Judith  Bense, Ph.D.

Judith Bense, Ph.D.

University of West Florida

President Emeritus and Professor

Expertise: Spanish ColonialSpanish Colonial

Dr. Judith Bense is President Emeritus and Professor of Anthropology/Archaeology at UWF.

Bense joined UWF in 1980 and built an Anthropology/Archaeology program at UWF from scratch. This program today is one of the leading programs in Florida and the country known for its active research in Florida archaeology and outreach to the public. 

Bense has held almost every leadership position in UWF archaeology over the decades and led the program in the direction of historical archaeology and shipwreck research. In 2004, she worked to pass legislation and obtain funding for the Florida Public Archeology Network (FPAN), which is housed at UWF and operates eight regional public archeology centers throughout Florida.  

In 2008, she was appointed interim President of UWF, selected president in 2010 and served as its president through 2016.  During her presidency, enrollment grew by 30%, six new buildings were constructed, visibility dramatically increased, athletic teams won four national championships, and the football program was started. As University of West Florida’s first female president, she continues to inspire women to achieve both professionally and academically. 

Bense was inducted in the 2019 Florida Women's Hall of Fame and is the first woman from Northwest Florida to receive this honor. She has received several prestigious awards from professional organizations, the state of Florida, and Spain. These include the Evelyn Fortune Bartlett Award, a lifetime achievement award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the  JC Harrington Medal, a lifetime achievement award from the Society for Historical Archaeology,  the Senator Bob Williams Award for Outstanding achievements in Public Archaeology from the Florida Department of State, and inducted into the Order of Isabella de Catholica by the King of Spain for advancing Spain's contribution to the Americas. 

Bense has held leadership positions in state, regional and national professional archaeological organizations, capped off by the presidency of the Society for Historical Archaeology in 2005.

Her new research book, “On the Edge of the Spanish Empire: The West Florida Presidio Era 1698-1763” will be available in 2021. This book synthesizes almost 40 years of research on the Spanish Presidios of West Florida 1698-1763. She has had three professional books published along with two archaeology books for the general public. 

Bense currently teaches in the Anthropology Department in the Fall semesters and is  now preparing a series of academic articles on West Florida’s Early Spanish occupation.

She currently is Vice Chair of the Florida Historical Commission, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, is a founding board member of the Center for Excellence in Local Government and is active in local civic and service organizations.  She and her brother Allan, manage the family hay farm in Bay County. 

Bense earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Anthropology/Archaeology at Florida State University, and her PhD from Washington State University. 


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