Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 26, 2018

1. We’re not completely certain, but we have a feeling the word “bittersweet” was created to describe days like last Friday. As you likely know, McKenzie Milton went down in the second quarter of the game against USF this weekend. Knight Nation has since offered an outpouring of support for #10, and we at UCF Alumni send him our best and wish him a speedy recovery. As for our Knights on the field, they were emboldened to give it all they had and win over the Bulls 38-10. That win bumped us up to #7 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll.

We’re proud as ever for the ways our team rallied and showed the nation what we all already knew — to be a Knight is to be a part of a devoted family that supports each other, laughs together and keeps on charging on.

2. To show our support for McKenzie and just how grateful we are to be a part of his #10hana, Knights will be sporting leis this upcoming weekend for our American Athletic Conference Championship game against Memphis. If you’re in Orlando and want to show your solidarity for our team, join us for the Indoor Tailgate Dec. 1 at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center at 12:30. If you can’t be in Orlando, find out details for Watch Parties here (and don’t forget to stock up on leis!).

3. If you’re looking for other ways to support Knight Nation this week, you’re in luck! Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, the worldwide day of charitable giving. You’ve eaten all the Thanksgiving turkey your stomach could hold, taken advantage of all the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals your heart desired, and tomorrow is the day to exercise your generosity and give.

With 68,00 current students, there has never been a more important time to support your alma mater. We encourage you to check our post Five Things Knights Need to Know About Giving Tuesday at UCF to learn more about how you can be a part of all the undefeated athleticism, unmatched academia and unwavering momentum at UCF.

4. “I love baseball so much and that’s the only sport I wanted to get involved with. Back then, I didn’t think I would ever become a world champion, but the dream was to get there someday.” We get pretty excited when a UCF student’s dream becomes a UCF alum’s achievement! Kiyoshi Momose ’00MS, who is the sports and conditioning coach for the Boston Red Sox, can now add a check-mark next to the bucket list item of winning the World Series in Dodger Stadium. We’re proud to call you a part of the #UCFamily, Kiyoshi! Read more here.

5. With Thanksgiving in our collective rear-view mirror, it’s officially not out-of-bounds to start prepping for December holidays and there’s no better way to do so than to pretend that Florida is colder than it really is and attend Light Up UCF! There’s ice-skating, light shows and even a Ferris Wheel. Get into the holiday spirit and be there.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 19, 2018

  1. As if you could have possibly missed it with all the (well-deserved) hype, it was a very, VERY big weekend for UCF.

The ESPN College GameDay crew made their first-ever appearance on campus Saturday morning and Knights came out in full force to show the nation what UCF is all about. Memory Mall hosted more than 20,000 UCF fans — including Lee Corso who, decked out in complete Knightro garb, picked our Knights to win against Cincinnati.

Speaking of winning against Cincinnati… Image result for check mark emoji.

And in front of the second-largest crowd Spectrum Stadium has ever seen! If you were one of the 47,795 fans in attendance Saturday night, you already know how electric the stadium felt and how amped our fans were to cheer our team to a 38-13 win over the Bearcats, earning us the AAC East Division Championship trophy, a 23-game winning streak and a rise to No. 8 in the polls.

All in all, Saturday was a really great day to be a Knight. But, then again, so is every day.

  1. Somewhere in between the stare-down kid and Maria Taylor having a staring contest on GameDay and that incredible blocked field-goal-attempt by Joey Connors, we hosted our Indoor Tailgate at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. We had all the necessary ingredients for a great Indoor Tailgate: the UCF spirit team, Knightro, the sweet smell of Bubbalou’s BBQ wafting throughout the room and a whole lot of alumni ready to cheer the Knights on to victory.

Were you there and are looking for your pictures? Or were you not there and are looking for pictures of what you missed out on? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our next Indoor Tailgate on Dec. 1 as we gear up to take on the to-be-determined AAC West division winner.

