Forging his own path
New president discusses IRSC’s direction, new programs and pandemic issues
Timothy Moore isn’t your stereotypical college president who rose through the ranks of academia. Instead, Indian River State College’s new president spent the first seven years of his career on active duty in the Army. He later worked as a research scientist in the public and private sectors before joining institutions such as Auburn University, Kansas State and Florida A&M.
Along the way, Moore took an entrepreneurial approach to his academic jobs, leading the way for Auburn to patent an equine source plasma program to fight Bacillus anthracis in horses. He launched a program to train dogs to find explosives and firearms in airport security lines and other public gathering places. He also helped start a medical school, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine at Auburn University.
Working as a development officer for more than two decades, he secured more than $350 million in competitive research and development funding.
In the past three years, Moore has taken to market a probiotics supplement he developed that is sold by healthcare providers, pharmacies as well as Amazon. After leaving Florida A&M a year ago, Moore worked for startup companies in the private sector.
Moore, 57, assumed his role as IRSC’s president Sept. 1; only the fourth president in the college’s 60-year history. He replaced the revered Edwin Massey, 73, who held the job for 32 years, leading the college to unprecedented growth and the achievement of the Aspen Prize for excellence among community colleges, signifying it as the best among the 1,100 colleges in the country.
On July 22, the board of trustees selected Moore from 80 candidates, awarding him an annual salary of $365,000.
Trustees cited Moore’s diverse background in selecting him.
“Dr. Moore comes to IRSC with an impressive history and track record as an innovative thinker, inspiring and collaborative leader, and experienced executive, all necessary qualities to guide our college into the future,” trustee chairman José Conrado said.
Moore and Robin, his wife of 35 years and sweetheart since high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, are renting a place on North Hutchinson Island while they decide where to live on the Treasure Coast. They are the parents of three grown sons: Christopher, a physician living in Mississippi; Nicholas, a faculty member at LaGrange College in Georgia; and Johnathon, a doctoral student at Auburn.
Indian River Magazine Publisher Gregory Enns sat down with Moore at his office just a few days after Moore’s arrival at the college to talk about the job ahead of him.
Q: What are your initial thoughts about Indian River State College and the Treasure Coast?
A: Wonderful on both accounts. The college has been just so open and welcoming and warm and excited about my arrival. They were sad to see Dr. Massey go, but have been just been so welcoming to my wife and me. We’re just excited to be here … delighted with regard to the Treasure Coast.
Q: How are you finding things so far?
A: I’m trying to gain a lot of knowledge very quickly on the college itself and on the cabinet members, the deans and directors and the students. Then you have COVID on top of all that. So I’m trying to get out to meet people and ask questions. As I told the board during my interview, “I will spend several months trying to get oriented as to what we do very well and what we need to improve upon and to understand how the ebb and flow of the process works.’’ Every new job in my life has always been basically learning a new vocabulary and learning a new culture. And so the Florida college system has its own vocabulary and its own metrics of how it performs. And then I’ll be learning our customs and cultures here within IRSC. Every day for me is filled with curiosity and wondering and questions. There’s a good solid foundation to build from here at the college.
Q: It’s a tough job and you have a big role to fill.
A: I’m following Elvis. Think about that. I’m behind a guy who was here for 32 years as the boss. Everyone who is here in senior leadership … he had a direct hand in the hiring and shaping and development of them professionally. And so I’m indebted to Dr. Massey, without a doubt. And as I told the board, and I told Dr. Massey directly, “You don’t replace Elvis. You just have to kind of forge your own pathway.’’ It’s difficult because everybody always compares you to the predecessor. You’ve got a guy who did Herculean things around here in building the campus, literally from a small campus to a large campus with a large student enrollment. So I’m just trying to try to navigate and not mess up his legacy. At the same time I’m trying to forge a direction for the college that will sustain it into the future.
Q: You’re coming here at a difficult time. The model for student learning is changing and the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the trend toward online education. How are you going to deal with that?
