Dr. Robert Barylski

Before USF Sarasota-Manatee was known by that name, there was Dr. Robert Barylski, dean and chief executive officer from 1979 to 1989.

USF and New College of Florida merged in 1975 and in those early years one dean oversaw all of USF’s regional campuses, including in Sarasota. However in 1979, the Harvard-educated Barylski was asked to oversee aspects of both USF Sarasota and New College.

The job wasn’t always easy as the sides followed different academic philosophies. However, Dr. Barylski’s tenure was marked by a period of remarkable growth beneficial to both institutions.

Notably, he collaborated with New College, the New College Foundation, community leaders, USF officials and local government to lay the groundwork for the Harry Sudakoff Conference Center, the Gateway Bridge over U.S. 41 to connect the conference center to New College, and the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, which both institutions share to this day.

But before work on those additions could start, Dr. Barylski had to help develop a master plan to guide the campus’ development.

“The Master Plan identified land that needed to be added to the campus,” he said. “The long-range plan identified the Crosley Estate as the best site to build on in support of USF’s main degree programs. … We were able to build strong community support for the Master Plan. Without the support of business and political leaders, in particular the late (state) Sen. Bob Johnson, the Master Plan would have remained just nice ideas on paper.

“These were dreams which became a master plan and then became a reality,” he said.