J. Stanley Marshall, James Madison Institute Founder, FSU President, Dies at 91

By: Sunshine State News | Posted: June 9, 2014 6:45 AM


J. Stanley Marshall

J. Stanley Marshall

J. Stanley Marshall, founder of The James Madison Institute and former president of Florida State University, died peacefully Sunday at his home at Tallahassee’s Westminster Oaks community surrounded by family and his wife of nearly 50 years, Shirley Marshall. He was 91.

In making the announcement, Valerie Wickboldt of JMI, passed along a statement from J. Robert McClure, JMI president and CEO, written after he learned of Marshall's death.

“It is with deep sorrow that we mourn the passing of a great man, Dr. J. Stanley Marshall, founder of The James Madison Institute, and extend our condolences to his beloved wife, Shirley, and to his extended family. Florida truly has lost a friend. For the many who knew him, Dr. Marshall was an iconic leader and a lifelong educator known for his boundless energy and his passion for the people and causes close to his heart.

“The love of his family, his country, his state and the citizens of Florida motivated him every second of every day to encourage innovation, inspire achievement and uplift those around him. His unwavering focus and dedication to improving people’s lives led to JMI’s founding in 1987. Along with his loving family, JMI is proud and honored to continue as part of his lasting legacy.

“We can’t adequately express in words all he’s meant to our staff, our board, and all those involved with JMI past and present. As the work of the institute continues, we can best honor Dr. Marshall’s memory by holding fast to the principles he held dear to guide us into the future.”

Dr. Marshall, a Pennsylvania native, was only six weeks shy of his 19th birthday when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II. He was among the millions of “the Greatest Generation” who served in the U.S. Army.

After the war, he began his career in education as a high school science teacher in upstate New York. By 1958 he was teaching physics at the State University of New York when FSU’s Education Dean Mode Stone recruited him to lead a program training high school science teachers.

His appointment came at a crucial time. The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in October of 1957 had heightened Americans’ concern about a “missile gap” that was widely blamed on a perceived lag in science education. Nowhere was concern over the space program more intense than in Florida, home of the launch site at Cape Canaveral.

Under Dr. Marshall’s leadership, FSU’s science education program became noted for its rigorous standards, graduating excellent teachers for Florida’s high schools. FSU was also instrumental in the establishment of a science high school in Turkey, a NATO ally that Dr. Marshall frequently visited during the new school’s formative years.

J. Stanley Marshall statue

A bronze statue of Dr. J. Stanley Marshall at Florida State University. Dr. Marshall served as the president of the university from 1969-1976.

In 1965 Dr. Marshall succeeded Dr. Stone as dean of education. Four years later, with FSU roiled by controversies over the Vietnam War, campus publications, and protests by students and faculty, Dr. Marshall succeeded Dr. John Champion as president of FSU.

He retired in 1976 after seven eventful years as FSU’s president. Thirty years later his 2006 book, "The Tumultuous Sixties: Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University," detailed many of the era’s campus controversies and was widely praised for its candor.

As former Gov. Reubin Askew put it, “Amid strong differing opinions on how to proceed, Stanley Marshall courageously and effectively led the university through those very difficult times.” Added former FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte, “He was an extraordinary president.”

Dr. Marshall’s retirement in 1976 marked the beginning of a new chapter in his life. He founded a Sonitrol of Tallahassee, a security alarm business. His public service included membership on the Constitution Revision Commission and the State University System’s board of governors.

Dr. Marshall, who as head of science education had hosted FSU’s first racially integrated program – a summer seminar for science teachers -- was particularly proud of his long association with Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach. He served as a member of its board of trustees for 12 years, including four years as chairman.

Yet no achievement in his long and productive life is likely to have the long-term impact of the step he took in 1987 when a former student, Phil Halstead, told him about a movement to establish state-based “think tanks” to advocate on behalf of individual liberty and free-market solutions to the nation’s vexing economic problems.

After a visit to California and a subsequent consultation with British thinker Sir Antony Fisher, Dr. Marshall summoned several of his Tallahassee friends to a meeting that subsequently led to the founding of The James Madison Institute in 1987.

Under his leadership, JMI became a champion of parental choice in education, serving as a provider of what former Gov. Jeb Bush called “intellectual ammunition,” a sentiment seconded by former House Speaker Allan Bense, who currently chairs JMI’s board of directors, as well as the FSU board of trustees.

“A mentor, a family man, a future-focused leader, a kind soul -- those are only a few words out of so many that describe Dr. Marshall. I was a student at FSU in the '70s when he was president and under his leadership FSU flourished. To know him as a leader and to then be able to call him a friend is a true honor,” said Speaker Bense. “He was known by so many across the state and nation for his dedication to the people and causes he cared about. We will all miss him dearly.”

Dr. Marshall was a longtime member of JMI’s board of directors, serving as vice chairman until illness led him to step down earlier this year, becoming chairman emeritus.

In 2013 JMI captured the story of Dr. Marshall’s efforts in a short documentary and special 25th anniversary edition of JMI’s annual report. To learn more about him and his visionary leadership, visit the following links: (video) “JMI’s 25 Years of Impact: Liberty | Leadership | Legacy” and (publication) “25 Moments | 25 Years”

See more at:

Comments (1)

Louella Smith-Rabsatt
8:08PM JUN 9TH 2014
I was very surprised to learn, of the death, of former FSU President, Dr. J. Stanley Marshall. I, along with my husband, Dr. Sidney Rabsatt, attended the university during his leadership from 1971-1977. It is with heartfelt regret that, we, extend our condolences to his wife, family, friends, FSU faculty, staff, students, and the Tallahassee community. He served the FSU community in very tough times but because of his vision and leadership, we remained, graduated, and led successful lives. May God bless and comfort everyone and may he rest in eternal peace.

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.