Meet the Presidents

Dr. Anne Kerr

President of Florida Southern College

Written By RJ Walters | Photography in Inklings Book Shoppe by Jordan Randall and Jon Sierra

Dr. Anne Kerr is polished and confident. She is the face of a celebrated liberal arts school with breathtaking scenery, a rich history of local support and impact, and an acclaim for developing well-rounded graduates.

Yet she acknowledges there is still much to learn—and heights for Florida Southern College to still aspire to. Now in her 19th year as President, she and her staff wrestle with challenges like helping students develop social EQ coming out of a pandemic, enhancing programs and launching new programs that are relevant to today’s job market, and standing out as a leader in hands-on learning in an increasingly screen dominated society.  

The 69-year-old Kerr, who usually dons a wardrobe that includes the trademark rosy red of the Moccasins, shares it has been her ongoing mission to open new worlds of opportunity for “one of the best kept secrets in higher ed for long before she came.”

From a marketing and reputation standpoint the results of Kerr and her staff’s efforts are clear.

In 2023, U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida Southern the 8th best “Regional University in the South,” and the accolades continue to pile up.

Kerr uses the term “engaged learning” to describe how students have opportunities to learn about culture and explore potential careers up close and personal.

Florida Southern students can travel internationally as part of the Junior Journey program, and the college guarantees every student access to internships.

Kerr says the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise, which recently was named a “Best Business School” in The Princeton Review, is a great example of an engaged learning environment in action.

“[It] is one of the best business schools in the nation based on the quality of the faculty, the curriculum, and fabulous project-based courses for our students,” she said. “We have a wonderful dean, Dr. J. Michael Weber, who leads the enterprise, and the School is not only a benefit to the students who go through there, graduate, and are very successful, but also, it is a great asset for our community.”

Business students get to learn from guest lecturers from around the world and build relationships with some of the most influential local business leaders, through events like the Polk Real Estate and Economic Update that the college hosts annually. Business college students are earning internships at distinguished entities like Bank of America, FedEx, Goldman Sachs and Publix.

Florida Southern has also made a name for itself through the Ann Blanton Edwards School of Nursing and Health Sciences, where students can earn bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degrees. Students work in simulated lab settings with high-end technology and have opportunities for hand-on clinical experience at myriad healthcare providers in Central Florida.

Education and other “traditional” majors continue to blossom at FSC, but its school of arts and sciences offers more than 35 majors, many that represent significant shifts toward technology-focused careers. 

Dr. Anne Kerr owns four horse and enjoys participating in equestrian competitions.

“We have a dynamic computer sciences department, and students are very interested in cybersecurity, AI, and many other aspects of technology management. Our pedagogy in some disciplines is changing in exciting ways,” Kerr said. “We have faculty members who are now using gamification pedagogy because it’s fun and incredibly effective for this generation of students.”

The rise of the state’s oldest four-year college coincides with a continual rise of the cost of attending the school. 

Tuition for a full-time student during the 2004-05 school year ranged from $16,680 to $18,240 for a full-time student, according to The Ledger. The tuition for the 2023-24 school year is $42,360.

Kerr acknowledges the cohort of students Florida Southern attracts are usually already committed to attending college and FSC “helps formulate that dream for the student.”

Still, she says one of her main goals currently is to raise more funds to provide more scholarships—something the school states it does to the tune of more than $52 million per year currently.

“It deeply troubles me when we have talented students who want to enroll or can’t continue here because they don’t have the financial resources to do so,” she said. “I admire students who work and attend FSC.”

Funding and growth aside, Kerr said the thing that perpetually keeps her up at night is student safety. She said “no college president has been the same” after a gunman killed 33 people, including himself, on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007.

“From comprehensive emergency response plans to mental health and counseling services, we have made significant strides in ensuring student safety.”

She said she is grateful for the experienced leadership of Head of Security Eric Rouch and the tight partnership they have with Lakeland Police Department who provides 24/7 coverage for the campus.

“I always question, and pray for our students and our campus every night,” Kerr said. 

Prayer has long been a common practice of students and faculty alike at the college that was founded by the United Methodist Church. Kerr says there is a “deep thread of spirituality” at the school, including the Christian campus ministries and chapel, a Hillel program for Jewish students and more. 

Something else that Kerr counts on to help center her amidst the noise and responsibility of being a college president is her horses. She and her husband, Dr. Roy Kerr, own four horses, a passion which was awakened when a dear friend invited her to her horse ranch years ago.

Not surprisingly, Kerr enjoys participating in horse shows—just a little extra competition for someone who is built for adventure. 

From comprehensive emergency response plans to mental health and counseling services, we have made significant strides in ensuring student safety.”