  1. Just in case the feel on campus last week wasn’t joyful enough, Light Up UCF opened to the public on Friday. The Winter Wonderland will run through Jan. 1 and offers ice skating, a world-class choreographed light show sponsored by Duke Energy, free holiday movies, live entertainment, a Ferris Wheel, and an excuse for alumni to throw on their favorite black-and-gold hoodie and come visit campus! Find all the details you’re looking for right here.
  2.  We’re trusting you already know Thanksgiving is this week, but did you know Giving Tuesday is coming up too? After all the turkey on Thanksgiving Thursday and shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is the worldwide national day of giving. Our alumni showed up big last year and we (along with current students and other friends of the university) were able to raise over $71,000 toward scholarships, athletics and academic programs at UCF. We’re looking forward to another year of generosity and giving from our most loyal of Knights. If you’re looking for more information and ideas for how you can help the next generation of Knight Nation, head to our Giving Tuesday Facebook event.

UCF College of Nursing Bears Campaign

  1. Our Give Thanks, Give a Bear campaign is wrapping up next week and we’d love for you to be a part of it. A gift of $50 sends a bear to a child in one of our six pediatric partner hospitals. These limited-edition bears are even wearing a replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students, which means they’re very cute and are pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face. All funds raised in the campaign go toward funding priority areas within the College of Nursing.

Nurses First, Scholarships Follow for Alumnus-led Startup

Alvin Cortez ’08 (left) and Richard Manual (right) of Nurses First Solutions

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 22, 2017) – When long-time friends Alvin Cortez ’08 and Richard Manuel connected with the UCF Business Incubation Program to foster growth for their travel nurse staffing agency, they were asked a simple question: Why would somebody choose you rather than the company next to you?

They had a simple answer. They were in the business of making business personal.

Travel nurses typically work 13 week periods in one area, and move around the country depending on where they are needed. Nurses First Solutions provides those nurses to facilities in need of professional workforce. Manuel is a nurse. So is his wife. So is Cortez’s wife, Jessiccalou ’08 ’14BSN.

They knew about the job demands first-hand – the long hours, the life-saving work and the comfort that nurses provide to their patients. They also knew there were gaps in the industry, specifically for traveling nurses when it came to retirement plans, health care insurance, paid time off and life insurance.

So they decided to do something about it.

“We treat them like family,” Manuel said. “They won’t be treated like a number. They can call the company president and speak to him directly. It’s more transparent in our company.”

Echoed Cortez: “We wanted to give back, so we started the company – hence the name Nurses First.”

After incorporating in 2014, Cortez and Manuel hooked up with their third partner Ronnie Elliott and the UCF Business Incubation Program, which Cortez learned about when he studied interpersonal communication at UCF.

For nearly 20 years, the Incubation Program has been helping early-stage companies develop into financially stable, high-impact enterprises by providing resources and services that facilitate smarter, faster growth.

The duo credit site manager Carol Ann Dykes as the instrumental force that has pushed their business forward since joining the incubator. After they started at the incubator in April 2016, their company expanded from three employees to a dozen and their revenue grew from $300,000 to $6 million.

“It takes grit on our part, but at the same time it’s good to have guidance along the way,” Cortez said. “They hold us accountable to having a structure. If you have questions, they’ll connect you to the right types of people.”

All the while, they have remained steadfast in their mission to put nurses first. They offer competitive benefits, paid time off, life insurance and retirement plans. They also follow through on personal touches like sending flowers when their contracted nurses’ family members are sick or welcome boxes for new hires.

“People ask, does that eat up your profit? For us, it just makes sense,” Cortez said. “We’d rather give it back to the nurses. It’s ingrained in us to want to give back and do a little bit better for the people around us.”

They recently took that philosophy one step further by establishing the Nurses First Solutions Endowed Scholarship in April to support the undergraduate members of the Student Nurses Association within the College of Nursing.

Their office is located next to the College of Nursing, and after sponsoring some events, they became interested in setting up a scholarship. That interest turned into action after they attended a scholarship luncheon and heard directly from nursing students about how scholarships impacted their lives.

“We wanted to plant the seed for these students – there are resources, there are opportunities out there. They have a wide array of opportunity ahead of them if they are truly passionate about nursing,” Manuel said. “The scholarship puts more back into the community and students that want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Knights Participate in Third Annual
Student Philanthropy Week

project63

It takes many hands to smoothly and effectively run the second-largest university in the nation. Busy students often don’t realize where our school’s resources come from, so the UCF Student Philanthropy Council started spreading the word of philanthropic giving with Project ’63.

