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.”

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 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.”

GRAMMY-nominated Artist Ed Sheeran Visits UCF for Exclusive Behind-the-Mic Music Session

Ed Sheeran presented a check for $10,000 from Chegg to UCF Department of Music faculty (left to right) Jeff Moore, director; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)
Ed Sheeran presented a $10,000 check from Chegg to (left to right) Jeff Moore, director of the UCF Department of Music;
Tina Fleming, marketing assistant for the UCF School of Performing Arts; and Dave Schreier, assistant director of bands for the
UCF Department of Music. The money will be used to fund music student scholarships.
(Photo courtesy of Nicole Huie)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Hundreds of students lined up outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on Monday, May 4, for an intimate performance by GRAMMY-nominated artist Ed Sheeran. This special event was made possible thanks to Chegg’s #EdOnCampus social media contest, which UCF won in March, giving 300 lucky students an exclusive music class with the superstar, as well as a $10,000 grant for the UCF Department of Music.

The contest launched in late January and was open to all college and high school campuses across the nation. In just one month, more than 225,000 votes were cast by students representing more than 8,000 schools, generating 65 million social media impressions.

During his Music 101 class, “Professor” Sheeran performed acoustic versions of his hits “Don’t,” “I See Fire” and “Thinking Out Loud” in between answering students’ questions — everything from his favorite song he’s ever written (“the newest because it’s the most fresh”), to his dream collaboration (“Beyoncé,” with whom he got to perform at a Stevie Wonder tribute in February), to his advice on getting over stage fright (“just do it”). One student even asked him for a date, to which he immediately replied, “Where do you want to go?”

It was an unforgettable afternoon for all of the students who got to attend, and a great day for the UCF music program.

(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, '08)
Ed Sheeran played three songs on acoustic guitar during an exclusive performance and Q&A session for 300 UCF students.
(Photo courtesy of Bianca Sabrkhani, ’08)

More Info

See the social media response, with more photos and videos of Ed Sheeran’s visit to UCF: Twitter | Instagram

Ed Sheeran is a six-time-GRAMMY-nominated, multi-platinum singer/songwriter. At 24 years old, the British-born artist has seen his latest album, “x” (pronounced multiply), go to No. 1 in 14 countries, including the U.S. and his native, U.K., where it was both the biggest- and fastest-selling album of 2014. “x,” which features back-to-back platinum hits “Sing” and “Don’t,” as well as the current single, “Thinking Out Loud,” was nominated for Album of the Year at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards and won Best British Album at the 2015 BRIT Awards. This summer, he’ll perform for three sold-out nights at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Local Company Supports UCF’s Athletes with Annual Breakfast Fundraiser

Pat Clark (left), WESH 2 sports anchor, and Belvin Perry, personal-injury attorney and former chief judge in Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit, joined Knightro and two of UCF's cheerleaders for the annual MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on April 29.
Pat Clarke (left), WESH 2 sports anchor, and Belvin Perry, personal-injury attorney and former chief judge in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, joined Knightro and UCF Cheerleaders for the annual MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on April 29. (Photo: RF Photography)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Wealth management firm Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark hosted its second MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on Wednesday, April 29, to help raise money toward an academic support center for UCF athletes.

Four of the five partners in the firm are UCF alumni, including Christina Pinto, ’86; Lisa-Moreno Haramboure, ’89; Tony Moreno Jr., ’91, who also serves on the UCF Foundation Board of Directors; and Rob Clark, ’94. The firm’s other partner, Scott Peelen, graduated from Michigan State, but he was easily adopted as a member of their UCF family, especially since his daughter, Sarah, is a current UCF student, and he attends all of the football games.

The breakfast took place at the Alfond Inn in Winter Park, with many prominent community figures in attendance — including members of the UCF Board of Trustees, UCF Foundation Board of Directors and UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, as well as Orange County commissioners, current and former mayors, and one of the forefathers of UCF, Charlie Gray.

