SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 07, 2016) Talk about wow factor.
Sunday’s 23rd annual Brunch on the Bay wowed guests with its array of food choices and just the right amount of glamour as more than 800 guests hobnobbed under a white tent and blue skies on USF Sarasota-Manatee’s campus on North Tamiami Trail.
“It’s my favorite day of the year,” alumnus Christi Womack-Villalobos said of the two-hour affair, which doubles as USFSM’s signature annual fundraising event.
Enjoying a VIP reception prior to Brunch, Womack-Villalobos said she cherishes the event’s ability to call attention “to this beautiful campus and to all the programs that help our students excel.
“We can’t forget that it’s for all for a great cause, college scholarships,” she said.
For two hours, alumni, donors and other guests dined sumptuously on grilled lobster tail, shrimp and grits, caviar, Eggs Benedict, crepes with Bananas Foster along with numerous other rich cuisines while also enjoying Mimosas and coffee. The Brunch featured 21 food and beverage vendors.
“It’s always something we look forward to,” said USF alumnus Dr. Anila Jain, who attended with her parents, Dr. Mona and Kailash Jain, both life members of the President’s Council for their generous support of USF and USFSM.
“Not only do we enjoy the wonderful food from the area’s finest restaurants, but we enjoy this event for the scholarships it’s able to provide students,” said Dr. Jain. “It’s nice to see our friends, too. A lot of people, community leaders and alumni, come out to this event.”
Serving as this year’s Brunch organizing co-chairs were Amanda Horne and Michelle Crabtree.
“I’ve been involved in other events and Brunch is by far the most organized, professional event I’ve seen,” Crabtree said.
For USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone, Brunch is significant in another way: It marks her work anniversary at USFSM. Her first day on the job happened to be the 2014 Brunch on the Bay.
“It’s so nice to see so many people come out to celebrate my work anniversary,” she joked.
On a serious note, she added that the event’s importance can’t be under-estimated. Since Brunch was founded in 1994, the event has added $1.4 million to the university endowment while generating more $1 million in scholarships, including to students who are the first in their families to attend college.
“This is our signature fundraising event to help students have that opportunity to achieve their goals,” Dr. Stone said.
This year’s Brunch came with a twist. In addition to raising money for scholarships overall – the event raised more than $383,000, including in-kind donations – donors contributed another $10,678 to support scholarships for women rowers. With a matching contribution from USFSM, that amount jumped to $21,356.
As guests were finishing their meals, USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan came to the podium to announce that the NCAA had approved USF’s petition to launch a Division I women’s rowing team at USFSM.
With support from USF Athletics and the local community, he said, the Sarasota-Manatee area will soon host its first NCAA Division I sports program. And the effort won’t be a half-hearted one.
“We don’t dip our toes into things. If we’re going to get into something, we’re going to win,” Harlan said.
The campus and USF Athletics have talked about the idea for years. The team would compete with seven teams from the American Athletic Conference. Eventually, it would consist of 40 student-athletes.
In addition, the area already includes world-class rowing facilities like Nathan Benderson Park at Cattlemen Road and University Parkway in Sarasota. As part of the NCAA’s approval, USF Athletics and USFSM have four years to raise $1 million to launch the program.
Harlan was one of the speakers at the Brunch, along with Dr. Stone and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft.
“I’m very excited about another addition to the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus – an NCAA women’s rowing team,” Dr. Genshaft said. “USF Athletics has received approval to launch the sport, meaning this could soon be the new full-time home for a Division I athletics program.
“Like so much of what we do in the USF System, this wouldn’t be possible without generous donor support,” she said. “So I want to thank you again for the all you do for our students – especially today at another fantastic Brunch on the Bay.”