The mission of Project ’63 is to remind students of the importance of philanthropy and its impact on higher education. To accomplish this, the SPC is hosting its third annual Student Philanthropy Week, bringing the spirit of giving back to campus.

This year’s celebration takes place Feb. 22-25, and includes the following daily events to inspire tradition:

Monday – Education Day
Students host a table outside the Student Union and play educational/trivia games.

Tuesday – Appreciation Day
Students sign a “Thank You” banner for young alumni donors, which helps stewardship with donors and gives students a better appreciation for and understanding of how philanthropy impacts their education.

On both Monday and Tuesday, the Student Philanthropy Council also introduces Philanthropy Cab, like the TV show “CA$H CAB,” where members pick up students and drive them to their classes on a golf cart, all the while testing their knowledge and school pride!

Wednesday – Participation Day
Students focus on peer-to-peer solicitation to cultivate donations in anticipation of launching a senior giving program.

Thursday – Celebration Day
The week concludes with all of the previous days’ activities, plus the Student Philanthropy Symposium, featuring a panel of some of the UCF Alumni Association’s 30 under 30 award winners.

“Student Philanthropy Week is one of the first opportunities many students have to learn about the impact of philanthropy on their education,” says Danielle Warren, coordinator of the UCF Fund. “Facilitating experiences through which students might recognize that many academic, scholarship and programmatic opportunities are funded by donations cultivates the spirit of philanthropy on campus — an important step toward assuring the future of private support at UCF.”

For more information about the Student Philanthropy Council and Student Philanthropy Week, contact Danielle at 407.882.1254.

Meet the New Face of the Alumni Association and Foundation

Morsberger-family
Mike Morsberger is the new vice president of alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.
He, his wife, Marybeth, and their daughters, Courtney and Allison, are thrilled to be part of the UCF family!

On May 8, following an intensive national search, UCF and the UCF Foundation Inc., named Michael Morsberger UCF’s new vice president for alumni relations and development, and the foundation’s new CEO.

Morsberger begins working at UCF June 1, leading all fundraising activities for the university, as well as guiding the vitally important efforts of the UCF Alumni Association to foster and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between the university and its 250,000 alumni.

“I’d really like to commit the summer to meeting as many people as I can, internally and externally, and a particular focus on the alumni,” Morsberger says. “I want to understand their stories — what makes UCF special to them. It’ll take everybody to help UCF get to that next level. It’s achieved so much, yet, I just have this feeling that it’s only scratched the surface on its full potential.”

An accomplished fundraising professional, Morsberger has achieved record-breaking successes at the George Washington University, Duke University, the University of Virginia and The Johns Hopkins University.

Most recently, under Morsberger’s leadership, George Washington received the two largest gifts in its 190-year history — a total of $80 million to address public health challenges. The university also doubled the amount it raised for financial aid to more than $35 million last year.

“Mike’s leadership has produced transformational gifts that continue to change lives at some of our nation’s leading institutions and around the world,” UCF President John C. Hitt says. “He excels at motivating his staff members, donors, administrators and faculty members to dream big for the benefit of students and the community.”

Morsberger served for nearly five years as George Washington’s vice president for development and alumni relations, until he resigned in October 2014 for family reasons.

Previously, he was vice president for development and alumni affairs at Duke Medicine. Morsberger also worked as associate vice president of development and alumni relations for the University of Virginia’s Health System and executive director of the UVa Health Foundation and served at Johns Hopkins for nine years, starting as a major gifts officer and rising to chief development officer of the medical center’s renowned cancer center.

“I am of modest means, from a family in Baltimore,” he explains. “I’m the first in my family to go away to college. Higher ed changed my life, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Morsberger earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Radford University and a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Marybeth, were college sweethearts, and they have two grown children, Courtney and Allison.

“I am honored to accept this important role and serve the vast UCF community,” Morsberger said. “It is clear to me that the University of Central Florida at age 50 is at an inflection point in its remarkable history — and the next decade will surely prove to be very exciting.”

Morsberger joins the UCF Foundation at a pivotal moment, near the end of the leadership gifts phase of a carefully planned, multi-year campaign to raise $500 million to benefit UCF. During the leadership phase, foundation leaders work quietly to raise a significant portion of the goal before announcing off the campaign.

