By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2016) – Shirley and Art Sotloff believe that their son, Steven, found his true calling while he was a student at UCF from 2002-04.
It’s that connection that prompted them to help create a scholarship in his name when Steven was killed after being taken hostage as a freelance journalist by terrorist group ISIS in 2014.
Recently, the Sotloffs visited campus to commemorate the first awarded scholarship from The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund to senior Adam Manno.
“Knowing that our son’s name lives on, and that the endowment will touch the lives of students with similar interests as his own, truly touches our entire family,” Shirley said.
Manno is expected to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. He was born in the Dominican Republic but attended high school in South Florida, where he got his first taste of journalism while working for his school newspaper.
He chose UCF because it encompassed everything he was looking for: a big school in an interesting and vibrant city, a well-renowned journalism department and a financial aid offer “thanks to UCF’s vision of education for all.”
“That’s one thing I really love about the school – it makes sure everyone who wants an education can get one,” he said. “It’s been very good to me.”
Manno was a sophomore at the time of Sotloff’s tragic death. He attended the vigil that was held on campus a day after the news broke worldwide. Manno said it both saddened and mobilized him.
“I just want to write and shed light on the stories that deserve to be told,” he said. “Like Steven did.”
Before Steven died, he managed to smuggle out a letter to his parents. They said that he wrote of his desire to give back.
After his death, the Sotloffs helped start the fund, which provides scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism as well as funding for symposia, lectures and other programming to advance journalism and journalism education.
Manno was honored to be chosen as the first recipient and understands the significance it carries.
“This is a scholarship directly tied to someone’s sacrifice for my profession. He was a former UCF student out there pursuing his life’s work. That’s all he was doing, and that’s what led to his death. It means more to me than just the money,” Manno said. “It means that I have to work hard to prove myself worthy of it. It’s an incentive that comes with a big responsibility.”
The fund still has room for growth. The Nicholson family, benefactors of the Nicholson School of Communication, pledged to match every dollar given up to $25,000.
Sonja and Tony Nicholson have spent time getting to know the Sotloffs and didn’t hesitate to extend their heartfelt support.
“They want their son’s name to live on. We felt that was a very small gesture on our part. We can’t ease that pain for them, but we can help carry his name on,” she said. “We just feel like [giving back is] so important because it touches so many lives, and we care about the students.”
Those interested in donating can do so by visiting: https://www.ucffoundation.org/sotloff.
While on campus, the Sotloffs told Steven’s story to a room of College of Sciences scholarship recipients and their donors. There were some tears and a nod to Steven’s presence, who they believed was looking down with gratitude.
“The years he spent here, he really enjoyed, especially the rugby team. That was his passion and his love,” Art said.
As the Sotloffs said their goodbyes, Shirley looked back and said quietly, “our hearts are here.”
1. All hail, UCF’s newest royalty! Kevin Louidor and Sabrina Jérôme were named Homecoming King and Queen on Saturday. Jérôme is a regional and cultural studies/political science senior and is a member of the President’s Leadership Council. She aspires to attend law school and eventually serve as a social justice advocate for immigrant populations. Louidor is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and a health service administration junior.
2. Knights Give Back, UCF’s annual day of volunteer service to the community, will celebrate a decade of commitment this week. Through the years, volunteers have provided about $600,000 in services to the community. To see all the opportunities and register for the event on Oct. 22, click here.
3. There were a couple of honorary UCF spirit team members at the football game Saturday from Limbitless Solutions. “Ironman kid” Alex Pring and fellow Limbitless kid Annika Emmert helped lead the March to Victory to the stadium before taking part in the Black and Gold cheer during a timeout on the field. The Limbitless team, led by two-time alumnus and current doctoral student Albert Manero, was invited to be recognized at the game for their revolutionary work in bionic engineering.
— Limbitless Solutions (@Limbitless3D) October 16, 2016
4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy will have a one-hour debate on Oct. 17 at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center – the on-campus home for all UCF alumni. The debate will be simulcast live on ABC affiliates throughout the state, as well as Cox Media Group radio stations. A livestream will be available online.
5. Fans now have a chance to own UCF’s special edition reflecting helmets from its Homecoming matchup against Temple. A limited number of the helmets, which feature special reflective decals that pay homage to Spirit Splash, are now up for auction on UCFKnights.com. A select number are autographed by head coach Scott Frost.