A: Dr. Massey and the leadership team here have done a wonderful job in online education, so the college was very capable of doing a seamless transition from didactic classroom to online learning. And right now about 65 or so percent of our instruction is online, and about 30 to 35 percent is what I would call didactic or hybrid right now. So you’re seeing those numbers changing. We have a lot of first-generation college students. We have a lot of folks who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. These kinds of students tend to benefit and flourish better in a didactic classroom situation with the personal attention of the professor, and they’re not attuned to the online learning capacity, either because they don’t have the connectivity or they just haven’t had that immersion yet. And so I think we’re going to see things swing back to a more balanced or perhaps even more didactically based instructional process as the COVID restrictions ease and eventually go away.
Q: How much has enrollment dropped this year compared to last fall?
A: Our full-time equivalency, I think year over year right now is probably down just over 10 percent, but we continue to see upward progress with enrollment in Fall B courses that begin Oct. 14. Registration goes through Oct. 13.
Q: Do declining enrollment and the trend toward online education have much of an impact on the college’s revenues?
A: It does, because we’re [funded by the state] on a headcount basis. And so when our FTE count goes in, in the fall, it sets the kind of the roll of the dice for the legislature on how we’re remunerated the next fiscal year. And so yes, it’s a big deal for us. And in addition there are the state’s own liquidity issues. With the deficit the state has and kind of what it’s looking at economic forecast going forward, it could really be kind of a double or triple whammy. I don’t want to guess what the legislature’s going to do, but there are going to be challenges with regard to revenue projections for the state going forward because our tourism is down and the revenues from those kinds of things are down. The question is, “What does the economy do and what does that look like?’’ If it’s a worst case scenario, we may see a reduction in state financing across the board, coupled with declining enrollment or headcount for this year, which then sets the stage for some headwinds for us.
Q: Your last academic job was at Florida A&M. How is it different here?
A: At A&M there was a constant turnover of the senior leadership team. I think I went through four chief financial officers in my five years there, I had two presidents, I think five or six athletic directors. There was just so much churning of the water that nothing could ever germinate. You’re constantly dealing with a sea of interims and new personnel. Whereas I’m the new guy here, and I’ve got a great supporting cast that has been here for long periods of time. People understand what’s going on. Dr. Massey and the stability of the workforce and the leadership team provide me the ability to come in and not miss a beat.
Q: What’s the approach you’re taking in your new role?
A: I’d like to spend 90 days, 120 days just learning and observing and absorbing everything before I begin to make any kind of major changes or thrusts or ideas. That doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit here and just take notes. I’m constantly asking questions: What’s working? What’s not working? What worries us? What opportunities are we not seizing on right now? Leadership change is a wonderful opportunity. What I told the leadership team here is: “I demand loyalty, but not as an individual, I demand loyalty to our mission. Because that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to support the mission of this college.’’ I want people to recognize that I have to earn their trust and respect every day. I work for everybody here. I’m a servant leader. And that’s what I have to do. I have to earn my job every day and respect every day. But I expect 100 percent loyalty to the mission and to the law and to the statutes in the state of Florida, because we’ve got to do this ethically. And we’ve got to do this professionally and we’ve got to do this with enthusiasm. I’m always about the mission. The mission is our true north. Always.’’
Q: Do you see the role of IRSC changing under your leadership?
A: Dr. Massey was Elvis, OK? And I understand that what I can bring to the table is ... I’m going to be very energetic and try to be as visible as I possibly can. And we’ll be meeting with people from everything, from corporate boards to school boards and law enforcement. I’ve got to go out and really firm up relationships. One of the first things I’ve done since I’ve been here is to go through our continuity of operations planning because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We are in the middle of hurricane season. And as you know, the country is roiling right now with all kinds of unrest as it relates to race, as it relates to equality. And so one of the things I made sure of is that how are we structured here? Do we have a handle on things? Who in the community do I need to interact with so that we’re not meeting for the first time God forbid we ever have a tragedy or a problem? And the team here has a great plan. I think they’re very capable.
Q: You’re a former member of the military. One of your goals is to help our service veterans. How can the college do that?