As state funding for public universities contracts across the country, the role of private philanthropy — and of the foundations that encourage it — grows more and more important. In the 2014 fiscal year, more than 17,500 donors made gifts and commitments totaling nearly $39 million to UCF. The university, foundation and alumni association are happy to welcome a new leader to build on that work.

—By Chad Binette, Zack Thomas and Angie Lewis, ’03

Learn more, as Mike discusses his new role at UCF:

Endowed Fund Created to Honor Life of Journalist and UCF Alumnus Steven Sotloff

By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future

Nearly nine months after the Islamic State group beheading of former UCF student and journalist Steven Sotloff, UCF has established a fund to commemorate his life.

The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund at UCF, created by Sotloff’s family, was made not only to honor his life, but to preserve his work.

“His family wanted to establish a legacy for Steven,” said College of Sciences’ Director of Development Ray Allen.

Allen said he interacted with Sotloff’s family at UCF, where they came up with a way to remember the former Knight.

Through donations, the fund aims to provide scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism. The fund was also established to advance journalism education, as well as endowments for lectures and programming.

“We have set up the memorial fund to invite other donors to support this fund in Steven’s honor,” Allen said.

Longtime UCF donors Tony and Sonja Nicholson — after whom the Nicholson School is named — have committed to match donation gifts to the fund.

“Every dollar will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 matched,” Allen said.

Contributors can visit www.ucffoundation.org/sotloff, where they will be directed to fill in their donation amount, billing information and add whether they want this donation to be a one-time gift, recurring or a series of installments.

“While Steven was in captivity, he managed to smuggle out a letter to us stating he wanted to give back. We would like to continue Steven’s legacy for generations to come by working with UCF to establish a fund in Steven’s honor,” said his parents Shirley and Arthur Sotloff in a statement on the donation page.

Sotloff attended UCF from 2002 to 2004, where he studied journalism. He then left to focus on working as a Middle East correspondent, wanting to travel to war zones like Libya and Syria.

Sotloff was abducted by the Islamist extremist group and held in captivity.

In September 2014, in an attempt to send “A Message to America,” the Islamic State group beheaded Sotloff in a distributed video as a way to reach President Barack Obama.

UCF students from the athletics fan group “The Gauntlet,” UCF’s Syrian American Council and the UCF chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists joined together to host a vigil that same month to honor Sotloff.

Along with UCF’s contribution, Sotloff’s parents established a fund at his high school, Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.

The Steven Sotloff ’02 Fund aims to inspire Kimball students to follow Sotloff’s passion: seeing the world through a different lens, while following global and cultural awareness.

UCF Alumna Crowned First Miss Florida World America 2015

(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)
Kailyn Perez, ’13, dancing during the talent portion of a pageant
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)

By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future

Most shoppers enter a mall to window shop, try on clothing or purchase items. UCF alumna Kailyn Perez, however, received a little more than what she bargained for.

In February 2013, Perez, a UCF student at the time, and her sister entered a Bloomingdale’s with the intention of trying on sunglasses. They instead walked out with a career-changing recommendation for Perez.

Jewelry consultant Peter Morales spotted Perez in the store and immediately complimented her beauty, asking her if she had ever modeled. He then suggested she try out for a beauty pageant, and little did Perez know what she thought was a simple compliment could ultimately lead her to being crowned as the first-ever Miss Florida World America 2015 in April.

Morales, who has been working as a fashion designer for more than 20 years, said when he saw Perez, he knew that “this is a girl who is not going to be overseen.”

He suggested Perez attend a preliminary round for Miss Florida USA, which was being held in Kissimmee, and offered to design her pageant dress because he specializes mostly in beauty pageant gowns and couture dresses.

Although she never thought about entering a beauty pageant, Perez said she didn’t want to miss what could be a great opportunity.

“Kailyn has the ability to communicate through a way of talking and projecting herself that is very unique and very powerful,” Morales said. “Everything she does, she does with a big smile.”

When Perez decided to take part in the pageant, her ambitions, enthusiasm and personality shined through. She eventually won runner-up and gained a new perspective on how she could connect her personal goals to the pageant world.

“Through pageants, I realized I can reach people and have an influence in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “I have that drive to make a change in my community and be able to spread a message of positivity to young women and to people in general.”

