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.
Bradenton Herald Publisher Bob Turner was quick to recognize “the value of a top-notch university in our community.”
Which was why, along with a group of other like-minded business and community leaders in the early 1990s, the USF alum (Class of ’92) set out to raise awareness about USF Sarasota-Manatee and its contribution to Southwest Florida.
Turner and others in the group including fellow alum Charles Baumann, a local accountant, looked for a vehicle to bring attention to the campus, which at the time was housed on the grounds of New College of Florida.
They hit on the idea for an annual event, but wanted it to be unlike the usual gala dinners. Out of that emerged “Brunch on the Bay.”
“We wanted to raise awareness, to raise friends,” he said of the event, which has since become a mainstay on the Sarasota-Manatee social scene.
Years later with Brunch a success, attracting thousands yearly and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships, he accepted an invitation to join the Community Leadership Council.
Comprised largely of business leaders, the council was intent to tackle an issue that would prove a turning point in USFSM’s growth: With support from then-CEO Dr. Laurey Stryker, the council set out to build a new campus north of New College.
“We needed not only to update our facilities but we needed new modern classrooms, and this came to fruition under Laurey Stryker,” Turner said. “I think there was recognition from both sides, from New College and USF, that we needed separate campuses in order to grow to our capabilities.”
For years, Turner and others wrote letters, contacted influential friends, attended meetings and made calls to business leaders and politicians to raise “substantial amounts” to match the millions in state grants USFSM had sought from the Legislature. In particular, Turner recalled the support of Cliff Walters and Vern Buchanan, now a Republican congressman, in those efforts.
Turner later served on the USFSM Campus Board, a group of community and business leaders responsible for overseeing the regional campus’ overall mission and long-term vision, and in 1999 he won the USFSM Distinguished Alumni Award.
“My commitment to USF Sarasota-Manatee came out of two things: Being a graduate of USF, and benefiting personally and professionally from that education, and the desire to see a top-notch university in our community thrive, grow and serve others here as well,” he said.