A: As a veteran, I recognize that veterans and their families go through a lot. I have a special spot in my heart for our members. We as a society don’t realize sometimes the amount of strain and stresses we have put our military through. What I’m trying to do here is build a welcoming environment for our veterans, both those that are rotating out of service, either through retirement or just exiting, so that they have a smoother transition into the civilian workforce. My goal ultimately is to capture the attention of our service members about a year before they begin to exit the service. We can give them credit for their life skills and military skills they’ve developed and get them on a fast track to do a job that will pay them a very good living wage. For example, as you may know, we’re a center of academic excellence for cybersecurity as designated by the National Security Agency. And that’s an important designation it gives us because in the federal sector, if you don’t graduate from a program with that designation, you have to kind of go through a polishing step before you go into the federal service. And right now, the federal government is woefully understaffed in the area of cybersecurity specialists, and the industry the same way. And so I see that as a wonderful area where we can get our military veterans that are family independent members into a job field that’s going to pay them a lucrative salary.
Q: How will IRSC prepare students for possible cyber-attacks?
A: I would like for every student who goes through IRSC to come out with some form of nascent exposure to cybersecurity. Cybersecurity threats are pernicious. They’re everywhere. If you’re in healthcare, if you’re an economist, if you’re in the hotel business, if you’re in the casino business, if you’re in a restaurant business, your data is important to somebody, and they will try to steal it from you or block you from being able to access it and disrupt your business operations. So I want our kids today to understand this pernicious threat is not going to go away. It’s going to continue to move forward, both for criminal as well as state actors and non-state actors. And so we have to be aware of that.
Q: What are your outside interests?
A: “I’m an avid reader. I do lots of things simultaneously. So I read three or four books at one time. My wife and I love to walk. She’s the power walker. I’m not quite at that level, but she tries to keep me in shape and keep my stress off. We’re staying on North Hutchinson Island, and yesterday we did three miles down to the Navy SEAL Museum and three miles back.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
A: I tend to be an open book. I think that people sometimes mistake my curiosity for challenging their knowledge and so forth. When I first meet someone and start a conversation I want to know who you are, where you’re from. You have a story. I want to know your story. My dad had a saying that the incurious mind is the most dangerous mind to encounter because they’re trapped and they won’t change. The curious mind is an agile mind, and it’s always searching for new information in informing and updating their thought process and their decision-making process. The other thing my father told me is that the decisive individual will make a decision and not look back. The indecisive individual will never make a decision. Organizations cannot live in that limbo. You’ve got to be decisive. Dr. Massey could not have done what he did being indecisive. So you use data, you get to your point, you trust your gut and you make a decision and you move forward. I’m not perfect. I’m just a guy doing a job and doing the best I can. I’ll make mistakes. I’m a human being. And I’ve really looked at my team and I tell them that I need help because without them I can’t succeed. And without me they can’t succeed. So it’s mutually reciprocal and interrelated.
TIMOTHY MOORE TIMELINE
1981-85: Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, bachelor’s degree in biology
1989-91: North Carolina State University, 1989-91, medical laboratory science, biology/microbiology
2011-13: Auburn University, doctorate degree in kinesiology
1985-92: Army officer/active duty
1992-95: Research scientist, Battle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio
1996-98: Market sector manager, Department of Energy, Richland, Washington
1998-2003: Director of Institute for Biological Detection Systems and director of Federal Research Program Development at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
2003-06: Liaison to Department of Homeland Security in Anniston, Alabama
2006-08: Director of Federal Research Program Development, Kansas State, Kansas
2008-13: Director of Federal Research Program Development at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine
2013-15: Associate vice president for Institutional Advancement and Research Program Development, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Auburn, Alabama
2015-2019: Vice president for Research, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida
2017-present: Co-founder and chief science officer, Probaxstra Inc.
2019-May 2020: Senior vice president, Ventech Solutions Inc.
May 2020-August 2020: Chief science officer, MagPlasma
More on Moore
To read about Tim Moore’s plans to connect to the Treasure Coast business community pick up the fall issue of Treasure Coast Business Magazine arriving in mid-October or read it online at tcbusiness.com