When Jodi Gentry looks back at her 30-year career at the University of Florida, she describes it as a journey.
It’s a description few can share in today’s day and age: working her way from the bottom to the top job of her department at a purpose-driven organization.
“Part of what I love about the university is that we truly are working together to make the world a better place,” Gentry said. “I’m incredibly grateful to have had a great career here.”
That career, however, is coming to an end. After 30 years at the university and five as the vice president for human resources, she has decided to retire. UF officials anticipate a national search will be conducted to fill her role.
“UF’s stature and success as a university depend on its exceptional people: Faculty and staff whose work is extraordinary, who are collegial and who have the best interests of the university at heart,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “Jodi has done a superb job of recruiting and supporting these exceptional people. She is thoughtful, thorough, caring, resourceful and decisive, and we will miss her. I join the entire UF community in wishing our colleague and friend the very best.”
Gentry came to UF as a student in 1987 with the goal of obtaining a Master of Arts in Mass Communication. She wanted to use her degree to work in public relations.
When a UF memo from the then-director of UF’s human resources department caught her attention, she thought it would be interesting to explore internal communications. She started working at the human resources office — known then as Central Employment and located inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — as an intern and was hired full time once she graduated.
Though her first role was not doing communications, Gentry said she had a good feeling about the position and what she was learning. Later in her career, she’d become the first professional communicator for the office.
Over time, she rose from director of UF Training and Organization Development to assistant vice president and ultimately vice president.
“During her tenure, Jodi has overseen numerous initiatives that have improved all aspects of an employee’s lifecycle at UF – from recruitment, hiring and onboarding, to training and performance, to planning for retirement,” said Charlie Lane, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at UF. “The dedication that she has given to the development of her fellow employees will have a lasting impact on this university.”
One of the responsibilities Gentry said she has enjoyed most is working alongside officials who assisted in the recruitment and retention of talented individuals.
“I always think of HR as being here to create the conditions that allow people to do their best work,” Gentry said. “You run alongside people. You get things out of their way so that they can have a great working experience.”
That’s why retiring is such a bittersweet decision, Gentry said. But it’s one that has been long in the works. It was always her intent to retire once she reached 30 years at the university. Some have asked her why she’s retiring after just five years in her current role as vice president — the pinnacle for her career. Others have told her that she thought she would change her mind once the milestone arrived.
But Gentry said she is looking forward to a different kind of life; one that includes more time with her family and traveling. Costa Rica is on her mind.
“The world is interesting,” Gentry said. “I’m really excited about what’s next.”
November 12, 2021