The Creech Years (1973-1983)

President Glenwood L. Creech came to FAU from the University of Kentucky, where he had been vice president of university relations. A courtly Southern gentleman with wavy salt-and-pepper hair and a movie star smile, Dr. Creech was ideally suited to tackle the urgent challenge of increasing financial support for FAU. To encourage substantial private donations, the state had introduced a program that would match every gift of $600,000 made to endow an Eminent Scholar Chair with $400,000 in state funds, boosting the value of the donation to $1 million. Dr. Creech used this leveraging tool with great success, and FAU soon became the state leader in the procurement of these endowed chairs.

Million-dollar Eminent Scholar Chairs established under Dr. Creech include the Charles E. Schmidt Chair in Engineering, the Dorothy F. Schmidt Chair in the Performing and Visual Arts, the Charles Stewart Mott Chair in Community Education, the Eugene and Christine Lynn Chair in Business and the Robert J. Morrow Chair in Social Science.

The Schmidt and Lynn families were to become sustaining friends of the university, demonstrating real interest in its development over the years and making multiple donations of astounding generosity. By 2001, the Schmidts had contributed more than $53 million to FAU, including state matching funds, enriching the life of the university in a host of ways, from establishing an innovative medical education partnership with the University of Miami to attracting legends of the American theatre to FAU’s performing arts program. Occupants of the Dorothy F. Schmidt Chair in the Performing Arts have included director Joshua Logan, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and Tony Award-winning Broadway stars Hume Cronyn and Zoe Caldwell. The Schmidt Family Foundation’s 1998 gift of $15 million ($30 million with the dollar-for-dollar state match permitted at that level) set a record for private donations to public education in Florida. Today the College of Arts and Letters bears the name of Dorothy F. Schmidt, and both the College of Science and the College of Biomedical Science are named in honor of her husband, Charles E. Schmidt.

Eugene and Christine Lynn focused their philanthropy on the College of Business and the College of Nursing, donating more than $32 million over the course of two decades. A former registered nurse, Mrs. Lynn made a $10 million ($20 million with the state match) gift to FAU’s widely admired nursing program in 2001. Thanks to her great generosity and dedication to the college’s guiding philosophy of caring, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is now housed in one of the most beautiful and highly functional facilities of its kind in the United States.

During the presidency of Dr. Creech, the Boca Raton campus began to take on a new look, thanks to his success in getting the state and private parties to donate landscaping to the largely barren former airfield. He asked for and received a $5,000 grant from Tallahassee to plant trees on campus, and he invited the community to help in the beautification effort. Ever the FAU supporter, Tom Fleming responded to the call with six huge ficus trees, which provided deep wells of shade on the lawn in front of the Administration Building until they were uprooted during the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. In the mid-1970s, mathematics professor Jack Freeman organized a work party of students that, with some help from the Florida Department of Transportation, managed to carry out the Herculean task of digging up and moving several dozen full-grown live oak trees from the path of I-95, which was under construction a half-mile west of the Boca Raton campus. These trees took root in several spots, most notably at the south end of the Breezeway where they stand today as Heritage Park.

At the end of his decade in office, Dr. Creech could take justifiable pride in a university that had matured both academically and physically under his leadership. Major additions to campus included the University Center and its 2,400-seat auditorium, the Engineering Building and the 70,000-square-foot Gymnasium. As a tribute to Dr. Creech upon his retirement in 1983, donors funded the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science. That year, as it approached its 20th anniversary, the university had 9,388 students and its alumni base had grown to 30,243. Some big changes lay ahead.