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.
Dr. Laurey Stryker came to USF Sarasota-Manatee with a mandate.
“(USF System President) Dr. Judy Genshaft told me to grow the campus,” the former USFSM chief executive officer (2000-2007) said. “Grow programs that meet the community’s needs and attract talented faculty.”
She did just that. When Dr. Stryker arrived in October 2000 as acting-chief executive officer, USFSM was separating from New College of Florida. Then-Dean Dr. Michael Bassis remained through the transition until mid-2001. The campus employed just 12 full-time faculty and most instructors worked part time or served as adjuncts.
By the time Dr. Stryker retired in 2007, USFSM had increased to 39 programs and 50 full-time faculty. It added the School of Hotel & Restaurant Management, forerunner to today’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership. But more striking, it built a 108,000-square-foot campus building.
This marked the “defining moment” of Dr. Stryker’s tenure, although getting there was a group effort, she said.
Lawmakers including state Sens. Mike Bennett and Lisa Carlton and Reps. Nancy Detert, Ron Reagan and Bill Galvano fought for funding at the legislative level. With help from the USFSM Campus Board led by Jan Smith, retired Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO C. John Clarke raised another $3 million in private donations (to be matched with $3 million in state funds) to add to the $23 million in legislative funding.
“It was a joyful privilege,” Dr. Stryker said of the fundraising/building program. “It’s rare to be at the center of such a game-changing opportunity that will forever influence the region.”
Dr. Stryker’s influence was felt in numerous other ways too. Notably, she championed Brunch on the Bay, the annual scholarship fundraising event. Determined to raise greater amounts from Brunch, Dr. Stryker pushed to expand the event’s sponsorship revenue from $30,000 to $150,000.
That surge transformed the Brunch to make it not only USFSM’s largest annual fundraiser, but also one of the area’s premier social events. Following her lead, donations continued to grow, and last year the Brunch reached its highest total ever with more than $370,000 for USFSM scholarships.