Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Jan. 29, 2018

1. Did you and your significant other meet at UCF? Share the details of your #UCFLoveStory with us and you might be picked to be featured during Valentine’s Day week on our official social media pages. Fill out this online form.

2. UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker announced last week that the university will create an Academic Health Sciences Center at Lake Nona as well as a new college and new interdisciplinary, inter-college school that will anchor UCF Downtown. Some changes mean that the College of Education and Human Performance and College of Health and Public Affairs will no longer exist, but no academic majors or programs are being eliminated. Read Whittaker’s full announcement and learn more about the restructuring from this FAQ.

3. Florida Governor Rick Scott surprised the football team to congratulate the Knights on their undefeated season. The celebration continued at the NFL Pro Bowl over the weekend when the team was recognized on the field at Camping World Stadium during the game.

4. UCF’s men’s basketball team will play both of its games this week at home. The Knights will first tip off against UConn on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at CFE Arena before holding a double-header with the women’s basketball team on Saturday. The men will take on Houston at noon before the women face Memphis at 2 p.m.

5. The UCF police department is still searching for a suspect in recent battery cases at UCF (see sketch below). The suspect is described as a thin, dark-skinned, dark-haired college-aged male who is about 5-foot-7 or 5-foot-8, wears glasses and speaks with an accent.

As UCFPD continues to aggressively investigate the case, it needs the community to remain alert and to speak up if anyone has any related information that could help. UCFPD can be reached 24/7 by calling 407-823-5555.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Distinguished Alumnus Award

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The UCF Alumni Association presented its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, ’01.
Alex was unable to accept his award in person due to an NBA owners’ meeting in New York.
(PHOTO: UCF Today)
Alex Martins, ’01 | CEO, Orlando Magic

The UCF Alumni Association honored Alex Martins with its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest annual accolade given to a UCF graduate, in recognition of his career achievements, at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

With 25 years in professional sports management, Alex rejoined the Magic in June 2005 and was promoted to CEO in December 2011. He previously served as president for more than a year, and was the team’s chief operating officer from 2006-2010.

As CEO, he led the development of Orlando’s state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena, working tirelessly for eight years with community leaders on the massive project, which has been ranked one of the best of its kind in the world. During the same time period, the business of the Orlando Magic thrived, building the largest season ticket base in franchise history, and setting countless new records for sales.

Alex has also given much of his time and energy to serving his alma mater since graduating with his master’s degree from the UCF College of Business Administration, currently as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Counsel for the college, and as chairman of the critical Finance and Facilities Committee for UCF’s Board of Trustees. He was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2008, and was honored that same year with the opportunity to serve as a summer commencement speaker.

Learn more about Alex:

UCF Mascot Bears Legacy of Influential Knight

Before UCF’s mascot was established, “Sir Knight” was making an impact by shielding students from the Vietnam War draft.

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Friends and family gathered to remember the life of Ed Knight Jr.
(PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

By Daniela Marin
Entertainment Editor, Central Florida Future

On Aug. 22, nearly 40 years after graduating from UCF, a group of Kappa Sigma alumni brothers reunited to remember the man who may have saved their lives.

Before the university’s name was changed from Florida Technological University to the University of Central Florida, and before the school’s mascot was established, one Knight — dubbed by students as “Sir Knight” — was making an impact by shielding students from the draft during the Vietnam War.

Isaac “Ed” Knight Jr. died Aug. 16 at the age of 93, after retiring from a 20-year career as UCF’s director of records and registration. However, the university’s mascot, which was elected by students in his honor, is proof of Knight’s lasting legacy.

“The school was growing from its infancy, and when it came time to choose a mascot, we decided we’d get behind the name ‘Knights,’ said John Voelpel III, ’73, the Kappa Sigma faculty advisor at the time, who was impacted by Knight. “The whole fraternity did. The student body ended up voting for ‘the Knights,’ and not everyone knew why, but it was because of Ed Knight and what he did for us.”

At the time, men in the U.S. had three options: volunteer to serve a tour in Vietnam, get drafted or maintain a student deferment.

Voelpel, who attended the university from 1969 to 1973 for business administration, said classes at the time were limited and capacity was tight, but “Sir Knight” was an instrumental force in ensuring that male students were placed in the classes they needed to maintain their deferment.

“We weren’t draft dodgers, we weren’t burning our cards, [and] we weren’t running off to Canada, but we would have preferred not to go,” Voelpel said. “He was a very large influence in a very vulnerable time in our lives.”

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Former Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers hold an old copy of the Future — now known as the Central Florida Future — featuring Ed Knight Jr., who impacted students in his time at UCF. (PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

Knight’s friends and loved ones, including people he hadn’t seen for years, gathered at the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Altamonte Springs last Saturday to celebrate his life. There, Voelpel and other fraternity brothers shared Knight’s impact.

“I have to tell you, personally, I would have been in Southeast Asia,” he told the crowd. “I’m clumsy. I would have tripped on a tripwire or something and died the first day I was there. I would have never met my wife, never had my children, wouldn’t be standing with these gentlemen today, if it wasn’t for Ed.”

After not seeing him for 10 years, Gracia Muller Miller, ’76, also attended the service and spoke on Knight’s impact. Miller, who was a music student and worked as an assistant in the registrar’s office, shared how Knight became a father figure for her amid racial tensions.

“It was a very lonely time when I first started going to school, and a lot of times I would hang out in the office just because that’s where I felt safe,” she said. “And, Mr. Knight was the one who set that climate. The racial movement was part of my growing up, and Mr. Knight was different — he was a Bulldog, but he was not a hater. There were other people around me that I knew didn’t necessarily like me, but the climate at the registrar’s office didn’t allow them to act out against me.”

At 6 feet tall, Knight was a former University of Georgia basketball player with a U.S. Air Force career of more than 20 years. He quickly became known on campus as a gentle giant and father figure, all while raising a family of his own.

“My dad, he liked the youth, he liked the young people and he saw potential in everyone,” said Brigitt Berry, Knight’s youngest daughter. “That’s who he was, he was the encourager. He liked helping people set goals in life and helping them realize them.”

Despite his commitment to the community, Berry said that didn’t stop her dad from being “the best father in the whole wide world.”

“My parents were always there for me,” she said. “He always came home and spent time with us. He didn’t bring work home with him. He’d come home and play with us. And he absolutely adored my mom, so with those two traits, how could he not have been the best role model?”

And Miller, who went on to become a guidance counselor for Seminole County Public Schools for 20 years, said Knight inspired her to become a positive influence herself.

“I believe that because of Mr. Knight, I was also able to make some impact at UCF,” she said. “I didn’t think of dreaming bigger, but Mr. Knight taught me to dream bigger. He was a man who gave himself to others every day.”

The man to register the first student at UCF is now gone, but his legacy to the university and the lives he touched is lasting.

“I think he’d be very proud of where the school stands today, and he’d be proud of where all the kids he helped get through college stand today,” Voelpel said.

Knight is survived by his children Deborah Knight, Ed Knight III and Brigitt Berry, son-in-law Kip Berry, and two grandchildren.

This story was published in an Aug. 26, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

UCF Football, Men’s Basketball, Softball earn AAC Team Academic Excellence Awards

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By Andy Seeley
UCFKnights.com

UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.

The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.

“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”

For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.

Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.

Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.

Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.

As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.

In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.

This story was posted July 28, 2015, on UCFKnights.com. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.