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.
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.
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:
Matt Harrison personifies giving back to UCF. A May 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, he has already established a scholarship dedicated to excellence at the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science: the Leadership Scholarship.
As a student, Harrison was active on campus, attending numerous engineering events, serving as chapter president of both the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity and the American Society for Engineering Education, and asserting himself as part of the UCF Engineering Leadership and Innovation Institute (eli²). In turn, as a person, he grew. Harrison, for example, attributes much of his early career success to eli²:
“I learned how to be a leader, and I learned how to communicate,” he says.
These days, those lessons serve him well as a medical engineer at 3D Medical Manufacturing in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is largely a trouble-shooter who works to ensure quality standards. Continually on the move at 3D Medical, he solves problems involving a variety of people; interaction is a key part of getting his job done. “I use my resources to fix problems, and the ability to share my vision is one of those resources.”
Now, he’s returning the favor to UCF.
Four days after graduating, he began working at 3D Medical Manufacturing. By fall 2013, his Leadership Scholarship was in place, benefiting two students.
Each year, a scholarship will be given to two students of the College of Engineering and Computer Science who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities. Applicants must be enrolled full-time and they must write an essay describing their current leadership roles and ambitions as a leader.
Harrison established the criteria himself. “I wanted a scholarship that was not based on GPA, but rather on leadership ability and the willingness to give back to UCF,” he says. He also selects the recipients with help from Tim Kotnour, Ph.D., a professor in the UCF Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems, and director of eli². The scholarship doesn’t bare Harrison’s name, with the hope that other alumni will contribute to it.
“My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says. “I will always take an opportunity to give back what UCF has given me — and that is the ability to think strategically, give willingly and lead courageously.
“My aim is to not only build confidence in the leadership recipients, but to also instill the responsibility of paying it forward.”
Notably, he opted not to wait after graduating from UCF. “If you’re going to do something, you should start early,” he says. “I figured that if I started early, I would put myself into the habit of giving back as I grow older.”
Harrison contributes to UCF in other ways, as well, returning to campus to serve as a guest speaker and as a mentor to the types of students he represented not long ago. “UCF,” he says, “means so much to me.”
As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014, we can’t help but reflect on all of the great UCF stories that have been shared over the last 12 months. Celebrating a new year with a BCS bowl win, welcoming more than 16,000 new alumni over three semesters of graduation ceremonies, getting to know an inspirational teacher, helping a little boy get a “robo-arm” and witnessing a Knights marriage proposal are enough to run the emotional gamete on their own. But, we’ve got more!
Here are our top 10 favorite stories of 2014:
10. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl On Jan. 1, 2014, our Knights won their first-ever BCS bowl after defeating Baylor 52-42 in Glendale, Ariz. (Seems like a fitting story for our list of favorites, as our Knights play in their third-consecutive bowl, facing N.C. State in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, after celebrating back-to-back AAC championships. Go Knights! Charge On!)
9. Graduation The UCF Alumni Association welcomed more than 5,000 new alumni during fall 2014 commencement ceremonies held Dec. 12-13. With these graduations, UCF has awarded more than 271,000 degrees since classes began in 1968. In total, the alumni association welcomed more than 16,000 new alumni in 2014, including spring and summer graduations.
8. The Origins of Pegasus Magazine In 2014, Pegasus Magazine celebrated its 20th year in production. The inaugural issue in July 1994 was printed and mailed to 59,861 alumni. Today, the award-winning publication is sent to more than 205,000 (addressable) alumni. Pegasus was created by Tom Messina, ’84, along with fellow Knights Mike Hinn, ’92, and Jim Hobart, ’91.
7. Little Legacy Marlie Kai Dodson dreamed of being a UCF Cheerleader and attending the College of Nursing. However, pediatric brain cancer claimed her life on Dec. 31, 2011, leaving behind a little legacy that would make a big impact. Thankful for the nurses who cared so much for her daughter, Marlie’s mom, Sarah Dodson, ’01, along with her family of other UCF Knights, established the Marlie Kai Dodson Endowed UCF Oncology Nursing Scholarship, which was awarded this year for the first time.
6. 180 Degrees
Although Jill Schenk, ’90, was an “American Gladiators” contestant, her spirit wasn’t as strong as her body. After struggling with addiction and attempting suicide, she was finally able to learn how to love herself, and now inspires her students as a teacher at San Diego High School.