Knightro and some of the UCF Cheerleaders kicked off the morning with a cheer, followed by opening remarks from Peelen. WESH 2 Sports Anchor Pat Clarke hosted the remainder of the event, reminiscing about when UCF’s football program first started, and how he used to be able to park his Mustang under the Citrus Bowl stands. He commended then-Coach Gene McDowell on taking the program from Division II to Division I-AA, as well as current Head Coach George O’Leary on his “culture of winning” and “culture of learning.” He concluded with a video showcasing this season’s UCF Football’s key players before introducing Todd Stansbury, UCF’s athletic director, who stepped in to speak for O’Leary, who had to cancel his appearance due to a minor medical issue.

“When George meets with recruits,” Stansbury said, “he only guarantees them one thing — that they’ll graduate. He demands excellence, and that’s what he gets.”

In fact, UCF is No. 3 in the nation for graduating 90 percent of its football players, and is No. 1 in the nation for graduating 95 percent of all its student-athletes combined.

“A lot of people think we’re in the entertainment business,” Stansbury continued. “We’re really in the education business. Our mission is to provide opportunity to young people and develop future leaders. Our job is to use sport to prepare them to compete.”

While there were plenty of laughs, including an anecdote from Clarke about Peelen’s former reporting skills, the morning was really about supporting UCF’s athletes and their academic endeavors. Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark pledged to match gifts up to the first $10,000 raised.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is the quality of the students graduating from UCF,” Moreno Jr. says. “In fact, we just hired another UCF alumnus through the internship program. We’re very proud of the high ranking UCF maintains for graduating athletes.”

Want to help make the academic support center a reality? Contact Chris Huff, associate athletics director of development and executive director of the Golden Knights Club, at [email protected] or 407.823.2205.

See highlights from the MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast:

Scholarships Make Champions Shine Brighter

Thanks to his hard work — and first generation scholarship — No. 19 wide receiver, Josh Reese, '14, graduated with his bachelor's degree in summer 2014. Over the span of his UCF athletic career, he's helped the Knights win multiple conference championships and bowl games.
Thanks to his hard work — and First Generation Scholarship — No. 19 Wide Receiver Josh Reese, ’14, graduated with his bachelor’s degree in summer 2014. Over the span of his UCF athletic career, Reese has helped the Knights win multiple conference championships and bowl games.

By Angie Lewis, ’03

As UCF Football prepares for its final game of the season, facing the N.C. State Wolfpack in the 2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, it also prepares to say goodbye to 21 seniors, who helped the team win back-to-back AAC championships and earn three consecutive bowl invitations.

While fans may know each player’s number and position, and be familiar with his performance on the field, what they may not know is how each got there.

One of those seniors is the Knights’ No. 19 wide receiver, Josh Reese, ’14, from Miami Central High School, whose energizing 30-yard reception, followed by Quarterback Justin Holman’s keeper, helped to briefly put UCF ahead of Penn State in the last two minutes of Ireland’s Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.

“He’s really the one guy who sticks out as being the leader of the receiving group,” says UCF Wide Receivers Coach Sean Beckton, ’93. “He’s the one guy you can count on to go out and do everything right.”

In addition to his physical abilities, part of Reese’s success is also thanks to his First Generation Scholarship. He’s one of about 75 UCF student-athletes who receive financial assistance to help them succeed as the first person in their families to attend college.

“Having a First Generation Scholarship helped me get to college in general,” Reese says. “It also made it possible for me to go to a bigger and better college like UCF, and not only play football, but achieve a degree.”

Reese completed his bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science this past summer.

“Everything that he’s gotten thus far, as far as the recognition here, he’s deserving of it, because he’s worked extremely hard,” Beckton says.

And, Reese isn’t the only UCF student-athlete who works hard on the field and off. The graduation rate of UCF’s student-athletes is 95 percent — the highest rate in the country among public institutions and fifth overall.

The graduate rate for UCF Football, specifically, is 90 percent, which is 10th overall among football programs and second among public institutions. The program has also won the Academic Excellence Award for having the highest GPA in the conference for the past three years.

“It’s always good to give back to people who may not have opportunities to go to college and beyond,” Reese says. “Never count out anyone.”

More Info

  • Get the numbers! JOSH REESE’S STATS
  • The Knights rank among the nation’s top bowl teams in the classroom. READ MORE
  • UCF recently celebrated the groundbreaking of The Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership. READ MORE
  • Want to make a difference in the life of a first generation college student? DONATE TODAY