By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2016) – Fate, and a dash of chemistry, brought together two-time alumna Cynthia McCurry and current College of Sciences student Lauren Gandy.
McCurry has supported a scholarship for the College of Sciences since 2001. Students of various science majors have received the scholarship over the years, but until this fall, it had been awarded just once to a chemistry major.
So McCurry’s day was made when she found out Gandy, this year’s George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship recipient, shared her interest in chemistry.
“I’m just so glad that there are students coming out of the school who are making a difference,” McCurry said. “I’m especially pleased that we are turning out sciences majors who are women.”
McCurry graduated in 1980 with her bachelor’s degree in chemistry before earning her master’s in industrial chemistry two years later.
Gandy is a double major in forensic biochemistry and French. She is also pursuing two minors in chemistry and biomedical sciences. She decided to attend UCF because of its forensic science program and plans on furthering her education in a biochemical doctoral program.
One day, she would like to work within a chemical preparedness center to support safety from chemical attacks for the Department of Defense and the military.
The two talked about this and more during their first meeting in an event organized by the College of Sciences that paired donors with their recipients.
“I was fortunate to receive a scholarship last year as well but I didn’t get a chance to meet the donor. I think this year has been changed in so many ways because I’ve been able to meet her and see that chemists are supporting chemists. Engineers are supporting engineers. Just continuing that legacy,” Gandy said. “It’s so wonderful knowing there are people out there who I can look up to and who are supporting students like me.”
McCurry and her siblings set up the George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship in honor of their parents, who she said always pushed their children to invest their time in education. All three of the McCurry children received degrees from UCF.
“We never thought of not going to school,” McCurry said. “We wanted to do the scholarship in their name. They were so happy that UCF was built here in Orlando and that we were able to attend. I try to support the school the best that I can.”
It took McCurry and Gandy less than two hours and one shared meal to form an emotional connection. As they neared the end of their conversation, they both started to tear up.
“I’m just so honored that I was able to help you in some small way,” McCurry told Gandy.
Gandy paused for a moment and replied, heartfelt: “Words can’t really express it.”
IT’S HOMECOMING WEEK!
1. We’re kicking off Homecoming Week with a special Black-and-Gold-spirited edition of Five Things. Fun fact: This year is the 45th anniversary of Homecoming at UCF, which started in 1971. It originally was held to coincide with basketball season, which was the university’s first varsity sport.
2. This year’s theme is “Celebrate The Knight.” Alumni looking to attend Concert Knight (Ludacris, Ty Dolla $ign) or Comedy Knight (Nick Swardson) can purchase discounted tickets to these events at the CFE Arena box office or on Ticketmaster. Use the code “HC2016” to receive $5 off the regularly priced $25 tickets.
3. Spirit Splash, one of the most unique campus traditions in the nation, will go down at the Reflecting Pond from noon-2 p.m. Friday – the actual splash is expected to commence at 1 p.m.
4. UCF Alumni’s annual golf tournament and the Black & Gold Takeover will also take place on Friday. Connect with fellow AlumKnights as we start the fun-filled weekend early. Find out more information about these events, including how to register, here.
5. It all leads to Saturday – UCF football’s matchup against Temple under the lights at Bright House Networks Stadium. History is on the Knights’ side as the football team holds a 25-11 mark on Homecoming. The UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate will start at 4:30 p.m., and #UCFansWear any color – black and gold approved, of course – for the game. You can also check out the UCF Tailgate Concert Series prior to kickoff where Better Than Ezra will be playing.
1. Shoutout to Pegasus magazine, which earned four awards recently including the highest award — the 2016 Magazine of the Year — from the Florida Magazine Association! The top honor doesn’t just pertain to college magazines – it means it is the best magazine in Florida, period. It also won the top awards in the following categories: Best Overall Online Presence; Best Overall Design, Association; and Best Overall Magazine, Association.
2. Just in time for Halloween, Theatre UCF comes alive with The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, running Oct. 20-30 on the UCF Main Stage. Tickets for Young Frankenstein are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatre.ucf.edu or by calling or visiting the box office Monday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. at 407-823-1500.
