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What over $151 million in gifts mean to USF

Mark Parker



The $151 million USF received in the fiscal year 2021-22 was the most generous level of support in the school's nearly 70-year history. Photo: Veronica Brezina.

More than 34,000 donors gave $151.8 million in charitable donations to the University of South Florida in the fiscal year 2021-22, setting a new record for the institution’s nearly 70-year history.

According to Tuesday’s report, that level of philanthropy broke the previous record set in 2015. USF has now surpassed over $100 million in donations for the fourth straight year, with 6,300 people giving for the first time in 2021-22.

Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation, told the Catalyst that while some people will fixate on the dollar amount, he focuses on what the $151 million represents.

“It represents investments in students, scholarships, faculty, buildings and all the needs that we have on campus,” Stroman said. “But what I’m really proud of is that we had 6,300 new donors this year.

“I’m always worried about people understanding that no matter what amount you give to the university, it’s much needed, and it’s put to good use.”

Stroman believes that the record level of funding is due to people taking notice of USF’s upward trajectory and President Rhea Law’s leadership skills. He also credited the USF Foundation team for acting as a conduit to help philanthropists make an impact in specific areas.

Law and new USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Christian Hardigree share a vision of the university gaining admission to the prestigious Association of American Universities as a top research institution. Stroman said the level of giving could help USF in its academic and athletic pursuits and that out of 12 public universities in the state, only the University of Florida raised more money.

“So, better than Florida State, better than UCF and better than all the other universities,” he added. “People notice that.”

While many of the larger gifts were for programs or projects on the Tampa campus, Stroman noted that Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton, longtime supporters of the St. Petersburg campus, are two of the most prolific donors to the entire university system.

From left: Moez Limayem, former dean of the USF Muma College of Business; Ellen Cotton and Kate Tiedemann, philanthropists; USF President Rhea Law; House Speaker Chris Sprowls; and Mayor Ken Welch. Photo by Mark Parker.

The two philanthropists gave over $14 million in April to support USFSP’s new fintech center and help transform the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance into a “hub of excellence” in financial technology education. Their latest gift brings the couple’s total monetary contributions to the university to nearly $30 million.

“Now, with Christian coming as our regional chancellor there, I think there’s a lot of opportunities for us to continue to tell the story of all the great things happening there on the St. Pete campus,” said Stroman. “And hopefully, that inspires people to give.”

In addition to the philanthropic contributions, the university also received a historic amount of funding from the state. However, the governor vetoed $75 million previously appropriated to build the new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility (EOS) on the St. Petersburg campus.

Many stakeholders believe state support for the “transformative” project is just a year away. In addition, Stroman said that even before the governor slashed the item from Florida’s budget, USF’s leadership “had a pretty strong plan” to incorporate private philanthropy dollars into EOS funding.

“And we’re not going to slow down on that,” he added.

Stroman said that what the facility will mean to the region, state and county is a story university officials must keep telling – to anyone who will listen.

“And I think if we tell that story, maybe in a more significant way, I think we’ll have lots of people that want to make investments in that.”

While the school would like to break these kinds of records annually, Stroman said every year is unique. He noted that the school’s fundraising success was despite an ongoing pandemic, global unrest and the highest inflation rates in several decades.

Jay Stroman, CEO of the USF Foundation. File photo.

He said that uncertainty could affect how people invest their money, but people also like to participate in success stories. He is optimistic that USF’s recent accomplishments will continue to spur giving in the future.

Stroman said he is especially appreciative of the small donors that gave what they could during turbulent times, stating that most of USF’s gifts were in the $25 to $250 range.

“That’s what really sustains a university,” said Stroman. “Most of our donors are not the Kate and Ellens of the world.

“And those that are giving at the $50 level or $150 level end up becoming your major donors through the years.”

Philanthropic highlights include:

  • USF received private gifts totaling more than $23 million for an Indoor Performance Facility on the Tampa campus, which will provide a state-of-the-art indoor practice and training space for men’s and women’s athletics.
  • Carol and Frank Morsani donated $5 million for an on-campus stadium in March, the first gift to support the highly-anticipated project. Penny and Jeff Vinik followed suit in April with another $5 million.
  • The Morsanis pledged an additional $7 million to provide scholarships, create an endowed chair in geriatrics and a directorship and professorship for ethical business leadership.
  • USF Health patients gave $5.6 million, a 40% increase over the previous fiscal year. The late Timothy Ubben provided $5 million to create the Ubben Family Center for Pulmonary Fibrosis.
  • Arnold F. “Arnie” and Lauren Bellini provided $10.6 million to establish the Bellini Center for Talent Development at the Muma College of Business, which opened in March.
  • Reliance Medical Centers gave $1 million in November to support geriatric health care programs at the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and through USF Health.
  • During Giving Week, held April 4-8, nearly 5,000 donors offered gifts to benefit causes across all three USF campuses, more than double the previous record.


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