J. Wayne Reitz

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J. Wayne Reitz
J Wayne Reitz c 1955.jpg
University of Florida President
J. Wayne Reitz, circa 1955.
Born (1908-12-31)December 31, 1908
Olathe, Kansas
Died December 24, 1993(1993-12-24) (aged 84)
Gainesville, Florida
Education B.A., Colorado State, 1930
M.S., University of Illinois, 1935
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1941
Occupation University Professor
Agricultural Economist
University President
Employer Colorado State University
University of Illinois
U.S. Department of Agriculture
University of Florida
Spouse(s) Frances Huston Millikan Reitz

Julius Wayne Reitz (December 31, 1908 – December 24, 1993) was an American agricultural economist, professor and university president. Reitz was a native of Kansas, and earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in his chosen field. After working as an agricultural economist, university professor and U.S. government agricultural administrator, Reitz was selected to be the fifth president of the University of Florida, serving from 1955 until 1967.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Wayne Reitz was born on New Year's Eve, 1908, in Olathe, Kansas.[2] His parents later moved his family to Canon City, Colorado, where he graduated from high school in 1926, and was admitted to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. While he was a university student, he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity (Beta Tau Chapter), the editor of the Silver Spruce yearbook, freshman class president, student body president, and the winner of the Rocky Mountain Oratory Award. Reitz received his bachelor's degree in 1930.

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree, Reitz started work as an agricultural extension economist, first at Colorado State, and then at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his master of science degree in 1935. That same year, after accepting an assistant professorship in agricultural economics at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, Reitz married Frances Huston Millikan. After being promoted to full professor, Reitz returned to his formal studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned his doctor of philosophy degree in 1941.

Reitz left academic life in 1944 to work as an economic consultant for the United Growers and Shippers Association. Four years later, he became Chief of the Citrus Fruits Section in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1949, President J. Hillis Miller prompted Reitz to return to the University of Florida by appointing him the university's provost for agriculture. During his time as provost, he was also appointed to the administrative boards of the Escuela Agrícola Panamericana in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agrícolas de la OEA in Turrialba, Costa Rica.

University president[edit]

Selection as president[edit]

University of Florida president J. Hillis Miller, Sr.'s sudden and unexpected death in November 1953 started a lengthy search for his successor. In 1954, the Florida Board of Control named Philip G. Davidson, then president of the University of Louisville, as the university's new chief executive.[3] Davidson, however, withdrew his name when controversial Acting Florida Governor Charley Johns refused to sign his payroll warrant.[3] A new search was initiated and, two and a half months after Acting Governor Johns was replaced by the newly elected LeRoy Collins, the Board of Control settled on Reitz as its choice to be the university's fifth president on March 22, 1955. He was the first University of Florida faculty member to be elevated to the position.

Growth and expansion[edit]

During Reitz's term, more than 300 new campus buildings were erected at an approximate cost of $50 million. The buildings constructed and expanded during his term included a new health center, a nuclear training reactor, an educational television station, and a married-student housing complex. Along with the new buildings, Reitz tightened admissions standards and placed greater emphasis on academic achievement in matters ranging from the awarding of financial aid to the development of advanced placement procedures. Reitz expanded the graduate school through the addition of new programs and centers (especially the Latin American Language and Area Center) and created the Division of Sponsored Research to increase funding opportunities for research. His wife, a gracious hostess to countless dignitaries and students, also took an active role in advancing the university's music program. The facilities expansion coincided with a doubling of the student population from 9,000 to 18,000 during his tenure.

In 1960, Reitz was initiated as an honorary member of the Alpha Phi chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi.[4]

Controversy and integration[edit]

The Reitz years were not without controversy. Strict behavior guidelines, dress codes, and a faculty disciplinary committee to enforce these rules all received Reitz's strong endorsement. In the early 1960s, the Florida Legislative Investigating Committee, led by state senator Charley Johns, accused twenty-two university employees and several students of homosexual conduct. All were summarily discharged or expelled. The denial of tenure to Marshall Jones, a psychiatrist active in radical causes, led to censure by the American Association of University Professors. The campus did not witness significant integration era disruption. The University of Florida was the first state university to integrate, and racial integration was achieved at Florida with far less turmoil than most Southern universities and colleges. The first African-American student was enrolled in the College of Law in September 1958. Reitz's close relationship with the student body was instrumental in curbing attempts to resist the court order to integrate.

Reitz, however, had more trouble with state governors. He opposed LeRoy Collins' 1957 attempt to create a chancellor system, and he had to fend off attempts by subsequent governors to assume control of the university's day-to-day operations. A 1965 showdown with Governor Haydon Burns over budgetary matters almost ended in Reitz's resignation. After a year of relative calm, Reitz announced he would resign in January 1967, citing "presidential fatigue," but remained in office until Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen C. O'Connell was sworn in as the university's new president.


After resigning as university president, Reitz served as the director of graduate programs in the U.S. Office of Education, and eventually returned to his international activities. In addition to his Latin American work, Reitz was named to the Rockefeller Foundation's Board of Agricultural Consultants and, in 1964, he accepted an appointment to the Public Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations. These responsibilities carried him to several nations as a teacher and adviser. His most extensive overseas assignment was to Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, where he served as a consultant to the university rector.

In a fitting tribute to the university's fifth president who led one of the largest expansions of the campus physical plant, the new J. Wayne Reitz Union was renamed for Reitz after his retirement in 1967.[5] In retirement, Reitz became an important fundraiser for local charities as well as the University of Florida. He continued to work for the University of Florida Foundation's development office until his death on Christmas Eve 1993. Four years after his death, in 1997, the university established the merit-based Reitz Scholars Program to recognize and encourage academic achievement, leadership and service among its undergraduate students.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ University of Florida, Past Presidents, J. Wayne Reitz (1955–1967). Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  2. ^ University of Florida, J. Wayne Reitz Union, J. Wayne Reitz Union History. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Associated Press, "Control Board Will Not Meet Until January," Ocala Star-Banner, p. 3 (December 23, 1954). Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  4. ^ Alpha Phi Chapter Member Roll
  5. ^ University of Florida Foundation, UF Named Facilities, J. Wayne Reitz Union. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  6. ^ University of Florida, Student Affairs, Reitz Scholars Program. Retrieved February 16, 2010.


  • Pleasants, Julian M., Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2006). ISBN 0-8130-3054-4.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.
  • Van Ness, Carl, & Kevin McCarthy, Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future: The University of Florida, 1853–2003, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2003).

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