Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—March 13

1. If you’re dragging because of Daylight Savings Time, we’ve got some news that should provide the jolt you need. The UCF men’s basketball team is back in postseason play for the first time in five years, and better yet, the Black and Gold will be back in action at CFE Arena this Wednesday. The Knights (21-11) will participate in the National Invitation Tournament for the second time ever when they host fifth seeded Colorado (19-14) Wednesday at 7 p.m. with coverage on ESPN3 and FM 96.9 The Game.

Tickets to Wednesday’s game are available now on UCFKnights.com. Season ticket holders can login to their account and purchase tickets by clicking here. Tickets for the general public can be purchased by clicking here.

2. A UCF police officer is being called a hero after helping save the life of a university employee who was choking last week. Alumna Julie Wilk, who graduated with a criminal justice degree in 2006 and has been with the department since 2011, performed the Heimlich maneuver to help the woman cough up what she was choking on. We salute you, Officer Wilk!

3. A UCF librarian, who serves as president of UCF’s Pride Faculty and Staff Association, is looking to photograph people with Pulse-themed tattoos for an exhibit that will be featured at the UCF Art Gallery in June. Carrie Moran and current Ph.D. student David Moran ’14 will be working on the project together. Got a Pulse-tribute tattoo or know someone who does? Then, you’ll want to click this.

4. Academy Award-winning actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino will speak at UCF on March 23 about combating human trafficking. The event is at 3 p.m. in the Student Union’s Pegasus Ballroom and is free and open to the public.

5. The UCF Alumni e-newsletter is heading to your inbox today for your reading pleasure! Make sure you check it out for all the latest news.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—March 6

1. UCF Athletics basically won everything last week. Here’s a rundown of what happened from Feb. 27 (when we last posted Five Things) to today:
• Feb 28: Baseball trounced the No. 2 Florida Gators, 11-2, in front of the third-largest crowd (3,852) to see a game at the UCF Baseball Complex
• March 1: Softball picked up a road win at Florida Gulf Coast.
• March 2: Men’s basketball wrapped up the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference Championship thanks to the Knights’ win at USF in the regular season finale. The Knights now lead the Bulls in the War On I4 rivalry series, 30-15.
• March 3-5: Baseball swept Stony Brook over the weekend with three-straight wins to improve their season record to 11-1. The team currently ranks among the top five in the nation for win-loss percentage (.917).
• March 3-5: Softball kept momentum rolling with three wins over the weekend against Providence and Florida Gulf Coast – two of which came off walk-off homers.
• March 5: Rowing collected five first-place finishes in six events to open the spring season and clinch its seventh-straight Robin Yeuell Trophy at the 37th annual Metro Cup in Winter Park.
• March 4: Women’s basketball won its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game in program history to advance to the semifinals.
• March 5: Men’s tennis topped Davidson, 6-1, at the USTA National Campus.
• Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams earned their 20th victories of the season. More than 90 percent of Division I schools can’t claim the same feat in 2016-17.

2. Three alumni were inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame recently: Sonya Dixon ’96 ’98MBA, chief financial officer and senior vice president at Holiday Inn Club Vacations; Antonio “Tony” Moreno Jr. ’91, managing partner/financial consultant, MPC Wealth Management; and Michael O’Donnell ’09, executive/entrepreneur for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCF. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor given by the college to graduates who have been in the industry for at least 20 years and have brought notoriety to the university through their professional achievements.

3. UCF Theatre alumnus Desmond Newson ’05 snagged a coveted spot in the national tour of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” The tour of “Hamilton” will begin in San Francisco in March, followed by a 21-week run in Los Angeles, with more cities follow, including Orlando, for the 2018-2019 season.

4. The UCF Alumni family grew by two last week when John C. Hitt and his wife, Martha, received the Honorary Alumni Award at the celebration of the president’s 25th anniversary on March 1. It’s a fitting recognition — Hitt has conferred more than 80 percent of all degrees since UCF’s founding in 1963.

5. Recent film grad Dana Pellerin ’16 walked around spreading love around campus while creating an eye-catching video. It seems like a good way to start off the week – check it out for yourself!

Hitt It Big

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 1, 2017) – A key to the city, numerous proclamations of praise and a special honorary alumni award were all bestowed to UCF’s transformational leader, President John C. Hitt, in honor of his 25th anniversary Wednesday at the UCF Student Union.

VIEW PHOTO GALLERY

Hitt, along with his wife Martha, not only both received the alumni distinction, but will also have the award named in their honor in future years.

