The USF Board of Trustees has two new members – The Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg

Pictured above: The appointments of Melissa Seixas (left) and Shilen Patel must be approved by the Senate.

Courtesy Melissa Seixas and HealthAxis

By Nancy McCann

A reorganization of the USF Board of Trustees continued today when the state board, which oversees Florida’s 12 public universities, approved the appointment of two more new members.

Melissa Seixas, an executive at Duke Energy Florida, and Shilen Patel, CEO and founder of a healthcare services company, have been appointed trustees by the State University System’s Board of Governors.

You replace Stephanie Goforth and Nancy Watkins.

Will Weatherford, a Tampa-based businessman and former Florida House Speaker, was named to the USF board last week by Governor Ron DeSantis. He replaces longtime trustee Byron Shinn.

All three new trustees must be approved by the Senate.

The new appointments come amid grumbling from key Pinellas County’s elected officials about how USF leaders are handling the consolidation of the three USF locations.

For weeks, Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg has proclaimed the leadership of the USF, stating its performance “requires an in-depth look at the Board of Trustees,” the group of 13 who run the university.

Six of the USF trustees are appointed by the governor and five by the board of governors – and all eleven must be approved by the Florida Senate. The Presidents of the USF Faculty Senate and Student Government are also trustees.

Seixas is a well-known personality on the St. Petersburg campus, where she earned a Masters in American History, worked on the campus 50th anniversary in 2015-2016 and is now a member of the Campus Advisory Board.

She joined Duke Energy (then called Florida Power Corp.) in 1986 and worked her way up to her current position as Vice President of Government and Community Relations.

She has served on a number of community boards and is now the chairman of the board of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

She is replacing Goforth, an executive at Northern Trust Bank in St. Petersburg who, according to her LinkedIn profile, has been a USF trustee since September 2010 and has been the vice chairwoman of the trustees since June 2020.

Patel, an entrepreneur and investor, is the founder and CEO of HealthAxis, a Tampa-based company specializing in technology and health administration.

According to the company’s website, Patel’s investments range from “tiny startups” to a professional football team in Italty.

Patel graduated from Babson College in 2002 and has a Masters in Business Administration from Columbia University and London Business School.

He is the son of Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prominent physicians and philanthropists who have been major donors to USF. Kiran Patel was also a USF trustee.

Shilen Patel replaces Nancy Watkins, a Tampa-based certified public accountant who has been a USF trustee since 2013. She is also a board member of Hillsborough Community College.

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