Although she didn’t win Miss Florida USA, she realized how inspired she became while experiencing the pageant world.

Last March, with the help of Morales, Perez decided to apply to a newly formed pageant, Miss Florida World America 2015.

She used her innate flair in public speaking, her personal experiences and her dance background to showcase her talent and make her way to the top.

Growing up in a single-parent household, Perez gained a special appreciation for her family.

“I have the most amazing mom and family in the whole world,” Perez said. “I couldn’t imagine not having that kind of support in my life. I couldn’t imagine that for children.”

Working with organizations such as A Kid’s Place and the Faine House, Perez focuses her platform on foster youth and providing homes, education and life-long skills to children in need.

The Tampa native started at UCF in 2010, majoring in political science, while also working as a freelance model.

During her time at UCF, Perez was involved in the Student Government Association, taking on the roles of senate representative and chair of the Elections and Appointments Committee.

With the dedication toward different outlets in college, Perez was unsure about the path she would take after graduation.

After graduating in December 2013, Perez was accepted to law schools in and out of state, but decided she wanted to model full time and pursue a business endeavour. She will, however, go back to that dream as she pursues a corporate and Internet law degree at Stetson University this fall.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF.”

In the intermin, Perez has launched a start-up company called Sociover, which focuses on teaching proper social media etiquette and offers services that can revamp social sites.

“Through pageants, I realized what a source social media is,” she said. “I use it to promote my platform and my personal brand.”

While continuing to work on her company and modeling, Perez plans on fulfilling more accomplishments in the pageant world. On July 3, she will compete against 50 other young women in Washington, D.C., for the chance to be crowned Miss World America 2015. The winner will represent the country at the esteemed Miss World 2015 pageant.

“I hope I can represent Florida well,” Perez said. “I hope I can represent our school in the best way possible.”

While some students go into college without the vision of what their career path will look like, Perez says it’s important to soak in every opportunity that is presented.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF,” Perez said. “As long as there is some kind of good that can come from it, go for it because you never know where the opportunity can lead you to one day.”

This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.

UCF Students Provide Linens for the Homeless

WhiteLinenProject
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy of Shakera Quince)

By Shanae Hardy
Central Florida Future

Blanketing the city with compassion and comfort, the White Linen Project at UCF is leaving its mark around Central Florida in the form of sheets.

Students at UCF formed the White Linen Project, a volunteer initiative that provides linen to homeless families, to leave an imprint on their community.

Shakera Quince, a junior management major, was influenced to begin the nonprofit organization when she began volunteering for the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, one of the largest homeless shelters in Central Florida. After volunteering twice a week and witnessing several families that slept in the cold, Quince said she felt a deep connection with the children and families she served. She decided to challenge herself on what she could do to further provide resources to the families at the mission.

“I was able to find out that one of the major needs was linen, specifically white linen at the time,” she explains. “So, I stayed up late at night for a couple of weeks trying to figure out what can I do. Lo and behold, the White Linen Project was born.”

Quince paired with four other students who shared her passion for wanting to change some of the circumstances of the homeless, including her former roommate, Katrina Poggio, a senior journalism major.

Poggio said she is currently working on a photo project for the White Linen Project’s website to bring awareness to the homeless community.

“I got involved because Shakera and I have a mutual interest in making a difference,” she says. “My favorite part about the volunteer initiative is that I have an opportunity to give a voice to those who go unheard.”

After developing the program for almost a year, Quince and her team introduced the White Linen Project on campus in April. By partnering with several community-wide volunteer initiatives, such as Volunteer UCF, Straight Street Orlando and the Mustard Seed of Central Florida, the White Linen Project has beckoned attention for the immense demand for linen donations.

In order to provide students with opportunities to donate, members of the White Linen Project tabled outside the Student Union every Monday in April, allowing students to either drop off linen directly to them or at other designated areas around campus.

For the summer, Quince and the rest of the team have obtained two options for students to continue to donate to the White Linen Project: the UCF cubicle located on the second floor of the Student Union and the Knights Pantry.

After their first month on campus, Quince, Poggio and their team collected more than 150 pieces of linen.

Poggio and Quince are looking to expand the team with more volunteers so the organization can eventually grow into a registered student organization.