Dan Ward, chair elect of the UCF Alumni Board and a member of Hitt’s first class of graduates in 1992, commended the couple before presenting them with the award. Honorary alumni are recognized for their outstanding service and philanthropy to UCF; lifelong devotion and loyalty to the university; and upholding the UCF creed of integrity, scholarship, community, creativity and excellence.

“Today, on the 25th anniversary of the black and gold’s most dynamic duo, a grateful community knows we are better because of you,” Ward said. “We also know that you are better because of each other. And, because you have made us part of your family, it is with great joy and pride that we take the step today of officially making you part of ours.”

Dan Ward ’92, UCF Alumni Board chair-elect, presents a citation to John and Martha Hitt declaring the couple as honorary alumni of UCF.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena and Student Government President Christopher Clemente were among the hundreds in attendance to witness the moment.

The honor seemed only fitting given how many degrees Hitt has conferred during his 25 years at UCF.

As of September 2016, Hitt has handed out 241,918 degrees, accounting for more than 80 percent of all degrees conferred since UCF’s founding in 1963.

Nationally, Hitt is one of the all-time leaders among public university presidents who conferred degrees at a single school. In addition, he is currently the longest-serving president in the Florida State University System. He ranks third among the longest-serving presidents in Florida SUS history.

It appears he has no intention of slowing down. When he was prompted with the question of “What’s next?,” Hitt stated matter-of-factly:

“Well, tomorrow will be the second day of my 26th year,” eliciting laughter and applause from the crowd.

As the celebration came to a close, Hitt spoke from the heart to express his gratitude to his colleagues, partners and students at the university.

“As with most anniversaries, today’s celebration is infused with nostalgia. It’s a potent and powerful feeling. But more powerful is the belief I have in our future,” Hitt said. “My belief is, for our beloved UCF, the best is yet ahead. Thank you. Go Knights.”

What They Are Saying
“Through Dr. Hitt’s leadership UCF has become a school that attracts talented, ambitious and diverse students from near and far. It is a place where students go to not only continue their education, but also thrive. A place where they can foster new relationships, explore their interests and gain experiences that will open the doors to their future.” – Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs

“Without UCF and Dr. Hitt’s 25 years of leadership, Orlando, Orange County, all of Central Florida might not be one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions as it is today.” – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

“Mr. President, let me first start with an apology. I know your humility makes you averse to praise. I know it is your wish for this day to be less about you and more about this university. However, I find it impossible to talk about the success of UCF without you. I have had the privilege and honor to speak after you on various occasions and each time I am left inspired by your leadership.” – UCF Student Body President Christopher Clemente

“The university has made great advances under his leadership including an expansion of programs, facilities, student access, faculty hires and achievements.” – Professor Keith Koons, chair of the UCF Faculty Senate, reading from a resolution passed unanimously by the Faculty Senate.

“I must confess that when I started work at Florida Technological University eons ago I was not sure I would stay. The university was in its embryonic stage. And after gradual improvements John and Martha Hitt arrived and the university went into overdrive and improved beyond even my wildest imagination…Thank you, John and Martha for this E-ticket ride.” – Maggie LeClair, university employee since 1974 and currently assistant to the dean of the College of Sciences.

Then & Now: Eight Ways UCF Has Changed in 25 Years with President Hitt

The 1992 comedy “Wayne’s World” summed it best: “Party Time! Excellent!” On March 1, we’ll be commemorating the man, the myth, the legend that is President John C. Hitt, who will celebrate his 25th anniversary at UCF.

When Hitt first accepted the job in 1992, UCF’s enrollment was 21,267 (In 2017 we’re at 64,318) and just five of the current 12 colleges on campus existed. As we take a look back over the last 25 years, here are some events and moments that captured the headlines in 1992 and how they relate to life at UCF today.

 

1. We Want Ducks!
In 1992, a cargo ship container tumbled into the North Pacific, dumping 28,000 rubber ducks that were headed from China to the U.S. We can neither confirm nor deny that some of these ducks have been spotted at Spirit Splash. One of the nation’s best campus traditions celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.

2. Baby Bortles
On April 28, 1992, Rob and Suzy Bortles brought their son Blake into the world. Years later, after guiding the Knights to their best season in history – largely in the on-campus stadium that President Hitt had built – and a BCS Championship, the highest drafted football player in UCF history is suiting up for the Jacksonville Jaguars every Sunday in the fall.

3. Up In Smoke
Remember when smoking was a thing? In 1992, the first prescription nicotine patch went on sale. In April 2012, President Hitt announced that UCF would become a smoke-free campus by that August.

