Bob Purzycki, USF Class of '68.

40th Anniversary in Focus: A loving gesture toward spouse leads man to endow scholarship

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: April 18, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit usfsm.edu/anniversary.

Bob and Jeanne Purzycki’s colorful life took the couple from the Caribbean to Europe and beyond.

“I’ve been to 155 countries,” said Bob Purzycki, 72, who still loves delving into other cultures and recently traveled to Cuba. “Everything there is old, not just the cars, but the buildings, everything.”

Purzycki’s favorite stop was Spain, where he was stationed during the Navy, but for his wife nothing compared to Paris. “She loved Paris, the cafes, the energy, the excitement.”

Travel agents, the two wrote the pre-eminent travel industry textbook, “Sails for Profit” in 1998, along with other college and industry books. They traveled for work and pleasure and loved exploring the world hand-in-hand, he said.

Jeanne passed away four years ago. Soon after, as Purzycki reflected on their life together, he admitted to owing much to his alma mater, USF Tampa, which not only conferred a bachelor’s degree in geography on him in 1968, but also set him on a path toward the travel industry and meeting his future wife, then Jeanne Semer.

“What I studied here is really what gave me my life’s career,” he said.

Now, he said, he wants to give back, which is why Purzycki has decided to donate much of his estate to USF Sarasota-Manatee after he passes on. This “deferred gift,” amounting to $647,500, will establish the Jeanne and Robert Purzycki Endowed Scholarship Fund to be used by students of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.

Jeanne, who graduated from the University of Vermont, would have been proud, he said.

“Absolutely, she would have been proud,” said Purzycki, who lives in Ipswich, Mass., where he works part-time at a museum but winters on Lido Key. “Education was very important to her.”

In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree from UV, Jeanne earned a master’s degree in education from Central Connecticut State University. The two worked for decades at Garber’s Travel Service outside of Boston while writing textbooks on the side.

Their best-known, “Sails for Profit: A complete guide to selling and booking cruise travel,” became a top seller in the travel industry and academia. In fact, USFSM recently acquired the rights to the book and is updating it.

“She mostly wrote them and I helped,” Purzycki said of the books, adding, “Education is probably the most important aspect to the industry right now, and it should be an ongoing process for anyone working in the industry.

“It’s especially important to understand technology, because that’s the direction everything is going in.”

As for the endowment, “Jeanne would have loved it,” he said.

“When we were talking about putting a will together she knew I wanted to do this and this was really the best thing for us,” he said. “We have no kids and no grand kids. I have a sister, but she was never married, and I don’t have any nieces or nephews. So, really the kids that we have are here at the university.”

Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for University Advancement, said of Purzycki: “Bob is an outstanding example of what an alum can do to leave a legacy gift. It honors his work and the education that he received at USF. Bob joins many other alums and donors who are choosing to leave legacy gifts to ensure a bright future for our students and the USFSM campus. We are grateful to all these donors.”

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