“We have so many ideas as we grow, and one of them is maybe even handing linens out downtown to people who sleep on the ground outside. Coming with a box of pizza and some linen and just saying, ‘Hey, have a nice night,'” Quince said.

In the future, Quince is hopeful that her initiative will expand beyond the UCF proximity.

“Hopefully one day we can go outside of Orlando,” she says. “One day, maybe we will collect enough linen to send over to other countries.”

More Info

White Linen Project

This article appeared in a May 13, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.

UCF Welcomes New Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development

MichaelMorsberger

By Chad Binette
UCF News and Information

Michael J. Morsberger, the University of Central Florida’s new vice president for alumni relations and development, has achieved record-breaking successes at the George Washington University, Duke University, the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University.

Most recently, under Morsberger’s leadership, George Washington received the two largest gifts in its 190-year history, a total of $80 million to address public health challenges. The university also doubled the amount it raised for financial aid to more than $35 million last year.

“Mike’s leadership has produced transformational gifts that continue to change lives at some of our nation’s leading institutions and around the world,” UCF President John C. Hitt said. “He excels at motivating his staff members, donors, administrators and faculty members to dream big for the benefit of students and the community.”

Morsberger, who was selected following a national search, will begin working at UCF on June 1. He will serve as CEO of the UCF Foundation and lead all fundraising activities for the university, and he will oversee the university’s relationships with its 250,000 alumni through the UCF Alumni Association. The Foundation and Alumni Association combined have nearly 120 staff members.

Morsberger served for nearly five years as George Washington’s vice president for development and alumni relations. He resigned in October 2014 for family reasons.

Previously, he was vice president for development and alumni affairs at Duke Medicine. Morsberger also worked as associate vice president of development and alumni relations for the University of Virginia’s Health System and executive director of the UVa Health Foundation.

He served at Johns Hopkins for nine years, starting as a major gifts officer and rising to chief development officer of the medical center’s renowned cancer center. He was associated with what was then the largest gift in Johns Hopkins’ history, a $150 million pledge to rename the comprehensive cancer center by philanthropist Sidney Kimmel.

Morsberger, the first in his family to attend college, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Radford University and a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Marybeth, were college sweethearts, and they have two grown children, Courtney and Allison.

“I am honored to accept this important role and serve the vast UCF community,” Morsberger said. “It is clear to me that the University of Central Florida at age 50 is at an inflection point in its remarkable history — and the next decade will surely prove to be very exciting.”

Morsberger joins the UCF Foundation in the midst of a fundraising campaign that aims to raise $500 million by 2018. Those donations support student scholarships, faculty positions, new facilities and more.

Alumnus Texas Instruments Executive Meets with Student-Athlete Engineers He’s Committed to Support

BrianCrutcher

By Zack Thomas
Managing Editor, UCF Foundation

“I know what it takes to be a student-athlete and an engineer,” said Brian Crutcher, ’95, speaking last week with a group of UCF student-athletes majoring in engineering. “I know athletes are competitive. Really competitive. You don’t go out there to be second, third or fourth. You want to win. And we need that exact same trait in the business world.”

Crutcher, who played defensive back for the Knights while pursuing his electrical engineering degree and now serves as executive vice president of business operations for Texas Instruments, was on campus to help lay the groundwork for the College of Engineering and Computer Science Student Athletes Program. The program will help student-athlete engineering majors like Crutcher persevere through a curriculum that is rigorous even without the added demands of being an athlete. Crutcher has committed $200,000 over the next five years through his Crutcher Family Fund to support the program.

His ultimate intent, Crutcher says, is to ensure that students like him realize their engineering career goals and then carry forward into the workplace the leadership and teamwork skills — and, of course, competitiveness — that are second nature in sports. Despite UCF’s heavy emphasis on academic achievement for student-athletes — the university’s graduation rate for student-athletes is No. 1 in the nation among NCAA Division I public institutions — engineering majors frequently switch to less demanding disciplines during their first two years. The new program will focus specifically on shoring up math support to freshman and sophomore CECS student-athletes and providing one-on-one graduate advisor tutoring and mentoring.

Crutcher spent more than an hour with the student-athletes, recalling the challenges he had faced, listening to theirs, and answering a flood of questions about applying and interviewing for jobs and life in the professional world. His core message was a simple one though: “Don’t quit. I guarantee you it will be worth it.”