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“The best that students can get in the state of Florida is here at FGCU. If I were to do my undergraduate experience all over again, I would hope to find a program in the sciences like we have at FGCU. We are offering what students can get at a private university at a state university price.”

— Donna Price Henry, associate dean in physiology
(later dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), as FGCU prepared to unveil
new Whitaker Hall and expand faculty and curricula in the sciences

A pivotal year in Florida Gulf Coast University’s evolution opened the new millennium when the statewide Board of Regents, which oversaw each institution in the state university system, was discontinued in favor of a local, governing Board of Trustees at each university. The boards would have 12 trustees appointed by the governor, plus the student government president.  As FGCU President William C. Merwin, who had launched an initiative to grow the university by reaching out to the community, put it in an interview for the University’s 10th anniversary: “The stars just lined up perfectly. Thirteen trustees representing the community became advocates.”

The inaugural FGCU Board of Trustees met in the Whitaker Hall Sprint Room on Sept. 20-21, 2001. Members of the inaugural board: Chair Scott Lutgert, Brian Cobb, Larry Hart, Renee Lee, Dr. Bernie Lester, David Lucas, Gerri Moll, Dr. Harry Moon, Ed Morton, Jerry Starkey, Linda Taylor, Michael Villalobos and Magali Solimano, who was president of the FGCU Student Government Association.

Earlier in the year, FGCU laid the groundwork for its new emphasis on community immersion when it introduced The Renaissance Academy to Southwest Florida. As  President Merwin put it, “We needed surrogate alumni.” Based primarily in Naples to start, the academy quickly attracted some 6,000 outside students who shared the premise that learning should never cease, that keeping the mind intellectually, creatively and culturally active fundamentally enriches and invigorates our lives.

In February, two of FGCU’s founding fathers — first President Roy E. McTarnaghan and Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the State University System when the University was conceived — had  buildings named in their honor. FGCU would also dedicate two more campus buildings, Whitaker Hall and the Egan Observatory, on April 12. And on May 5, the “Inaugural Freshman Class of 1997” became FGCU’s first four-year graduates as 18 students — including the first to enroll, nursing student Mariana Coto — were among 275 peers earning their diplomas.

The University also made one of the best hires in its 20-year history on May 2 when founding FGCU Athletics Director Carl McAloose lured the women’s basketball coach from Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to start FGCU’s program — a guy named Karl Smesko. In July, McAloose added two other founding coaches — Dave Tollett for baseball and David Deiros for softball — both of whom still lead their successful programs along with Smesko.  They were joined by Dave Balza, FGCU’s founding men’s basketball coach; and J. Webb Horton, who came aboard as assistant athletics director and men’s tennis coach.

October was a month for groundbreakings as construction began on the Athletics Complex (along with the unveiling of the first official athletics logo) and the Margaret Sugden Welcome Center. And less than a month after the 9/11 terror attacks stunned the world, FGCU became the first out-of-state university to offer four-year scholarships to children of uniformed personnel who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, thanks to a donation from Naples residents Peter and Margaret Sulick.

The National Wildlife Federation issued a new report card in December on institutions of higher education, and FGCU was the only state university in Florida recognized. FGCU was lauded for responsible land and ground management and energy efficiency and conservation.

 

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IN THEY WE TRUST

FGCU’s first Board of Trustees gathered in the Whitaker Hall Sprint Room on Sept. 20-21, 2001. Members of the inaugural board: Chair Scott Lutgert, Brian Cobb, Larry Hart, Renee Lee, Dr. Bernie Lester, David Lucas, Gerri Moll, Dr. Harry Moon, Ed Morton, Jerry Starkey, Linda Taylor, Michael Villalobos and Magali Solimano, who was president of the FGCU Student Government Association.

A REGIONAL RENAISSANCE
A REGIONAL RENAISSANCE

The Renaissance Academy introduced a new era for lifelong learning in Southwest Florida. As President William C. Merwin put it, “We needed surrogate alumni.” Based primarily in Naples to start, the academy quickly attracted some 6,000 outside students who shared the premise that learning should never cease, that keeping the mind intellectually, creatively and culturally active fundamentally enriches and invigorates our lives.

WHITAKER DEDICATED
WHITAKER DEDICATED

When Whitaker Hall was dedicated April 12, 2001, it heralded the triumph of a team effort. More than 400 donors responded to this first community challenge by the University, and a total of $9.6 million was raised ($2.4 million from community donors was matched by The Whitaker Foundation, and that in turn was matched by the state).  The community’s gift enabled FGCU to build the science, math and technology education center five years before it was scheduled to be built.

HIGH-TECH EYE TO THE SKY
HIGH-TECH EYE TO THE SKY

Egan Observatory was dedicated on April 12, 2001, and provided an eye-to-the-sky to open the minds of students and community members alike.

OUR FIRST FOUR

On May 5, 2001, the “Inaugural Freshman Class of 1997” became FGCU’s first four-year graduates as 18 students — including the first to enroll, nursing student Mariana Coto — were among 275 peers earning their diplomas.

COACH SMESKO, COME ON DOWN

FGCU Athletics Director Carl McAloose recruited Karl Smesko from Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to start FGCU’s women’s basketball program.

CRADLE OF FUTURE CHAMPIONS

In July, Athletics Director Carl McAloose recruited two founding coaches — Dave Tollett for baseball and David Deiros for softball — both of whom still lead their successful programs, along with founding women’s basketball coach Karl Smesko. Dave Balza would be FGCU’s first men’s basketball coach.

NEW GUY AT CENTER COURT

In building his staff, Athletics Director Carl McAloose brought J. Webb Horton to FGCU as assistant athletics director and men’s tennis coach.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL PLAY

October was a month for groundbreakings as construction began on the Athletics Complex — along with the unveiling of the first official athletics logo.

A WELCOME ADDITION

Construction on the Margaret Sugden Welcome Center began.

FGCU EMBRACES CHILDREN OF 9/11 VICTIMS

Less than a month after the 9/11 terror attacks stunned the world, FGCU became the first out-of-state university to offer four-year scholarships to children of uniformed personnel who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, thanks to a donation from Naples residents Peter and Margaret Sulick.