3. UCF Football opened conference play with a win at East Carolina over the weekend. Up next, the Knights return home for an ESPNU matchup on Friday against Tulane. #UCFansWear black for the 8 p.m. kickoff, and as always, the UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate is the place to get your gameday started! The tailgate will start at 5 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
4. UCF Alumni Career Services is hosting a professional development workshop on Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. Topics such as networking, interviewing, resumes and cover letters will be discussed. Take advantage of this FREE opportunity.
5. UCF recently joined The Common App, an online tool that allows students to apply to more than 700 colleges and universities using a single application. “The tool will help us reach more students who might not have otherwise considered applying to UCF. It streamlines the admissions process and allows us to attract more high-quality, diverse students – both socioeconomically and geographically,” said Gordon Chavis, UCF’s associate vice president of enrollment services. In Fall 2015, the freshman class had an average SAT two-score of 1261, so onward and upward, UCF!
Lisa Kauffman is a dual major (radio television; political science) in the College of Sciences and expects to graduate in December 2016. She is this year’s recipient of the Sonja Rose Nicholson Endowed Scholarship and the Margaret Gerow/Daniel J. May Communications Scholarship. She currently interns within the Orange County Government Communications Division and hopes to pursue a career in the field.
“I began my journey at UCF as an 18-year-old freshman. I was a pretty naïve kid who didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I was good at, and I wasn’t really confident in myself or my abilities. But I was excited to learn and I was ready for the adventure.
“It was a few years ago when I applied for scholarships through the College of Sciences. I remember the day when I was notified I received my first scholarship very clearly. It was one of the last days of final exams. I had just finished a three-hour exam and I was exhausted. I had way more caffeine than sleep in me at this point. I had my last exam just 30 minutes after this final was completed. I was dreading it. I was on my way to the exam and I decided to check my email. I opened it up and saw I was awarded a scholarship. I was elated. Suddenly all of my exhaustion lifted out of me, and I was motivated to ace that exam and finish the semester strong. That motivation, that inspiration didn’t leave me when I completed that exam. It didn’t leave me the next day or months. It stayed with me for years.
“Knowing that someone read over your degree audit and saw how hard you worked in your classes, or saw your resume or read about your passions and goals in the essay you wrote when you applied, and said, ‘This student has potential. I’m going to invest in this student,’ — that is one of the most inspiring and motivational moments for a student. By recognizing our potential, you’re helping us recognize the potential within ourselves. You give us motivation and the confidence in our abilities to pursue our passion.
“Through my past internships, campus involvement and confidence in my abilities, I am leaving UCF knowing the path I want to pursue. For me, my passion is political and government media and communications. I am currently interning at Orange County Government in the Communications Division. I know my journey wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my donors and the incredible support and inspiration they provided me with. As I said, I started college as a naïve freshman who was unsure of myself. I am leaving college as someone who recognizes my own potential and who is confident in my passion and my abilities. I will never lose that excitement to learn. I love UCF. I love going here. So thank you, donors. Thank you for investing in us and helping us recognize our own potential. I truly hope and plan to one day be in your seats and help students see their own potential.”
1. A former UCF SGA president and his longtime friend are garnering well-deserved attention with their free mobile showering service for the homeless in Palm Beach County, Florida. Chris Bentley graduated in in 2006 with a bachelor’s in legal studies and was living in New York City when he and Carlos Miller decided to start their non-profit, Live Fresh Palm Beach County. People Magazine recently featured the dynamic duo’s feel-good story.
2. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series begins this week with Wednesday’s “Evolution and the Significance of the Hobbits.” The series, which runs through April, brings renowned speakers from UCF and across the country to enrich the Central Florida community. All talks will be held at the Tuscawilla Country Club. For more information and to RSVP, visit: www.sciences.ucf.edu/dss.
3. Before UCF Football dominated FIU on Saturday, a special moment took place on the field for one UCF alumna and her family. Saturday’s game was the annual Coach to Cure MD game – an initiative that UCF has participated in every year since it began in 2008. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle disorder that causes loss of muscle function and independence with a lifetime expectancy that usually falls short of one’s 30s. Alumna Colleen Labbadia is the mother of Brendan, who was diagnosed with the disorder four years ago. The family drove down to Miami so Brendan could help in the coin toss and bring more awareness to the cause. Colleen Labbadia had this to say about the experience:
“Our family remains hopefully optimistic that through programs such as Coach to Cure MD, boys like Brendan will see a brighter and better future! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping us achieve that goal and for providing us with such an uplifting day full of special moments. We appreciate the entire team working alongside us to raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. UCF Football will always hold a special place in our hearts.”
4. UCF will celebrate World Heart Day this Thursday with a series of hands-only CPR trainings that aim to teach more than 1,000 members of the community quick, basic emergency response. Free training sessions will start every few minutes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom inside the Student Union.
5. The UCF and USF athletic departments announced the official establishment of the War On I-4 rivalry series. The Knights and Bulls will compete for year-long bragging rights with the winners in each of 14 sports scoring toward a final tally for each program. The winning university will take possession of a large trophy shaped like the iconic I-4 road sign.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 22, 2016) – Chris Johncke, ’08, founder and CEO of iFixYouri, attributes his success in life to the laws of attraction: If you exude positivity, positivity you shall receive.
It’s how the UCF alumnus credits building his company from a Craigslist ad to a 15-store-and-counting enterprise – one that has grown so much it is now the official device repair shop of the Boston Red Sox.
“Who would think that fixing phones would get you tied in doing business with the Red Sox?” Johncke said. “It’s an honor and a testament to hard work. If you put forth hard work, you’re going to get great results. If you’re going to put out positive energy, positive things are going to come back to you.”
Johncke did not set out to create a burgeoning technology business. iFixYouri is a result of a Plan B.
After graduating from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology, Johncke started working for a tech company in Lake Mary. When the economy dipped, Johncke was laid off.
The South Florida native moved back to the Palm Beach area and lived with his sister Michelle while he job hunted. To supplement his unemployment checks, he advertised computer repair on Craigslist.
He stumbled into the phone repair business out of necessity. When his own cell phone screen shattered, he figured out how to fix it on his own to save himself Apple’s repair fee.
When his friend asked him to fix her phone, too, Johncke updated his Craigslist ad and started driving around Palm Beach to work on customers’ devices with supplies he stashed in the trunk of his car.
“I always had an entrepreneur’s mindset. I always wanted to own my own business,” Johncke said. “You never know how things are going to pan out, but if you tell yourself something enough, you eventually figure out your path.”
Johncke’s business has now blossomed to more than a dozen stores and a mail-in center in the Palm Beach, Central Florida and Boston-area regions. With half of their stores in Central Florida, including one across from UCF’s main campus, they currently employ roughly a dozen UCF alumni or students in addition to students from Valencia College and Seminole State College.
“We pride ourselves in being a business that’s been founded by Knights,” he said.
His sister, Michelle Zausnig, ’03, an advertising/public relations alumna, joined the team in 2011. She described a feeling of similarity in iFixYouri’s growth with that of UCF’s rise in notoriety.
“When I started, nobody really knew who UCF was. Over the years, UCF became such a big thing,” she said. “It’s the same thing when I talk about the company we have here. Chris started from the back of his car and … it’s been nonstop, explosive growth throughout the years. It carries that same sense of pride that I had seeing UCF grow so much.”
Johncke and his team are loyal to their roots. It’s important to them that the company maintains a close-knit feel within the local community.
That’s why Johncke whole heartedly agreed to have a Pulse tribute mural painted on the side of the Mills 50 District store on the corner of Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue.
“I gave them free reign to put whatever on the building. [Artist Andrew Spear and Mills 50 executive director Joanne Grant] came up with a great concept, and the feedback from the community has been amazing,” he said. “Being that’s such a highly trafficked intersection in the Orlando area, it spreads a lot of care and love. It’s something for not only iFixYouri, but for everyone that lives in Orlando. It’s something they can be proud of.”
Johncke’s love for the city seems to go hand in hand with his feelings about his alma mater.
“What UCF gave to me was an education that was second-to-none. I was able to learn who I am and what I want to do,” he said. “Some of my best friends that I have to this day are UCF Knights. It wouldn’t have been possible to get on this track right now had it not been for all the resources that UCF was able to provide for me.”
1. The UCF community was introduced to IGNITE: The Campaign for the University of Central Florida on Sept. 16. IGNITE is the most ambitious fundraising effort in our history — an intense, focused and strategic effort to raise $500 million in philanthropic support by June 2019. More than 66,000 people have contributed donations of all sizes to reach approximately $275 million to date. Let’s keep it rolling!
