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.
Brunch on the Bay, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s premier fundraising event, began 22 years ago as a way to spotlight not just scholarship needs but USFSM itself.
Longtime booster and USF alumnus Charles Baumann said little was known about the regional campus, at the time housed at New College of Florida, and nearby communities were mostly unaware it even existed. Reporters seeking experts for news stories routinely bypassed the campus for New College professors.
Baumann and others sought to change that by creating an event that would elevate the campus’ profile while generating scholarship donations.
“We wanted to bring people to the campus and introduce people to USFSM,” Baumann recalled.
The event has done that, attracting 1,000 attendees annually, while also becoming the campus’ most important vehicle for scholarships. Since its start, Brunch has generated more than $1.3 million for the “Brunch on the Bay Scholarship Endowment,” which has contributed more than $1 million in scholarships to more than 1,400 students.
Early on, though, organizers didn’t know what to expect from the event.
“That first year we would have been happy if we sold just 200 tickets, but we sold more than 600 and it’s been growing ever since,” said USF alumna Dr. Anila Jain, who served on the first Brunch on the Bay organizing committee and co-chaired the most recent Brunch with Tracy O’Neill.
A success at the outset, the event reached new heights under USFSM CEO Dr. Laurey Stryker, who advocated an expansion of sponsorship donations. The donation totals rose by $120,000 under her tenure, 2000-2007, and have been climbing since.
This most recent Brunch, Nov. 1, 2015, proved to be the most successful ever. With close to 1,000 guests plus 20 of the region’s finest restaurants and caterers, the event raised more than $370,000 for USFSM scholarships.
“Brunch started as a way to gain recognition for our campus, but now it is so much more than that,” said Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for University Advancement. “At USFSM it is one of the many ways we support our students through scholarships. Nearly 84 percent of our students benefit from financial aid while they attend our university.
“Brunch is a powerful tool that allows us to raise funds for student scholarship. It is truly an amazing event to be a part of.”