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“I have an outstanding Small Business Development Center staff and team who all really respond to the needs of our small business community. Our partnerships with chambers, offices of economic development, (the former) Edison Community College (now Florida SouthWestern State), vo-tech schools and numerous associations and organizations help us in reaching our target clients. Through counseling, educational programs and confidentiality, we are able to help businesses respond to adversity and succeed through sales and profits.”

—Dan Regelski, director of the SBDC at FGCU, in reacting to earning the state’s Economic Patriotism Award for his work in 2001

The year began with Florida Gulf Coast University receiving recognition for its response to the 9/11 terror attacks when Dan Regelski, director of FGCU’s Small Business Development Center, was presented with the state’s Economic Patriotism Award in January. Gov. Jeb Bush made the presentation in Bonita Springs before the Southwest Florida Chamber of Commerce in recognition of Regelski’s efforts to help small businesses recover from aftereffects of the terror attacks, along with the Lake Okeechobee drought.

In February, season tickets for FGCU’s new basketball programs went on sale for the first time. Russell Sabella, associate professor in counselor education, was voted president elect of the American School Counselors Association for 2002-03, and Joanne Smith, director of the Renaissance Academy’s creative arts studio, was named Teacher of the Year by the National Music Teachers Association.

Speaking of the Renaissance Academy, the Naples Center opened on the ground floor of the Heart Fax Building on Fifth Avenue South in Naples with a March reception. And under the leadership of head coaches Jim Suttie and Holly Vaughn, the men’s and women’s golf coaches, their respective teams ascended to Nos. 1 and 2 in the NAIA national rankings in just their second year on the course. FGCU golfer Derek Lamely was named one of six collegiate golfers nationally to represent the U.S. team in the World University Golf Championship in Taiwan.

In April, FGCU staged its first Research Day to showcase its ongoing exploratory studies.

Rachel Cox, a violist and violinist with the Naples Philharmonic and Southwest Florida Symphony, established a music scholarship fund with FGCU in May, and the gift was matched by her mother, Martha Cox, a retired pianist living in Fort Myers whose six children all became professional musicians.

Dan Borgia, associate professor of finance, headed to Nanjing University in China in August as a Fulbright Scholar. That same month, FGCU President William Merwin announced that the Center for Civic Engagement would be started with a grant from the Stranahan Foundation, with Linda Summers as its director.

September continued to be eventful as the Evelyn L. Egan Astronomical Observatory was officially opened for public viewing, with President Merwin informing the donor at the ceremony that a star in the constellation Monocereos had been renamed in her honor. Two members of the FGCU family made national impact when Jerry Jackson, director of FGCU’s Whitaker Center, was appointed to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, an advisory panel for the National Invasive Species Council; and marketing and advertising associate professor Ludmilla Wells, the University’s 2001 Excellence in Service winner, was named chair of the academic division of the American Advertising Federation.

Also that month, President Merwin terminated FGCU’s affiliation with the NAIA immediately when that athletics organization denied Eagles teams access to postseason play while FGCU was a provisional NCAA member, this coming soon after the University’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams debuted at the Florida Tech Invitational.

FGCU’s first basketball “Midnight Madness” took place Oct. 14 in the new athletics jewel on campus — Alico Arena. That same month, the FGCU Hockey Club began its inaugural season at the former TECO Arena under head coach Don Awrey of Naples, who as a National Hockey League defenseman had won three Stanley Cups.

In November, “Kindertransport,” a drama about a Jewish woman rescued from Nazi Germany as a child, was the premiere production in the new Arts Complex’s black-box theater.

Boosted by a $5 million gift from Herbert J. and Margaret Sugden, plans for a new Resort & Hospitality Management program are announced in November, to be housed in the 45,000-square-foot Sugden Hall. Also in November, the WGCU-TV production “Florida Landscape” wins an international 2002 Gold Aurora Award in the environmental-protection category.

In December, the Beach Boys and Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals were announced as the headliners for the first concert staged in the new Alico Arena, scheduled for the end of January 2003. And President Merwin was elected president of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities for 2002-03.

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In December 2002, Alico Arena opened as the home of FGCU Athletics. The 120,000-square-foot complex features a main arena with standing-room capacity of 4,633.


The Naples Center opened as a hub of continuing education in the southern part of the five-county region surrounding the main campus.

FGCU Celebrates Five Years
FGCU Celebrates Five Years

FGCU President William Merwin shared a special birthday cake with faculty, staff and guests to commemorate the University’s first five years.


FGCU golfer Derek Lamely, who helped the Eagles at one time in the season ascend to a No. 1 national NAIA ranking, was one of six golfers nationally named to represent the U.S. team in the World University Golf Championship in Taiwan.


Entertainment was the word at FGCU in November 2002 when the drama “Kindetransport” was the premiere production in the new Arts Complex’s black-box theater; the WGCU-TV production “Florida Landscape” won an international Gold Aurora Award in the environmental-protection category; and plans were announced for a Resort and Hospitality Management program.


The first concert in new Alico Arena was announced in December, featuring the Beach Boys and Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals.