The Kelly Years

On January 17, 2014, at the conclusion of a national search, the FAU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name
Dr. John Kelly the university’s seventh president. Dr. Kelly came to FAU from Clemson University, where he held a succession of leadership positions over a 28-year period.

To say President Kelly hit the ground running would be an understatement. He arrived at FAU in March 2014 and immediately began meeting with key groups and individuals, including elected officials, business and civic leaders, university donors and friends, and members of the news media. His first major initiative was creation of a new strategic plan that would guide FAU steadily upward along a 10-year arc to 2025. His vision was clear: “Florida Atlantic will pursue, with Unbridled Ambition®, the intention of becoming the country’s fastest-improving public research university.”

After a four-month “listening tour” during which he met with faculty, staff, administrators, students and other stakeholders, Dr. Kelly discovered that FAU was filled with “hidden jewels” and it was his job to make sure those jewels were polished to a high shine and displayed on the national stage. He brought a fresh, new perspective to FAU and his optimism had an energizing effect on many in the university community.

People both inside and outside the university soon learned that President Kelly was serious about taking FAU to higher levels of achievement and recognition. He reached out to a broad range of stakeholders seeking input to the strategic plan, which was completed in the spring of 2015 and presented to the Board of Trustees under the title The Race to Excellence. It received unanimous Board approval on March 24, 2015.

A major funding challenge faced the university shortly after President Kelly’s arrival. In 2014, the Florida Board of Governors introduced a new, performance-based funding policy for the state’s 12 public universities, ranking them on the basis of a points system. FAU scored low overall because of poor performance in two areas: the freshman retention rate and the six-year first-time-in-college graduation rate.

Faced with a $7 million reduction of the university’s budget, President Kelly led the charge to put programs in place that would fast-track improved performance. Strategies included hiring 26 new academic advisers, making advising services more accessible to evening commuter students by offering them in parking garages on the Boca Raton campus (an innovation that made news locally), introducing a “JumpStart” summer program for incoming freshmen to help them get off on the right track, and developing detailed plans of study called “flight plans” for lower-division students. These and other changes yielded impressive results and within just one year, FAU’s metrics had improved so dramatically that the $7 million was restored and the university qualified for $11.3 million in additional performance-based funding.

As the 2014 holiday season approached, FAU received a truly remarkable gift: a $16 million donation from the Schmidt Family Foundation to build a state-of-the-art facility on the Boca Raton campus to help student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the playing field. The gift – the largest single donation in FAU’s history – provided initial funding for the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence. It will be located adjacent to FAU Stadium and will offer enrichment opportunities to all students, including those who are not part of the university’s athletics program.

Speaking on behalf of the Schmidt Family Foundation, longtime FAU supporter and 1970 alumnus Richard L. Schmidt said, “The Foundation believes Florida Atlantic University — our university right here in Boca Raton — is poised for greatness. As a community, we understand that to compete at the highest levels, in and out of the classroom, students must have access to premier facilities.”

President Kelly said the Schmidt Family Foundation’s overwhelming generosity will help FAU gain national recognition as a great university. “With a main campus less than two miles from some of the country’s most pristine coastline, FAU has enormous potential and will become an irresistible draw for the best and brightest students,” he said. “We’re going to play to win — and that means in the classroom and on the field.”

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In addition to leading FAU’s reversal of fortune in the State University System rankings, President Kelly was active on other fronts. He reached out to some of the world’s most accomplished biomedical research organizations to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. The most exciting of these initiatives was a renewed relationship linking FAU with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, both of which built major research facilities on FAU’s Jupiter campus a few years before President Kelly’s arrival. In March 2015, principals of the organizations came together in a news conference to announce a new focus. President Kelly, Scripps Acting President and CEO James Paulson and Max Planck CEO and Scientific Director David Fitzpatrick pledged to work cooperatively to establish a one-of-a-kind education program that would allow FAU students to work side by side in state-of-the-art laboratories with some of the world’s leading scientific researchers, including Nobel Laureates.

