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.
She was USF Sarasota-Manatee’s most recognizable student for three years as she pursued her business degree.
Even today, after graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, management and marketing, Amanda Evora, the star figure skater who competed in the Olympics, is remembered as a dedicated student who made time for her alma mater.
“She’s always been supportive of the university and has been very open to sharing stories with students and alumni about her success and journey,” said Jay Riley, program director of student alumni engagement. “By stressing the importance of getting an education she’s also been a role model to student athletes.”
Attending classes at night and online, the pairs figure skater for Team USA spent seven years working toward a bachelor’s degree.
USFSM actually was her second school after taking classes at Manatee Community College, now State College of Florida (SCF). While at both institutions, she continued skating but took time off in 2010 to prepare for the Olympics in Vancouver where she and pairs partner Mark Ladwig placed tenth.
“We had not competed at a world championship before the Olympics, so we were proud that we made the top 10,” Evora said, adding that she’s thankful to USFSM for being “very understanding of my schedule and working with me.”
Evora relocated to Bradenton from Houston in 2001 to train at Ellenton. She moved into an apartment with her mother before living with several host families in Ellenton and attending school at JP Igloo, now the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. She received an associate’s degree from MCC in 2006 and enrolled at USFSM in 2009.
“Education was very, very important in my family,” she said. “My parents were very strict about getting an education. Even when I was skating I continued my education because I knew it was important to get a degree.”
Also important was to “give back” to her alma mater.
Evora has frequently given inspirational talks, both as a student and an alumna. As an alumna, she was on hand to welcome the first freshman class during its orientation. Earlier, she participated in USF’s Women in Leadership and Philanthropy program as well as a networking forum hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.
USFSM students have embraced Evora in return. Watch parties and other events popped up on campus during the Olympics, and in 2013 when she appeared on the “Battle of the Blades” reality show on Canadian television, students were glued to their TVs, rooting for her. Evora and her partner, NHL player Scott Thornton, ended up winning the competition. They donated their $100,000 winnings to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The five-time U.S. medalist retired from skating in 2012, ending a competitive skating career that spanned more than 20 years. Now 31, Evora coaches Olympic hopefuls at the Ellenton rink while also working at RPM Specialty Products Group in Sarasota.
“I liked that it was close to home and offered everything I wanted in getting a degree,” she said of her time at USFSM. “It was very personable and always felt welcoming. It was easy to have the attention needed from a professor. It was nice that it was close to home, but it was also a good, reputable school.”