4. Happiest Place on Earth
Our neighbors Mickey and Minnie unveiled Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in October 1992. Twenty-three years later, Knights football players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, fans and the main man himself, President Hitt, flooded the park to celebrate UCF’s BCS Fiesta Bowl win in a one-of-a-kind parade down Main Street – and of course take a ride down the 56-foot drop.

5. Skate Culture
Longboards are almost as prevalent at UCF as flip flops and tank tops. While you’re gliding through Memory Mall on your skateboard during a class break, think about this: The OG skateboarder Tony Hawk opened his own company, Birdhouse Skateboards, in 1992.

6. We Salute You
A Few Good Men – YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH – was one of the most popular films of 1992 and nominated for four Oscars that year, including Best Picture. UCF has a few good men and women of their own in the ROTC program, whose building was dedicated by President Hitt in 2013.

7. Not Just A Dream, But Reality
In 1992, the Dream Team was the biggest story of the Barcelona Summer Olympics. Fast forward to 2016 and UCF’s own Dream Team of Olympians participated at the Rio Games in August. If you want to talk about the remarkable things Knights can do, check this out – In university history, seven former Knights have participated at the Olympics, and four of them were involved in Rio.

8. Big-Time Gamers
We have one word for you: Kirby. That loveable pink orbed character first appeared in Kirby’s Dream Land for Game Boy in 1992. In the years since, the video game industry has exploded – even right here at UCF.

In 2005, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, UCF’s graduate game-design program, held its first class of 12 students. Today, it is ranked as the best grad game design program in the world by the Princeton Review. And following the ideology of President Hitt to “dream big,” by 2019, FIEA will become a part of UCF’s new downtown campus, which will bring more than 7,000 students to help grow the Orlando gaming, film and digital media economies.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Feb. 27

    1. In case you haven’t heard by now, Kenneth G. Dixon has made a gift commitment of more than $5 million to UCF Athletics. It is the largest cash pledge ever by an individual UCF alumnus. In recognition of this gift, a 95-acre section of campus will be named the Kenneth G. Dixon Athletics Village. Check out this gallery to see more of what UCF’s vice president and director of athletics Danny White envisions for the future.

2. “It was so special to walk off the court seeing fans rush the floor. It was a wonderful experience. And that’s what we want to see. We have always said we’re not going to get anything special done without all of us being committed. That’s our student body, our community, our players and staff. Tonight, I think it all came together where everyone was engaged. I thought the students were great. I thought our fans were amazing. It was electric in there again tonight.”

That’s UCF men’s basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins following Sunday’s big win over No. 15 Cincinnati, marking the fourth victory over a ranked opponent in program history.

3. President John C. Hitt will celebrate his 25th anniversary on March 1. At last count in  September 2016, President Hitt has conferred more than 240,000 degrees at UCF. Read more about UCF’s accomplishments under his leadership over the last 25 years.

4. UCF’s lead in the War on I4 series just got a boost from track and field’s title win at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships. Redshirt senior Anne-Marie Blaney was named the Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Meet. The NCAA Indoor Championships will take place in College Station, Texas, on March 10-11, one week before UCF opens the outdoor season at home with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge.

5. More than 200 faculty, staff and students from the UCF music and theatre departments are collaborating on Oklahoma! for Celebrate the Arts, which runs from April 7-14. All events are free but tickets are required for all performances and entrance into the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Visit http://arts.cah.ucf.edu for more information.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Feb. 20

1. Five alumni recently won regional Emmy awards of excellence for their work in television this past year. Among the accomplished group is Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Marla Weech ’79.

2. UCF partnered with Orange County Fire Rescue to launch two lifesaving apps, PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED, late last week. The apps support first-responding agencies like Orange County Fire Rescue by encouraging CPR-trained citizens to respond to sudden cardiac arrest incidents as emergency crews are en route. Both applications are available as free downloads on mobile devices.

3. SAVE THE DATE for UCF Celebrates The Arts. The university’s annual showcase of student and faculty presentations will return April 7-14 to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The eight days of music, performances and visual displays are open to the public for free. For a sneak peek of the lineup of events, click here.

4. ICYMI, students from UCF’s College of Nursing delivered one-of-a-kind teddy bears to hospitalized children to make the week of Valentine’s Day a little sweeter. Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event. Take one look at this picture, and you’ll see why:

5. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series resumes this week with a talk on “2015 Homicide Rise and the ‘Ferguson Effect.’” The event, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tuscawilla Country Club (1500 Winter Springs Blvd., Winter Springs, FL 32708).