“This initiative comes from the core of economic development,” President Kelly said. “FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will solve real-world problems and take strides to improve human health. We will create the knowledge economy of the future. Moreover, we will provide students unique scientific research programs that will be the envy of the world.”

In the spring of 2015, President Kelly also led the university’s 112th commencement ceremonies, which celebrated the graduation of the largest class in FAU’s history – 3,268 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the first 53 students to be awarded M.D. degrees by the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. All of these new physicians got residency matches to continue their medical education in specializations of their choice, including some who were bound for prestigious Ivy League institutions such as Yale University’s New Haven Hospital and Brown University’s Rhode Island Hospital. Additionally, FAU’s College of Medicine was awarded full accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs in the U.S. and Canada. The college’s recently launched residency program in internal medicine received more than 4,700 applications for the 36 available positions.

In fall 2015, FAU welcomed home some very special Owls, as members of the very first graduating class – the Class of 1965 – returned to the Boca Raton campus to be inducted into the Majestic Owls Society. The Society was created by the FAU Alumni Association to celebrate the 50th anniversary of each graduating class, beginning with the Class of ’65.

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Spring of 2016 was an exciting time for the university. When the Board of Governors released the scores and rankings, incredibly, FAU was No. 1 on the list! Highlights of the report card included:

  • FAU ranked first in the state in percent of bachelor’s graduates employed full-time or continuing their education one year from graduation.
  • Over the last two years, FAU’s six-year graduation rate increased by 8 percent.
  • FAU increased its academic progress rate by 6 percent.
  • FAU consistently ranked in the top two for median average full-time wages of undergraduates employed in Florida one year after graduation.

Some of the new performance funds received were used to upgrade facilities, including the Breezeway. Since 1961, the Breezeway has been “Main Street FAU,” linking the four original buildings used by FAU’s first students – the Library, the Learning Resources Building, the Sanson Science Building and General Classrooms South – and serving as a gathering place for students between classes. Construction began in the summer of 2016 and included concrete repairs and waterproofing of the original structure, as well as roof replacement, restroom refurbishment and LED lighting enhancements.

FAU’s baseball and softball teams both ended the 2016 season as Conference USA champions. The baseball team made its 12th NCAA Regional appearance and was ranked as high as 12th nationally. The softball team made its second-straight NCAA Regional appearance. FAU was one of only seven universities nationwide to have both baseball and softball teams end the season ranked in the Top 25.

The year ended with two exciting announcements. The first was that FAU’s Brain Institute would be home to a Nikon Center of Excellence. With this partnership, FAU would benefit from Nikon technical expertise and access to high-end research microscopes at a favorable cost, while Nikon gained a showcase for its products and valuable feedback from our scientists. FAU was just the seventh designated center in the United States and one of only 17 worldwide. This strategic partnership represented a commitment by both FAU and Nikon to accelerating advancements in neuroscience.

The second exciting announcement was that Lane Kiffin would be FAU’s next head football coach. He joined FAU from the University of Alabama where, as offensive coordinator, he helped the Crimson Tide win a National Championship. College football in South Florida was about to be transformed, and the Owls, under Coach Kiffin, would be leading the charge.

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FAU kicked off 2017 by breaking ground on the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence, which would help create a national model of academic excellence in athletics. Among the friends who attended this momentous event were three Owls who were playing in the NFL: Brandin Bryant, Trevon Coley and Lucky Whitehead; as well as the Complex’s major donors: Dick and Barb Schmidt, Eleanor Baldwin, Bobby and Barbara Campbell and Christine Lynn.

The university received designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The designation, which is awarded to colleges and universities with enrollment of full-time Hispanic undergraduate students of at least 25 percent, would help FAU further serve this growing population.

FAU continued to receive transformational gifts from generous donors. The School of Social Work within the College for Design and Social Inquiry received a spectacular $7 million gift from longtime benefactors Phyllis and Harvey Sandler to name The Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work. The gift established certificate programs in neuroscience, military and veterans’ affairs, and leadership and nonprofit management; a Substance Misuse, Mental Health and Research Center; and the Robin Rubin Mindfulness and Wellness Center, in honor of Phyllis and Harvey’s daughter Robin, an FAU alumna and School of Social Work faculty member. FAU’s Lifelong Learning Society received a $4 million endowment grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation. The program was renamed the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Florida Atlantic University in his honor. OLLI at FAU, which is dedicated to offering intellectually enriching educational experiences to older adults with non-credit courses, is believed to be the largest program of its kind in the country.

