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St. Petersburg College names first woman, African-American president

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Dr. Tonjua Williams will become the next president of St. Petersburg College, in a unanimous vote of the school’s board of trustees.

The board chose SPC’s seventh president during a special meeting Wednesday.

The 53-year-old Williams, a 30-year veteran of SPC, is currently serving as Sr. Vice President of Student Services, a position she has held since 2013. She will be the college’s first woman and first African-American to serve as president.

Trustee Deveron Gibbons said it was clear Williams was the obvious choice.

“I came with two names today, but I’m only submitting one: Dr. Tonjua Williams,” he said.

Trustees all agreed Williams was impressive during her interview.

“She didn’t have to sell me on SPC. I was more excited to be part of this institution after hearing her speak about it than I have been in maybe the past few years,” said trustee Nathan Stonecipher. “She is passionate about St. Petersburg College. That bleeds out of her.”

Williams previously served as vice president of Academic and Student Affairs and Provost of the Tarpon Springs Campus.

The three other candidates were Frank A. Biafora Jr., 52, dean and professor of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; James Henningsen, 51, President of the College of Central Florida in Ocala and Stan Vittetoe, 62, who serves as provost of the SPC Clearwater campus.

Williams earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Barry University, a master’s degree in Counselor Education from University of South Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Humanities from Clearwater Christian College.

Former President Bill Law, who has led the school since 2010, announced in November 2016 that he would be retiring at the end of June 2017.

SPC’s Search and Screen Committee narrowed the pool down from an initial 51 candidates, and voted in March to advance nine semi-finalists. In April, the committee voted to advance five finalists to the board for consideration.

“The Board members also want to express our gratitude to all of the highly qualified finalists for the time and dedication they have shown throughout this rigorous process,” said Bill Foster, chair of the SPC board of trustees.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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