Anonymous donor gives record $12.5 million to set new standard of academic excellence for Gator student-athletes
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida student-athletes will soon have a world-class learning environment to support and enhance their academic experiences, thanks to a $12.5 million donation from an anonymous donor.
The donation is the largest individual gift ever to UF Athletics. It and an additional $12.5 million of matching gifts will provide $25 million to enhance the program for tutoring, studying, academic advising, job placement and other services for UF’s 480 student-athletes in 21 varsity sports. Housed in Farrior Hall and formerly called the Office of Student Life, the program will now be named the Otis Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence. Construction is expected to begin in March.
“We want our student-athletes to be champions on the field, court and in the pool – and in their lives and professions after graduation,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “This new center will bring together and enhance our learning and career services for these students, ensuring they have every opportunity for academic as well as athletic excellence.”
UF has a national reputation for producing scholar-athletes. Florida student-athletes posted an 83 percent graduation success rate in the most recent data released by the NCAA. Last year, 280 Gator athletes earned a spot on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, and the entire student-athlete body combined for a 3.06 GPA in the spring. UF is the only school in the SEC to have 100 or more SEC Academic Roll Honor Roll honorees for the last 17 years, and 93 Gators have been named Academic All-American.
"This gift was made in honor of Otis Hawkins and his family,” the donor said. "Otis was one of the earliest Gator Boosters and fervently believed each student-athlete should be fully supported in their academic as well as their athletic pursuits."
Included in the project will be a renovation of Farrior Hall that will double the building’s square footage and include 50 tutoring rooms, three computer labs, a 100-plus-seat classroom, a nutrition wing and a sports medicine research area, along with staff offices. Farrior Hall also houses the University Academic Advising Center, which serves as the advisement center for undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“It’s easy to admire the skill and drive of our athletes. But, they are no less remarkable in the classroom, where they balance UF’s rigorous academic standards and the demands of a world-class college athletic program. The new center will give our student-athletes an academic facility that enhances the existing Farrior Hall and further demonstrates our commitment to the success of our student-athletes,” said Jeremy Foley, UF’s athletic director.
The University of Florida athletic department is the only program to finish in the top 10 of the last 31 national all-sport rankings, including runner-up showings in each of the last three seasons. The program has won 33 national team titles, including 15 since 2006 and has captured at least one national title in each of the last four years. One hundred and sixty three Gators have called themselves Olympians, winning 109 medals while representing 37 different countries.
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