In May 2017, FAU celebrated a new kind of signing day – for academics rather than athletics – as four of the nation’s brightest teens were officially accepted into an innovative new medical school pipeline program. The FAU High School M.D. Direct program places gifted high school students directly in line to earn their medical degrees and is the first of its kind to be launched in the United States. They will complete their B.S. degree within one year and complete a graduate program at FAU or approved research program, among other requirements, prior to entering medical school.

FAU’s commitment to providing quality research opportunities for undergraduates paid off in Fall 2017, when the Council on Undergraduate Research named FAU one of three recipients of the Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments. This national award recognizes institutions that have developed exemplary programs that provide high-quality research, scholarship and creative experiences for undergraduate students.

The FAU football team had a banner year, winning its first-ever Conference USA championship! The Owls defeated the University of North Texas 41-17, which was the largest margin of victory in C-USA Championship Game history. The team finished the season on an impressive nine-game win streak, bringing their overall record to 10-3 and becoming only the second team in C-USA history to finish with a 9-0 conference record. The Owls’ historic season came to a close with a 50-3 win over Akron in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl. The 47-point margin of victory was the largest in FBS history.

In December 2017, FAU and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience announced a program unlike any other in the world. Designed to recruit and serve the very best of the best, the FAU Max Planck Honors Program – an undergraduate honors program in neuroscience – would offer exclusive electives, research opportunities and cutting-edge neuroscience training courses for high-achieving students. The program would be offered on the Jupiter campus beginning in fall 2018.

2017 was a year unlike any other for FAU, as the university set new records for private gifts to the FAU Foundation, National Merit Scholar students enrolled, research contracts and grants, and football wins. FAU was well on its way to achieving President Kelly’s vision of becoming “America’s fastest improving university.”

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FAU had much to celebrate in 2018, including two significant anniversaries. A.D. Henderson University School turned 50 years old and was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education for the second time. It also marked the 10th anniversary of FAU’s acquisition of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Ocean Science and Engineering/Environmental Sciences are top priorities for FAU, and Harbor Branch is at the epicenter of the important work taking place in these areas.

The university also welcomed several new members to the FAU family, including Brian White, who was named vice president and director of athletics. Brian came to FAU from the University of Missouri, where he served as senior associate athletics director and deputy athletics director for external relations. His vision for athletics at FAU was summed up with the phrase “win it right” and his plans included enhancing the student-athlete experience, growing resources, improving facilities, and strengthening FAU’s family and community-oriented culture.

Just weeks after he arrived at FAU, Brian announced that Dusty May would lead the men’s basketball team into a new era of success as head coach. Dusty came from the University of Florida, where he helped the Gators earn back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

FAU also welcomed Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D., as the new provost and vice president for academic affairs. He succeeded Gary Perry, Ph.D., who rejoined the faculty after making a tremendous impact on the university’s progress as provost since 2014. Dr. Danilowicz came to FAU from Oklahoma State University, where he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2012.

In the summer and fall of 2018, FAU Harbor Branch researchers were hard at work studying the toxic blue-green algae that plagued many parts of our waterways, as well as the red tide that was discovered in patches from the Treasure Coast all the way down to Miami-Dade County, leading to the temporary closure of several local beaches. FAU Harbor Branch researchers served as a resource to state and federal agencies, lawmakers and the community on both blue-green algae and red tide, providing up-to-date information and scientific analysis.

FAU received some significant gifts and grants in 2018. Former Trustee Dan Cane and his wife, Debra, gave $1 million to help to further advance STEM research and education at A.D. Henderson and FAU High School through the Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies. Alumna Kathleen Brush, Ph.D., gave more than $1.3 million to the College of Business to help the university further support gender equality in leadership through the Kathleen Brush Program for Women in Leadership. FAU’s ocean engineering program received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to develop an autonomous multi-vehicle system that could help secure our coastal waters and at-sea assets by navigating coastal waters while performing assigned tasks, such as surveillance, coastal surveys and target tracking. FAU Schools was awarded a $2.24 million Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study, enhance and replicate its highly successful early college model.

