History of CFK
For nearly 50 years, The College of the Florida Keys has proudly served the higher education, workforce, and continuing education needs of Monroe County and beyond. The College offers various associate degrees and certificates that prepare students to transfer to a university, enter or advance in the workforce, or fulfill personal goals.
The southernmost institution of the “Great 28” in the Florida College System, CFK has experienced tremendous growth in campus facilities and educational programming since its establishment in 1965. In 1963, the Florida Legislature authorized the establishment of the Junior College District of Monroe County to be supported primarily by state funds. The first classes were held at the former Douglass High School in the fall of 1965. In 1968, the College name was changed to Florida Keys Junior College upon the opening of the main campus on Stock Island.
CFK experienced several key developments in its early years that accommodated expansions in student enrollment and the scope of offerings. The first 20 years brought the establishment of programs such as Diving, Business, and Emergency Medical Services as well as the opening of the Upper Keys Center in Tavernier 1980 and the Middle Keys Center in Marathon in 1982.
With each decade came further enhancements to campus facilities. In the 1990s, the Charlie Toppino Welding Technology Lab was completed, as well as the Ron Saunders Student Center and the Public Safety Building. A new scuba diving complex was developed to provide the much-needed space for the diving program. In 1997, the College unveiled a new $40 million campus named after Dr. William A. Seeker, the College President who helped to garner legislative funding required to reconstruct the aging buildings.
In 2003, the College unveiled its new Public Safety Annex as well as a renovated photography lab. In 2009, the FKCC Foundation received $1 million from the estate of scuba diving pioneer James E. Lockwood, Jr. to improve and grow the program that is now named for its benefactor: the James E. Lockwood, Jr. School of Diving and Underwater Technology. In Fall 2011, CFK opened a 100-bed waterfront residence hall, Lagoon Landing, which garnered a “Venture Award” from the Key West Chamber of Commerce.
CFK’s leadership history reflects a succession of presidents who shaped the College’s progress. Under the leadership of the first president Dr. Merrill A. Symonds, FKCC opened its doors and expanded access to higher education and training opportunities never before available to Monroe County residents. Dr. John Sylvester Smith served as president from 1967-1979. Dr. Seeker, the third president, served from 1979 until his retirement in 2007. For his 28 years of service to the College, he was bestowed the honor of “President Emeritus” by the District Board of Trustees. Dr. Jill Landesberg-Boyle succeeded Seeker as the College’s first female president in 2007 and held the position for two years. CFK welcomed its fifth president Dr. Lawrence W. Tyree in 2009. Initially on an interim contract, Tyree, an accomplished community college leader, agreed to serve as “permanent” president through June of 2012 when he was also named “President Emeritus.”
In July 2012, Dr. Jonathan Gueverra became the sixth president and CEO of The College of the Florida Keys. In his inaugural address, he laid out his vision of building bridges between the College’s past achievements and future efforts to meet the diverse educational needs of all Florida Keys constituents.
Under Gueverra’s leadership, the College has renewed and strengthened relationships with valuable partners, organizations, and the community at large. With support from the largest Keys industry, CFK launched a Hospitality and Tourism Management initiative in 2013. The same year, the College also expanded access to students living and working in downtown Key West by offering classes in the historic San Carlos Institute. Gueverra has overseen the successful introductions of new traditions such as Community Day, the VIP (Views, Insights, and Perspectives) Series, the Scholarship Social, and the Fall Commencement ceremony.
In 2014, CFK opened a new Marine Technology Building on the Key West Campus. The 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, which overlooks the dive training lagoon, provides an enhanced learning environment for students, particularly those training in the College’s signature Marine Engineering, Management and Seamanship program.
The southernmost college is poised well to celebrate its 50th anniversary in the academic year of 2015-2016. The future holds the continued expansion of academic and career training opportunities including the development of the College’s first ever bachelor’s degrees. Bachelor’s degrees will provide much-needed access to public baccalaureate education to the local population while attracting more students from across the nation to study in CFK’s small and engaging learning community in paradise.