 by the Soviet Union intensified American concerns about a “missile gap,” widely blamed on a perceived lack in science education.

Florida, home of Cape Canaveral, was at the center of the nation’s concerns over the space program.

Under Marshall’s leadership, FSU’s science education program rose to prominence for its rigorous standards, graduating exceptional teachers for Florida’s high schools. FSU was instrumental in the establishment of a science high school in Turkey, a NATO ally Marshall frequently visited during the school’s formative years.

In 1965, Marshall replaced Stone as Dean of Education. Four years later, as FSU contended with controversies over the Vietnam War, with protests by students and faculty, Marshall succeeded Dr. John Champion as FSU President.

Marshall retired in 1976 after seven years as FSU’s President. In his 2006 book, The Tumultuous Sixties: Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University, Marshall detailed many of the era’s controversies on campus, which earned him wide praise for its candor.

“Amid strong differing opinions on how to proceed, Stanley Marshall courageously and effectively led the university through those very difficult times,” Gov. Reuben Askew said at the time.

“He was an extraordinary president,” added former FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte.

After retirement, Marshall began a new chapter in his life by founding Sonitrol, a Tallahassee security alarm firm. Among his numerous public service activities include membership on the Constitution Revision Commission and the State University System’s Board of Governors.

As the head of science education, Marshall hosted FSU’s first racially integrated program – a summer seminar for science teachers — as well as a long association with Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach, where he served on the Board of Trustees for 12 years, including four as chair.

What many would consider Marshall’s most lasting impact what the establishment of a number of “think tanks” in 1987 with Phil Halstead a former student, to advocate on behalf of individual liberty and free-market solutions to the nation’s troublesome economic problems.

Marshall modeled the James Madison Institute after a visit to California and subsequent consultation with British intellectual Sir Antony Fisher, one of the leading figures in the global rise of libertarian think tanks in the latter part of the 20th Century.

Under his leadership, JMI championed parental choice in education, providing the “intellectual ammunition” for the educational reforms of former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“A mentor, a family man, a future-focused leader, a kind soul — those are only a few words out of so many that describe Dr. Marshall,” said former House Speaker Allan Bense, the current chairs of JMI’s Board of Directors, as well as the FSU Board of Trustees. “He was known by so many across the state and nation for his dedication to the people and causes he cared about. We will all miss him dearly.”

Marshall was a long-time member of JMI’s Board of Directors, serving as Vice Chairman until illness forced him to step down in 2014; becoming the Chairman Emeritus.

JMI captured Dr. Marshall’s life and work in a documentary released in 2013, as well as the 25th anniversary edition of JMI’s annual report.

“JMI’s 25 Years of Impact: Liberty | Leadership | Legacy,” which highlights Marshall’s extraordinary leadership is available at http://bit.ly/JMIHistoryFilm.

“25 Moments | 25 Years,” outlining many of Marshall’s accomplishments, is available at http://bit.ly/JMI25Moments.

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.