Other accolades and awards in 2018 included the softball and women’s soccer teams earning Conference USA regular season titles; FAU winning the ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award from the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, which recognizes members of the community for their role in helping women achieve their full potential; and the Leon Charney Diplomacy Program winning its first-ever national title at the National Model United Nations competition.

2018 ended with the exciting announcement of a program that would give local high school students an experience that no other child in the world would have. In partnership with leaders from the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and Max Planck Germany, President Kelly and Superintendent of FAU PK-12 Schools Joel Herbst announced the creation of the FAU Max Planck Academy. Located on the Jupiter campus, the Academy would give high school students the opportunity to study and work alongside Ph.D.s from Max Planck, the preeminent neuroscience research institute in the world. The Academy plans to welcome it first full class of 35-50 students in 2020.

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FAU entered 2019 with an invigorating debut on the U.S. News & World Report list for Top Public Schools, ranking No. 140 in the nation. Additionally, Florida Atlantic ranked No. 45 for national Social Mobility, a new category that evaluates graduation rates of low-income and Pell-awarded students. At FAU, Pell-eligible, first-generation, African American and Hispanic students all outpace the university’s overall retention and graduation rates — an accomplishment that eliminates historical achievement gaps between minority and white students. For the third consecutive year, FAU ranked among the most ethnically diverse universities in the United States with a “diversity index” score of .68 out of 1.0. In the state rankings, FAU topped the list as the most diverse public university in Florida.

In light of these tremendous achievements, and with confidence in FAU’s bold vision for the future, the Florida Legislature approved funding for the FAU 100 initiative, a strategic effort intended to launch FAU into the top 100 ranked public universities in the nation.

Another important endorsement in 2019 came from the Florida Board of Governors when they approved FAU as a University of Distinction for artificial intelligence and data science. The launch of FAU’s master’s degree in AI through the College of Engineering and Computer Science was the first of its kind in Florida. The Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College also established a major concentration in data analytics and a minor concentration in data science, both focused on the ethics of data use.

Midway through the year, President Kelly and a delegation from FAU joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a business development mission to Israel. During the visit, existing relationships were strengthened and several new Memorandums of Understanding were signed, for the advancement of research and educational opportunities that benefit students both at FAU and in Israel.

Thanks to the generosity of FAU friends and supporters, the university received several large gifts in 2019. Entrepreneurs and philanthropists Rubin and Cindy Gruber gifted $1 million for FAU’s Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics Lab, a 3,400-square-foot space in the S.E. Wimberly Library, and student scholarships. Longtime supporters Rocco and Mary Abessinio gave a substantial $3 million to FAU athletics, making it the fifth-largest gift in program history.

New talent came to FAU in 2019 as well. Safiya George, Ph.D., became the dean of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and Stephen Silverman, Ed.D., became the dean of the College of Education.

Advancing the competition in athletics, FAU achieved several wins throughout the year:

  • The FAU baseball team was named the Conference USA Regular Season Champions, with six of its members earning All-Conference awards. Five players were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft: Pedro Pages, Mike Ruff, Eric Rivera, Vince Coletti and Blake Sanderson.
  • The FAU women’s soccer team won their second consecutive Conference USA Regular Season title, ranking No. 23 nationally in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Ratings Percentage Index.
  • The FAU football team won their Conference USA championship by defeating the University of Alabama at Birmingham 49-6, the largest margin of victory in C-USA title game history. Tight end Harrison Bryant was named to the C-USA All-Academic Team and cornerback Meiko Dotson led the nation in interceptions. Additionally, the team ranked No. 1 nationally in turnover margin. They finished out the year by winning the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium, making the FAU football team 4-0 in bowl game victories.