5. Homecoming Highlights Homecoming 2014 proved to be another exciting week of alumni and student events, including the Black & Gold Gala, Spirit Splash, Black & Gold Takeover, Golf Tournament, Indoor Tailgate, CECS BBQ/Reunion, and a repeat victory against Temple!
3. Orlando’s University UCF’s new downtown Orlando campus is in the works, and will be a “game changer” for the university, according to its top supporter, UCF President John Hitt.
2. Kid-Approved Six-year-old Alex Pring received a new prosthetic arm, thanks to e-NABLE, an international organization that connects families with inventors and 3-D printer enthusiasts creating solutions for children with special needs. That’s where his mom, Alyson, met Albert Manero, ’12, an e-NABLE volunteer who would change their lives forever.
1. Proposal Knight
Having a brick engraved with “Marry Me?” was how Rob Brunjes, ’11, decided to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Michele McGlamory, ’10. Now, the Knights Terrace outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will always hold a special place in their hearts.
We hope you enjoyed our favorites as much as we did. Here’s to bigger and better stories in 2015!
With Knight Pride,
Your UCF Alumni Association Staff
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.”
In between slurping coffee to stay awake, meeting with study groups and pulling all nighters to get ready for final exams, University of Central Florida students took time out to help one another and break a food-drive record.
In less than 48 hours students dropped off 1,050 pounds of food at the Student Union to be donated to the on-campus Knights Helping Knights Pantry. The drive began Dec. 1 and ends today. So far, more than 1,300 pounds have been collected. Last year’s record was 1,000 pounds.
Students organized the food drive to help keep the food pantry stocked during the holiday break. The pantry began as a class project in a first-year LEAD Scholars course in 2009. The organizers never wanted students to have to choose between a meal and a textbook, so they worked hard to get the pantry started.
The pantry’s first home was a closet space in the Student Union. Today it fills an entire suite in Ferrell Commons attached to the All Knight Study facility there. The Student Union, Student Government Association and generous community donors support the pantry.
Students have access to the pantry Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can select up to five food items per day. For the past few years the Student Union has organized Study Union. During that time the union and other locations remain open 24/7 so students can get ready for finals. Union coordinators plan events and programming to reward diligent students and to promote happiness and healthy study habits. The food drive was added to help keep the shelves at the pantry stocked.
This year, students received a free Study Union T-shirt in exchange for their donation. More than 210 shirts were given away in 24 hours, and when coordinators ran out of shirts, they resorted to giving away union water bottles.
Ground was broken Friday, Nov. 21, for The Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership, thanks to a $4 million gift from the Wayne M. Densch Charitable Trust and a $1 million gift commitment by the Williams Family Foundation.
“We are very grateful to the Williams family for this generous gift,” said Todd Stansbury, UCF vice president and director of athletics.
“The leadership at UCF, Todd Stansbury and Rick Walsh, shared with me how important it is not only to have competitive sports facilities, but also how critical it is to make a big investment in the academic, personal and professional development of UCF student-athletes,” said Leonard Williams, trustee of the Wayne M. Densch Charitable Trust. “Under Dr. Hitt’s leadership, UCF has grown significantly. Our family is proud to make this investment.”
The Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership will serve as the headquarters for personal, professional and academic development of nearly 500 UCF student-athletes. The project cost is estimated at $6 million for the three-story, 22,000-square-foot structure. The center will house UCF’s Academic Services for Student-Athletes, Student Services and Compliance departments, and will include a multipurpose classroom with space for up to 200 students, a computer lab, tutoring and mentoring rooms, study space and conference and resource rooms. It will be located just east of and adjacent to Bright House Networks Stadium.
Construction is set to begin in January, with the project slated for completion in fall 2015.
First scholarship in memory of alumna’s daughter awarded to nursing student
Marlie Dodson dreamed of someday being a UCF cheerleader and a nurse. But, sadly, those dreams would never be realized, as Marlie succumbed to a lifelong battle with brain cancer on Dec. 31, 2011. Because her generous spirit made such an impact on those who cared for her while she was in the hospital, Marlie’s mom, Sarah Dodson, ’01, knew that the UCF College of Nursing would be a perfect home for Marlie’s memory. The Marlie Kai Dodson Memorial Endowed Scholarship supports future caregivers, and was awarded for the first time this year to UCF nursing student Bryce Catarelli.