From The Heart

 


By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2017) — Children spending Valentine’s Day week at Nemours Children’s Hospital got a special treat on Monday: Seven UCF College of Nursing students, dressed in their scrubs, visited their hospital rooms and brought along a new soft, cuddly bear.

In all, 88 ‘Knight Nurse’ teddy bears — also wearing UCF scrubs — arrived at Nemours as part of a larger fundraising campaign spearheaded by the college, and meant to brighten the day of hospitalized children.

Soon-to-be 13-year-old Karina, who has a closet of strategically placed stuffed animals at her Melbourne home, eagerly awaited her bear delivery before her chemotherapy treatment. When she was greeted by the nursing students, they immediately started discussing how to accessorize the bear with her favorite color, purple.

“It’s super, super soft. It’s the softest bear I think I have. It feels kind of like my unicorn,” Karina said. “Everyone is so nice here. Everyone’s just trying to make all the kids here feel better.”

In January, the college debuted its “Give a Bear, Warm a Heart” fundraiser that enabled the public to sponsor one – or an entire unit – of teddy bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs. The college partnered with MorUniversity, the college’s exclusive scrub provider, to create limited-edition bears outfitted in an exact replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students.

Donations were still coming in as of late last week, but the college estimated that roughly $14,000 was raised in the inaugural campaign. All money raised will help support priority areas in the UCF College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips.

Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event.

On Thursday and Friday, students will deliver more bears to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Florida Hospital for Children. In totally, roughly 225 bears will be delivered this year.

“I just love working with the kids. They have this incredible spirit, so any opportunity that I get to interact with them and to make them smile is just what makes it so special for me,” said Orlando native Hayley Boyle, who is in her last semester of UCF’s undergraduate nursing program and hopes to become a pediatric nurse. “These bears have such an impact. They’re just a beautiful thing to do.”

To Have And To Hold, Forever Black And Gold

Alumni Brent and Bryanna Beumel were married in November by one of their favorite UCF professors, Jeff Biddle

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2017) – Brent Beumel ’14 and his fianceé Bryanna La Londe ’13 were driving back to Florida in November 2015 from a weekend trip in Savannah, where Brent had just popped the question in a historical bed and breakfast.

Giddy off the high of their engagement, they started imagining what their wedding day would look like. Who would officiate the ceremony?

Without a moment’s hesitation, long-time UCF sports and exercise science instructor Jeff Biddle emerged at the top of their list.

“He’s what every professor should be to a student. He doesn’t want you to just come in and get your degree and walk out. You could go into his office anytime he was in there and talk with him. He loved to get to know people and what you wanted to do with your life,” Bryanna said. “He was the first person we thought of.”

The now-Beumels met in 2012 in a biomechanics class at UCF’s South Lake campus in Clermont.

They started out as friends. Bryanna had plans to move to Portland, Oregon, at summer’s end. After a month, their relationship progressed to more than friends.

“And then I didn’t go! And it worked out well,” Bryanna said with a smile.

The two finished their sports and exercise science degrees, frequently driving the hefty commute out to Clermont – Bryanna drove 70 miles one way from her mother’s home in Merritt Island — because they loved the program and professors, especially Biddle, so much.

“Every class that he taught in our major, I tried to sign up with him. He made the drive out to Clermont worth it,” said Brent, who lived less than eight miles from UCF’s main campus at the time. “It was an hour to get out there, but you knew when you’d have him at 8 o’clock in the morning it was going to be fun. It wasn’t just staring at a PowerPoint for an hour and a half. You were interacting with him and all the other students. He made it enjoyable. He’s not one we’ll forget.”

Bryanna, a first-generation student, graduated in 2013 and is now working in the rehabilitation department at Arnold Palmer Hospital. Brent graduated a year later as a second-generation UCF alumnus.

As fate would have it, Brent’s parents met while they were students at UCF at a house party on Alafaya. His mother Linda graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

They didn’t expect that decades later, their son would mirror their love story and find his future wife while at school.

“UCF helped make me who I am. The experiences I had through sport and exercise molded me into the trainer and coach that I am now,” said Brent, who works at CrossFit Firebase in Orlando. “I view it as a starting off point. That’s where we met. It’s where my parents met, as well. It holds a special value in that to me.”

Brent and Bryanna got married on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 at Club Lake Plantation in Apopka with a black-and-gold-bow-tie-clad Biddle as their officiant.