Inductees into FAU’s Athletic Hall of Fame for 2019 included founding softball coach Joan Joyce, baseball coach John McCormack, founding football coach Howard Schnellenberger, basketball player and two-time Olympic speedskating bronze medalist Brittany Bowe, baseball player Jeff Fiorentino, football players Alfred Morris and Rusty Smith, and softball player Chris Sutcliffe.

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In 2020, the world experienced widespread disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With personal protective equipment in short supply, FAU researchers quickly developed a life-saving face shield using minimal resources. In addition to providing thousands of PPE units to Baptist Health South Florida facilities, FAU shared the blueprint with other academic institutions and industries to deepen the impact. As the pandemic continued, FAU researchers directed their efforts toward understanding how the virus spreads and developing the best ways to prevent infection.

To assist with rising unemployment rates during this time, FAU’s nationally ranked Hospitality and Tourism Management program waived all fees for its Certificate in Hospitality and Tourism Management, providing free training for nearly 58,000 people in 146 countries.

As much as FAU gave during 2020, it also received in record-setting ways. Benefactors Kurt and Marilyn Wallach donated an astounding $20 million gift – the largest in FAU history – to establish the Kurt and Marilyn Wallach Institute for Holocaust and Jewish Studies. The institute, housed in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, aims to increase research activities surrounding the Holocaust, Jewish studies and human rights issues. Later in the year, FAU awarded an honorary doctoral degree to Kurt Wallach for his lifelong dedication to educating the world about the Holocaust and for his tireless work to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.

In further support of Holocaust and human rights studies, Arthur Gutterman provided a multi-million dollar gift to name the Arthur and Emalie Gutterman Family Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education on the Boca Raton campus. The goal of the center is to prepare K-12 educators and support staff for instruction on Holocaust subjects through learning opportunities, resources and curriculum guidance.

In the research arena, FAU achieved a major milestone in sponsored funding for 2020, receiving $38.9 million in federal, state and private agency contributions — a 92 percent increase from 2019. Research grants included an $11 million contract from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to study ocean bioluminescence; a $5.3 million R01 grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health to test and evaluate an unobtrusive in-vehicle sensing system; a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train graduate students in data science technologies and applications; and a $2.2 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee project.

Awards continued to flow to FAU through other outlets as well. President Kelly received the Sun Sentinel’s 2020 Excalibur Award for Large Business Leader of the Year in Palm Beach County, FAU was one of 119 institutions nationwide to receive the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, and the University continued to climb the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

  • FAU ranked No. 73 for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs, ascending 160 places since 2019.
  • The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing ranked No. 7 for Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs in the nation, also becoming the top-ranked program in Florida.
  • The College of Business ranked No. 69 for the Best Online MBA Programs, No. 37 for the Best Online Business Programs – non-MBA, and one of the Best Online Programs for Veterans.
  • The College of Education rose to No. 48 for Best Online Education Programs, rising from No. 77 in 2019.

FAU’s A.D. Henderson University School also received national acclaim in 2020, ranking as the No. 2 Best Public Elementary School in America and the No. 2 Best Public Elementary School in Florida by Niche, the largest website for researching public and private K-12 schools. For grades 6 through 8, Henderson was ranked the No. 11 Best Public Middle School in America and the No. 2 Best Public Middle School in Florida. FAU also ranked No. 2 on the list for Best Public High Schools in Florida. Additionally, FAU High produced 34 National Merit semifinalists, more than any other public or charter school in Florida.

In the summer of 2020, the university welcomed Justin Perry, Ph.D., as dean of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College. That fall, after several delays due to the pandemic, FAU Football took the field on October 3 under the leadership of new head coach Willie Taggart.

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In 2021, FAU entered its 60th year of establishment as the university community returned to campus for traditional in-person instruction and experiences. Nearly 4,000 of those who began classes were first year students, and the average high school GPA for incoming first-time-in-college students rose to 3.95—a notable increase from 3.79 in fall 2020. To house this large cohort, residence halls on the Boca Raton campus reached 100 percent capacity, providing beds for more than 4,600 students in Boca Raton and more than 400 students in Jupiter.

