Five Years that Forever Changed UF

Five Years that Forever Changed UF

2013-2018 saw the university steepen its climb to the top, thanks in large part to one notable Gator
By David Finnerty

The University of Florida’s first 165 years shimmer with milestones and accomplishments — the opening of Gainesville’s campus (1906), the first woman to enroll in fall classes (1925), the founding of what would later become Shands Hospital (1958), UF’s induction into the prestigious Association of American Universities (1985). But perhaps never in its rich history has there been a five-year span as transformative as the one that ended this fall.

Years from now, historians might very well look back on 2013-2018 as UF’s turning point — the quinquennial that triggered the university’s giant leap to become one of the nation’s very best public universities of the 21st century.

Consider this: during those years the state proclaimed UF a preeminent university, and with that declaration came a stronger commitment to its flagship school; the university climbed to No. 8 in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of best colleges and universities; outside research funding blossomed to more than $800 million; a bold plan to hire 500 additional faculty members was adopted; and a $3 billion campaign, UF’s most ambitious ever, was launched. And that’s just the top of a long list that also includes new high-tech and beautiful campus buildings, a town-and-gown partnership that combines the strengths of the university and the city of Gainesville to create the “New American City,” as well as more national championships in sports.

UF’s faculty, staff, students and alumni are at the heart of the university’s ascent, President Kent Fuchs said.

“The members of the Gator community have incredible shared ambitions, and they’re steadily achieving those ambitions,” he said. “My hope is that this will help us provide an even more exceptional educational experience for our excellent students.”

Bill Heavener (BSBA ’70) is one of the shepherds rethinking how UF serves its students, faculty and staff, Floridians and others.

“It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve the state and the University of Florida,” said Heavener, a UF trustee since 2013 and board chair during the last two years of the university’s mini-renaissance.

“My life has been profoundly impacted and enriched through the opportunities I’ve had to interact with many forward-thinking leaders who are making a significant difference in people’s lives each and every day,” he added. “I continue to be inspired by the dedication and determination of these leaders, and I am confident that we will continue to reach new levels of excellence.”

While some of the accomplishments are well known, the less visible steps — such as the new campus master plan — are just as important to move UF forward. New Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini is following Heavener’s steps in that direction. Working with Heavener and other campus leaders, one of his goals is a Top 5 national ranking for the university.

“Much was accomplished under Bill Heavener’s leadership, and the University of Florida is poised to take the next step toward the goal of becoming a Top 5 public university,” Hosseini said. “The foundation has been set, and I look forward to working with my fellow trustees, university leaders, faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends in continuing to advance one of America’s great universities.”

UF’s rise is due in part to Heavener’s leadership and devotion to his alma mater, said Tom Mitchell, UF’s vice president for Advancement. He points to Heavener’s visionary leadership in a string of $400 million-plus fundraising years and the university’s $3 billion Go Greater campaign, which has already passed the halfway point to its fundraising goal, with $1.75 billion raised in just four years.

“Bill is a humble guy. He works with people however he can to help them reach their potential,” Mitchell said. “Because of his leadership, the University of Florida is better prepared to assist students and faculty in achieving their goals; and, ultimately, the university is favorably positioned to serve society as a whole.”

Five Years of Firsts

Notable Achievements at UF from 2013-2018

Ranked No. 8 among all national public universities

increases UF’s reputation as a higher education influencer and allows more opportunities to impact society.

Plan to increase faculty by 500

improves the professor-student ratio to provide more one-on-one mentoring, which better prepares students to be civic and career leaders.

Record state funding

allows the university to invest in people and programs that, in turn, benefit Florida’s residents through education, discovery and outreach.

Higher levels of financial aid for students

puts a UF education within reach for all deserving students, who can then go on to strengthen the workforce and be the difference-makers of their generation.

Tuition and fees below peers

keeps a UF education affordable, which opens the university’s doors to more students without fear of them going into heavy college debt.

Campus facilities master plan

creates a roadmap for strategic campus growth that allows the university to provide learning and living spaces that enhance academic excellence.

Strategic development plan for Gainesville-UF partnership

provides an innovative approach to the town-and-gown relationship to maximize experiences and opportunities for students, residents and businesses.

New athletics master plan, athletics director and head football coach

lays the groundwork for ongoing successes in Gator sports and for student-athletes, which brings wider recognition to the university and triumphs (both sports-related and post-sports) to our players.

Numerous new campus buildings

(such as two hospitals, chemistry and medical education buildings and initial funding for music and data sciences buildings) — ensures the university has the classrooms, laboratories, collision spaces and medical facilities to fulfill its academic and patient-care missions for the good of Floridians and the larger society.

Record research expenditures

elevates the university’s work in an array of life-touching research areas, from health care to world hunger, to solve humankind’s biggest challenges.

$3 billion Go Greater campaign

sets the university on a course that will make it an even greater resource for the 21st century by investing private gifts in programs, projects and initiatives that make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Record philanthropy

(more than halfway to campaign goal) — moves UF forward as one of the nation’s preeminent universities and as a trusted partner in addressing critical issues that are important to the people UF serves.

Enhanced governance strategies and structures

establishes best practices and the infrastructure to support UF’s aspirations to rise in national rankings, influence and impact.

The best is yet to come

Go Greater was a determination, embraced across campus. To continue that pursuit, the university looks to caring philanthropists — the people who feed ingenuity and exploration and create doers and bring ideas to life, imagination to fruition, promise to fulfilment and potential to exceptional. It’s those partnerships with far-sighted leaders that will make UF even more spectacular and enable the university to touch the lives of Earth’s 7 billion people.

So we can all Go Greater, together.

Give Now