UF alumnus donates $5 million for building to house Bob Graham Center

November 1, 2005

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A $5 million gift from a University of Florida alumnus will allow the university to construct a campus building to house the new Bob Graham Center for Public Service. Jim Pugh, chairman of Epoch Properties in Winter Park, Fla., and his wife, Alexis, have made the donation to UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the building, which will be named Jim and Alexis Pugh Hall.

“Bob and I have been friends for more than 50 years, and my wife and I want to support the Bob Graham Center,” said Pugh, who earned his bachelor’s degree in building construction from UF in 1963. “We feel this is an opportune time to do something for Bob Graham and the University of Florida.” Pugh and Graham met at UF as fraternity brothers in Sigma Nu.

Pugh Hall will be constructed between Newell and Dauer Halls on UF’s campus. With anticipated matching state funds, construction could start as early as the summer of 2006 and be completed by 2008.

“This generous donation from Jim and Alexis Pugh is an example of the strong leadership commitment our alumni have in supporting the University of Florida,” said UF President Bernie Machen. “UF continues to attract the brightest scholars to teach our exceptional students and conduct research in high-profile areas, and the Bob Graham Center at Pugh Hall will play a pivotal role in maintaining our high standards.”

Pugh was a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger from 1963-1966 and commander of a Special Forces unit. Since 1970, he has owned Epoch Properties, a company that builds hotels, time shares and rental housing, developing more than 30,000 multi-family living units in 56 cities from Florida to California. He also is the chairman of Epoch Management, a comprehensive real estate management firm established in 1973.

He was named one of the “Most Influential Floridians” by Florida Trend magazine in 2004 and “Most Influential Businessman” by Orlando Business Journal in 2005. Pugh is involved with numerous civic organizations, including the Orlando Utilities Commission, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board and the Orange County chapter of the UF Alumni Association. He is an avid blue-water sailor, having sailed long-distance voyages through the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as a licensed jet pilot with more than 4,000 hours of flying time.

“With the Pughs’ timely gift, we will construct a building that will serve as a focal point for one of the major entrances to the campus’s historic district,” said Neil Sullivan, dean of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The Bob Graham Center will serve as a magnet to attract and host distinguished scholars, international leaders, and policy makers to create a dynamic pool that will help train UF students for leadership positions in public service.”

Graham, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UF in 1959, is working with UF and the University of Miami to create two centers that will focus on public leadership, the Americas and homeland security. The mission of the Graham Center at UF will be to provide students with the broad training necessary for careers in the public sector. Research on public policies and the policymaking process will be conducted, as well as promoting the public discussion of important policy issues facing the state, nation, and the world.

Other proposed components include new degree programs and certificates in public policy and public affairs, a Statesman-in-Residence Program and a leadership institute.

Graham retired from the U.S. Senate in January after serving for 18 years and also served as Florida’s governor for two terms from 1979 to 1987. He is teaching at Harvard University for the 2005-2006 academic year.