Reaching another important milestone in 2021, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute celebrated its 50th Anniversary of pursuing Ocean Science for a Better World®. Since becoming part of the university in 2007, HBOI has expanded its presence to include more than 100 miles along Florida’s east coast and continues to lead the nation as an expert source for marine science research, conservation and education.

Thanks to the continuous hard work and dedication of the institution’s students, faculty and staff, FAU ranked No. 3 among Florida’s public universities in the 2021 State University System Performance-Based Funding rankings, recording its highest-ever score of 89 points from a possible 100.

Another area in which FAU excelled was Total Research Expenditures, a unique system metric selected by the university’s Board of Trustees. In Q1 alone, researchers received $38.9 million in federal, state and private agency funding — a whopping 92 percent increase compared to the same timeframe in 2020. By Q4, FAU received more than $78.5 million in external sponsored research awards to FAU faculty — a 24 percent jump from 2020.

Additionally, the 4-year graduation rate reached 47.5 percent, contributing to FAU’s steady 10.1 percent overall increase in the state rankings over the past five years. This growth represents more than 950 additional FAU bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. In light of this accomplishment, FAU was recognized as one of three national finalists for the 2021 Degree Completion Award by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

For the university’s dedication to diversity, FAU received the 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

In spring 2021, FAU’s research partnership with Memorial Healthcare System was named a “Florida Cancer Center of Excellence” by the state’s Department of Health for the program’s success in research and survivorship, and its multi-disciplinary approach in patient care. MCIFAU was the fifth center established in Florida and was selected from a pool of more than 80 competitors to earn the designation. The center aims to accelerate lifesaving cancer research, clinical trials, patient care, and education in Florida and beyond.

As part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, FAU opened the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence on the Boca Raton campus. The Center received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the nation’s first-of-its-kind testbed platform that connects robots using extremely high-speed millimeter wave links. In the same year, the college was ranked one of the top three fastest improving engineering colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

To honor FAU’s military history, the university unveiled a Florida Heritage Site historical marker in remembrance of nine airmen who tragically died after their B-34 plane crashed during a routine training flight on May 12, 1944. The marker can be found at the southeast corner of FAU Boulevard and N University Drive.

In the spirit of generosity, more than 6,800 donors gave $56.5 million to the FAU Foundation in fiscal year 2020-21—a milestone that marks a nearly 70 percent increase over the previous year, and a more than 100 percent increase from five years prior. Gifts of all sizes came from alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the university. Combined, their gifts helped to support student scholarships, world-class research activities, and a variety of programs that help FAU students succeed.

Additionally, FAU received several individual gifts from its esteemed supporters, including a $10 million gift from David J.S. Nicholson to name FAU’s Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute at the John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter; a $2.5 million donation to the FAU football program from Michelle and Michael Hagerty; and more than $2 million as a planned gift from emeritus professor and alumnus Eric Shaw ’72, ’73, Ph.D., to benefit various athletics, business, arts and letters, and other university programs.

Two notable Owls joined the FAU family in 2021. Christopher J. Delisio was selected as vice president for Institutional Advancement and chief executive officer of the FAU Foundation. Jennifer Sullivan joined FAU as head coach of the women’s basketball team.

In December, FAU celebrated the official opening of the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence on the Boca Raton campus. This transformative facility was designed to play a central role in elevating the university’s academic and athletic standing while helping all students reach their greatest potential. Features of the complex include the Bobby and Barbara Campbell Academic Success Center, the Avron B. Fogelman Sports History Museum, The Christine E. Lynn Sports Medicine Center and the Eleanor R Baldwin History and Tradition Hall.

FAU’s beach volleyball team, also known as the Sandy Owls, won its first conference title in the 2021 Coastal Collegiate Sports Association’s Beach Volleyball Blue Bracket Championship. It was the team’s 20th win of the season and coach Capri Grotowski’s 100th career victory. The Sandy Owls ended the season ranked No. 12 nationally.

Gearing up for a new competition, FAU entered into a future membership agreement with the American Athletic Conference, providing the university and its teams a number of benefits, including more expansive media coverage and opportunities for student-athletes to compete in a Power 6 conference.

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