FGCU’s 2016 story is still history in the making, with more great things to come as the 2016-17 academic year gets underway.
The biggest story is that the University has started the search for its fourth president with the pending retirement of Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw on June 30, 2017. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee, chaired by Trustee Ken Smith, is well into the process that will culminate with the FGCU Board of Trustees selecting the University’s next leader, pending approval by the Board of Governors. Trustees elected Dudley Goodlette the board’s chair this year, succeeding Robbie Roepstorff, while Dr. Shawn Felton is vice chair.
FGCU continues to be a leader in making higher education affordable, with the University again earning positive recognition from Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Governors for not increasing the cost of tuition, fees and housing for a number of consecutive years. FGCU also has earned praise for its innovative idea to increase four-year graduation rates by creating the Soar in 4 program, which effective with the 2015-16 academic year gives freshmen the chance to get reimbursed for out-of-pocket tuition costs from their first year if they graduate in four years and meet certain criteria.
Academic Building 7 was renamed Seidler Hall, dedicated to the generosity of Sanibel residents Lee and Gene Seidler, and Lee Seidler’s daughter, Laurie, who created a fund that will strengthen the College of Arts & Sciences.
Two students became the first in FGCU history to be chosen for prestigious Fulbright grants to study or teach abroad. Emilio Feijoo of Naples, who graduated from FGCU in December 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and English, was selected for a Fulbright Study/Research Grant to pursue graduate studies in comparative literature at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. Lori Boegershausen of Palm Harbor, an Honors Program history graduate, was offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant to teach in Germany for a year. Both students are the first in their families to earn college degrees and completed their undergraduate programs with the help of FGCU Foundation scholarships.
The University’s inaugural Give Day — held April 26 — was a resounding success, with 207 supporters giving $1.18 million to benefit students and university programs. The one-day fundraiser, expected to become an annual event, was an effort to build enthusiasm and giving among the growing alumni base as well as faculty, staff and the many members of the community with ties to the university. A $1 million gift came from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous but wanted to make an impact.
On May 9, FGCU joined nine other state universities in Florida and more than 1,500 other campuses nationwide to become smoke- and tobacco-free.
Dr. Elaine Nicpon Marieb of Sarasota, for whom Marieb Hall is named, was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the University on May 1 in recognition of her significant contributions to the education of nursing and healthcare professionals throughout her career, and for her long-term involvement in, and support of, FGCU. The honorary doctoral degree is only the sixth to be awarded in the institution’s history. The College of Health Professions and Social Work was in the news again in the summer when David W. and Dr. Alise G. Bartley of Ohio, soon to be residents of Bonita Springs, pledged $1 million to the college.
Dr. John Woolschlager joined FGCU as the Backe Chair in Renewable Energy and director of the Emergent Technologies Institute. He serves as a professor of environmental engineering and director of engineering graduate programs. Woolschlager succeeds the inaugural Backe Chair, Dr. Joseph Simmons, who retired.
FGCU’s continuing support for those who served — and some who still serve — our country manifested itself in a new program to help military veterans get started in business. The University was one of five institutions in the state to pilot the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program, which provided online and hands-on tutoring, instruction and training through the spring and into summer, with finalists getting the chance to pitch their business models to potential investors at FGCU’s new Emergent Technologies Institute, located just northeast of campus. Amy Ridgway coordinated the program, which was implemented by faculty members Dr. Sandra Kauanui, director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and chair of the management department in the Lutgert College of Business, who helped craft the statewide curriculum; along with Dr. Eric Arseneau, assistant professor of entrepreneurship; and Dr. Joseph Cuiffi, assistant professor of Renewable Energy Engineering.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Entrepreneurship also is launching the new Runway Program — a startup incubator exclusive to FGCU’s aspiring student entrepreneurs at no cost to them. Students can work on building new companies with help from entrepreneurship faculty and mentors.
The FGCU Effect reached the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with three athletes who wore the Blue and Green competing against the greatest competitors from around the world. Lani Cabrera swam for Barbados in the 400-meter freestyle, while Evita Leter was on Suriname’s team in the 100-meter breaststroke. Those two joined another athlete at the Games with FGCU ties — former volleyball star Brooke (Youngquist) Sweat, who teamed with Lauren Fendrick to compete in sand volleyball.
But those three aren’t the only student athletes who have excelled. At May’s games of a different sort — the Invictus Games in Orlando for those injured serving in the military — junior exercise-science major Josh Wege won a gold medal competing for the U.S. team in the 400-meter race. Recently graduated women’s golfer Sara Detlefsen made history in July as the first Eagle to compete in an LPGA event, the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.
Also, some former FGCU athletes signed professional contracts this year. Whitney Knight — a two-time A-Sun Player of the Year, three-time First Team All-Conference pick and an Associated Press honorable mention All-American — became the first Eagle drafted by the WNBA, going 15th overall to the Los Angeles Sparks. Others who are competing at the next level are Rodrigo Saravia and Aaron Guillen in Major League Soccer and Jake Noll in baseball. Noll ended his FGCU baseball career by joining Chris Sale as the only Eagle to earn first team All-American recognition — and the only player to make All-America teams in separate seasons — when he got the recognition from DI Baseball. Noll, who is in the top 10 in FGCU history in just about every offensive category, also was named a second-team All-American by both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America.
As for club sports, the DII Hockey Club beat Liberty, 4-1, in West Chester, Pa., in April to capture its second National Club Championship.
Check back to this site for future updates to our University’s storied history as we approach our 20th anniversary.
The Emergent Technologies Institute opened in a 24,000-square-foot facility on 6½ acres off Alico Road that includes a 2½-acre energy park.
Five members of the swimming and diving team earned Scholar All-American honors for the 2015-16 season, it was announced by the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America.
Basketball was a blast at FGCU in 2016 as both the men’s and women’s teams achieved postseason success. The men captured the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament title to make the NCAA Tournament First Four game, where they destroyed Fairleigh Dickinson by 31 points before losing to No. 1 national seed North Carolina in a game that stayed close into the second half.
The women — upset in the A-Sun Tournament championship game to miss out on another shot in the NCAAs — turned the disappointment into delight for the Southwest Florida community by winning five consecutive WNIT Tournament games at Alico Arena. A loss on the road to South Dakota in the WNIT title game ended the season, but not before the team won 33 games and earned Coach Karl Smesko his sixth consecutive A-Sun Coach of the Year Award and the distinction as espnW Mid-Major Coach of the Year.
Aug. 25, 2016, marks the official kickoff of the 20th Anniversary Celebration for FGCU. The celebration will include numerous events that recognize the people and accomplishments that helped our great university grow into a thriving, high-energy environment that is a catalyst for growth and prosperity in Southwest Florida.