Their grandparents gifted the couple their wedding rings and served as ring bearers in their ceremony.

The gold band of Brent’s ring belonged to his grandfather. It had to be pieced back together after it was cut off his grandfather’s finger following a motorcycle accident.

When the jeweler melded it together, he chose a black zirconium to sandwich it, making it the perfect color combination for Brent’s UCF roots.

As the couple anticipated, Biddle was a hit among the family in attendance. He was as comical and engaging in the ceremony as he is in the classroom.

In order to perform the ceremony, the professor needed to obtain a notary license. He told the couple to leave the logistics to him and insisted on paying the associated fee.

Biddle, who makes it a point to attend as many of his students’ commencement ceremonies as he can, said that Brent and Bryanna’s request to serve as their officiant was an honor and a privilege.

That realization hit him even harder when he recently watched their wedding video.

“Their kids and their kids’ kids are going to be watching that video. I’m permanently a part of their lives and their family’s lives from now on. And that’s pretty cool,” Biddle said. “I am thrilled that they asked me, thrilled that they wanted me to do it. It is certainly one of the bigger moments to happen in my life.”

What he may not realize is that he already secured a special place in their lives a long time ago.

“Being a first generation degree seeker – professors are who I looked up to for guidance and direction throughout the whole process. Dr. Biddle was a role model for me,” Bryanna said. “Finding what you love to do may change over the years and that’s OK. That is something I learned from him. I don’t even know if I’ve ever told him this, but it’s how I feel about him and what he’s done for me.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Feb. 13

 

Comedy Central

1. UCF is all about helping out the procrastinators in need of Valentine’s Day date ideas. The UCF Theater Department will be featuring William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from Feb. 16-26. Tickets are $20 or $10 with a UCF ID. You can purchase them online or by calling the box office at 407-823-1500. The men’s basketball team will square off against Tulsa on Feb. 14 and is offering a special Valentine’s Date Night package. For $40 receive two tickets to the game as well as one Cupid-inspired Knightro Bobblehead.

2. CFE Arena announced Monday that UCF alumnus Daniel Tosh ’96 will return to campus April 25 for a standup comedy show featuring writers and comedians from his Comedy Central hit “Tosh.0.” Tickets go on sale Feb. 17.

3. Opening Night for UCF Baseball will be held Friday, and best of all – IT’S FREE! The Knights are beginning a new era under first-year head coach Greg Lovelady. First pitch against Siena is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Before you head to the field, learn more about the John Euliano Park Expansion.

4. Late last week, the 2017 UCF Football schedule was unveiled. It includes a record four September home games, 11 Saturday kickoffs and a Black Friday War On I-4 showdown with rival USF. Start making your tailgate plans and purchase season tickets now. Pro tip: Renew your season tickets before March 1 and swing yourself some cool prizes.

5. Calling Knights in Georgia! IGNITE: Atlanta will take place Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta. Space is limited but there is still time to reserve your spot. The event is free. Click here to RSVP.

P.S. UCF Alumni has enjoyed hearing so many stories from the heart from Knights over the last week as we gear up for Valentine’s Day. Tell your #UCFLoveStory and check out other posts on our Facebook.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Feb. 6


1. Lace up your kid’s booties… the third annual UCF Baby Race will take place during halftime of the UCF men’s basketball game on Saturday against UConn. Participating babies must be a crawler between the ages of 7-16 months old. Submissions for the race will be taken through Tuesday, Feb. 7, so act fast. Click here to learn more about the race and register your kiddo!

2. Talk about homegrown talent! More than one-third of UCF’s faculty and staff are alumni, a statistic that UCF takes great pride in as the university kicked off its annual faculty and staff campaign, Believe, on Feb. 2. It hopes to see more than 2,000 donors contribute to UCF over the next month. Here are some sights and sounds from the kickoff event.

3. UCF’s College of Medicine and Hospital Corporation of America announced their newest residency program Sunday. The neurology residency program, which will feature 16 trainees who will train for four years, will be based out of Osceola Regional Medical Center, has received initial accreditation and is seeking immediate applicants.

4. Studying beer? How do we sign up? With the popularity of craft beers, local brewers are turning to a UCF College of Medicine researcher and his microbiology students to help perfect the taste and color of America’s favorite fermented beverage.

5. The UCF IGNITE Tour is less than two weeks away from its next stop in Atlanta on Feb. 16. The event, which will be located in Buckhead, will feature Provost Dale Whittaker along with other key members of UCF leadership. Learn more and register for your spot on the guest list.