USF Sarasota-Manatee holds anniversary “kickoff” event

Faculty, students, alumni and supporters mingle at the 40th Anniversary Kickoff party. Photo by Krista Schrock

USFSM Faculty, students, alumni and supporters mingle at the 40th Anniversary Kickoff party. Photo by Krista Schrock

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee’s history and future came together on Tuesday.

For two hours, USFSM donors, supporters, students and alumni gathered at the Selby Auditorium to recall past highlights of the campus’ 40-year history while anticipating potential new milestones.

“We know that 40 years of existence creates a rich history and traditions that have defined this institution and give it a great foundation for all the achievements to come,” USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft told the 150 or so who assembled in the auditorium.

The occasion, dubbed a “Kickoff” celebration, was the first of several anniversary-themed parties scheduled for this academic year. For two hours, guests chatted, noshed on appetizers, took pictures with the Rocky mascot and heard from campus dignitaries, including a couple of recent arrivals.

“Although I have been at USF Sarasota-Manatee for less than a year, it is easy to see why this is such a special place,” Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone told the crowd, which included past campus leaders Drs. Bob Barylski, Laurey Stryker and Arthur Guilford. “It is because of the primary support from our Manatee and Sarasota communities, as well as the dedication and enthusiastic engagement of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“On this very date in 1975, USF started offering courses in this community in hopes of expanding access to quality higher education to Sarasota and Manatee counties,” she added. “Forty years later our mission remains essentially the same — to provide high-quality bachelor and graduate‐level education that prepares successful leaders and responsible citizens.”

Some milestones since that time include the founding of a new campus in 2006, the campus’ separate accreditation in 2011, establishment of a freshman class in 2013 and the approvals this past summer of the campus’ five-year strategic plan and the removal of enrollment caps on freshmen and sophomores.

Among those in the crowd, John Clarke, an early organizer of the Brunch on the Bay fundraising event, said it was important to support the university because of its mission to bring the resources of a major university, including a business college, to the Sarasota-Manatee community.

“Too many of our young people are heading out of state, and when they go to that university in Georgia or another state they end up getting married and getting a job up there when they need to be back here in our community,” he said. “USF Sarasota-Manatee can offer the same resources but closer to home. That’s why it’s important to support the university.”

Also in attendance, USF trustee and USFSM Campus Board member Byron Shinn said he supported the campus because of what it has meant, and still means, to Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“What I like about this campus is its strength of leadership and the fact that it remains focused on contributing to this community,” he said. “It remains a part of the USF System, but it continues to play a part in the future of this community, producing lifelong learners. This is an exciting time.”

Student Government President Alex Benishek perhaps best captured the sentiment of the evening, tying past achievements with future potential.

“This campus has a very diverse student population, which ranges from young 18 year olds who are fresh out of high school, to non-traditional students who have families and full time jobs. But I’d like to remind everyone it wasn’t always like that,” he said.

“As most of you know, in 2013 USFSM opened its doors to its first freshman class, and since then this campus has been changed forever. Our new student population is exciting, loud, and most importantly engaged,” he said.

In addition to the Kickoff celebration, an alumni gathering for all USFSM graduates is set for Feb. 20 and an anniversary gala celebration will be held March 4.

For a full list of anniversary events, visit