It’s been a good start to 2016: We got a million dollar gift (more on that in a minute). George Anders inspired students and gave insights to business leaders at Welcome to the Majors. We hired Jennifer Johnson to run The EXCHANGE and direct student engagement. UCF Alumnus Robin Cowie agreed to add his magic to planning our Hall of Fame Program.. a sort of Blair Witch Project meets James Bond meets student engagement. Have I got your attention?
But the best thing that happened this month happened at our faculty lunch to kick off the semester. Perhaps people thought I was going to announce something really crazy for the Spring. Perhaps people were just hungry. But whatever the reason, the place was packed. It even included some retired faculty, a job candidate and a few people from our executive development center including Dr. Ken White and his daughter Keri. As fate would have it, they sat right up front and it gave me the perfect opportunity to make an announcement I had planned to do in another setting.
You see that million dollar gift came from alumnus Glenn Hubbard. He gave it in the name of Ken White and Jim Xander to establish a professorship in economics. Glenn said he felt that he owed it to the school because these two faculty had done so much to put him on the path to success. I meet many alumni who say the same thing about Dr. White and that they couldn’t have survived statistics without him. So, I reached out to a few of our board members and floated the idea of honoring Ken at this year’s Hall of Fame. The suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm and I announced both the gift and Ken’s honor at the faculty lunch. Some tears flowed.
Recognizing Dr. White at this year’s Hall of Fame is the perfect bridge between last year’s program (Whose student are you?) and this one (on student engagement). It links the success of our alums to the futures of our students through the engaging faculty who shape all their lives. So as we celebrate the success of our alums represented by this year’s inductees and hear the stories of some of our current students, we will take a moment to recognize one of our own and the impact he has had on all of them. If that doesn’t deserve Hall of Fame status, I don’t know what does.