USF's Third President Dies

John Lott Brown is credited with overseeing USF transformation into an emerging research university.

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2011) – The University of South Florida’s third president, John Lott Brown, has died at the age of 86. His decade of service, from 1978 to 1988, saw the transformation of USF from a small liberal arts college into an emerging research university. 

By the time he left office USF had established a medical school, an engineering college, the Moffitt Cancer Center, and campuses in St. Petersburg, Lakeland and Fort Myers. Research grants increased to $23 million from $14.7 million; 38 degree programs were added; the USF libraries boasted more than 1 million books and publications; and enrollment swelled to 30,000 students making USF Florida’s second largest public university.

“I believe I share in an understanding of how gratifying it is to be part of USF’s extraordinary growth.  The USF community owes a debt of gratitude to John Lott Brown’s hard work and dedication,” said USF President Judy Genshaft.  “His contribution to making USF what it is today will always be remembered.”

Michael Hoad, USF’s vice president of communications covered the university for the Tampa Tribune during Brown’s tenure and got to know him well.

“He paid close attention to ideas and brought an engineer’s mind to analyzing the pros and cons,” Hoad said.  “That was one of his greatest strengths in building the professional colleges and recruiting researchers. He clearly set the stage for USF's growth in becoming a major research university.”

Before coming to USF, Brown was director of the University of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science.  He was born in Philadelphia.  He majored in electrical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and earned a master’s degree from Temple University and a doctorate from Columbia University, both in psychology.  He returned to Worcester Polytechnic, where he served on the board of trustees from 1971 to 1983, as interim president from 1994 to 1995.   A veteran of the Navy and the Naval Reserve, Brown was involved in research on the body’s ability to endure flights in space.  He was married to Catharine Hertfelder and the couple had four children.  They moved to Ohio 12 years ago where he died on Sunday.

There is an endowed scholarship in the name of Catherine and John Lott Brown at the USF Foundation, established in 1988, that provides opportunities for academically talented students from diverse backgrounds.  For more information, contact the USF Foundation at or call (813) 974-9583.