2. UCF’s annual State of the Union address, delivered by President John C. Hitt, will take place on Tuesday at 3 p.m. For those unable to attend, viewing access will be available on Facebook at Facebook.com/ucf.
3. We love to see Knights helping Knights! A UCF alumnus, who has chosen to remain anonymous, challenged UCF to match his $1,000 commitment to fight hunger in support of Knights Pantry. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is promoting a Skip-A-Meal-Challenge this month that encourages people to skip a meal, and instead, donate the money they would have spent. Knights Pantry is one of the food bank’s partners, so funds raised by UCF will benefit the pantry.
4. Limbitless Solutions visited the White House this week for the White House Design For All Showcase. The event is designed to highlight the ways that assistive technology breaks down barriers, reduces stigma and improves the quality of life for Americans with disabilities. We’re so proud of Albert Manero and his team at the College of Engineering and Computer Science!
5. UCF recently selected Hospital Corporation of America, the nation’s largest hospital company, as its partner to build a proposed teaching hospital next door to the College of Medicine in Lake Nona. Under the plan, HCA will pay all costs to build and operate the hospital; UCF will seek no state funds for the project. The two will share governance of the facility on a 50-50 basis.
By UCF Today
ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2016) — Before a crowd of nearly 600 top donors, the University of Central Florida celebrated the public launch of a $500 million fundraising campaign on Sept. 16 supporting students, faculty members and special projects such as UCF Downtown.
The IGNITE campaign, the largest in UCF’s history, started in 2011 and seeks to reach the $500 million milestone by June 2019. More than 66,000 people have contributed $274.3 million to date, with much of the support coming from the generous benefactors invited to Friday’s gala.
“It shows an outpouring of support for the university that’s really going to help move us forward in the years ahead,” President John C. Hitt said. “I want to thank each of the donors very sincerely from my heart of hearts for their generosity.”
Philanthropy is critical to the university’s vitality and impact in the community. Investments in students, faculty and game-changing projects lift Central Florida’s economy – in everything from hospitality to medicine – and transform lives and families across our region.
The IGNITE campaign supports three priorities:
- Student success, including scholarships, study abroad and career readiness
- Academic excellence, including efforts to recruit and retain top faculty members
- Special growth and opportunity projects
Gifts recognized at Friday’s gala include:
- A $7 million gift from Dr. Phillips Charities for UCF Downtown increases total community support for the campus to $21 million. This means UCF can now access the $20 million in state funding to construct a new academic building for about 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students.
- A $1 million gift from Jim Rosengren,’81, supports UCF RESTORES, a clinic directed by UCF psychology professor Deborah Beidel that successfully treats military veterans and active duty personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder – and provides that treatment for free. Rosengren is a disabled veteran who began his 23-year career as an Army medic, and his son served two tours in Iraq and returned home with PTSD.
- Hundreds of engineering students will be able to use industry-standard product design and manufacturing software thanks to a major in-kind grant from Siemens. The software, with a commercial value of $68 million, is used in more than 140,000 global companies involved in the design and manufacturing of sophisticated products for energy and power generation, automotive, aerospace, machinery and high-tech electronics.
- A $1 million gift from Glenn Hubbard, ’79, establishes the Kenneth White and James Xander Professorship in Economics. Hubbard is dean of the Columbia Business School, and he previously was an advisor to President George W. Bush and the Federal Reserve. He grew to love economics as a UCF student thanks to classes with White and Xander, two professors who inspired him.
- A $5 million gift from Gregory Elias, a Curacao-born lawyer and businessman, establishes the Gregory Elias Entertainment Management Program, a partnership between the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and College of Arts and Humanities
- A $1.5 million gift from John Euliano will help UCF expand and renovate the baseball stadium. A Winter Springs resident, Euliano has a family connection to UCF and a long-time love for baseball. The expansion will include a 300-seat premium club section that will include outdoor seating and an air-conditioned lounge.
The university also honored Orlando hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen for his lifetime of giving to UCF. In addition, Harris Corporation and Texas Instruments were recognized for their support for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The campaign chair is Rick Walsh, a 1977 graduate and former chair of the UCF Board of Trustees.