Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Jan. 3


1. The men’s basketball team is off to a hot start in conference play and are back at home Tuesday against East Carolina at 7:15 p.m. on ESPNews. The Knights, who have won their last four in a row, are coming off of their biggest American Athletic Conference win ever, defeating Temple 77-53 on Saturday. It was UCF’s largest margin of victory in an AAC game since the conference began play in 2013-14. Need tickets? Click here. Go Knights!

2. UCF Alumni is kicking off 2017 with an IGNITE Tour stop in Naples! Key members of UCF’s leadership will visit Florida’s west coast on Jan. 23. Register for this event and learn more about future stops on the tour by visiting

3. Just before the close of 2016, two police officers retired from UCFPD after they dedicated more than 60 years combined to protecting and serving the community. Sgt. Hugh Carpenter retired after 33 years with UCF where he first started as a parking services employee before rising through the ranks to sergeant. Cpl. Chuck Reising retired after 10 years with UCFPD following his 25 years with the Orlando Police Department. He trained all three of UCFPD’s other K-9 teams and retired along with his K-9 partner, an 8-year-old German Shepherd named Max.

4. The 23rd annual Joseph C. Andrews Mentoring Celebration breakfast that highlights leadership in the UCF community will be in the Student Union on Jan. 30. Beginning at 8 a.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom, the event hosted by the Black Faculty and Staff Association at UCF will feature keynote speaker Marc Lamont Hill, host of BET News and VH1 Live, and a CNN political contributor. Hill is a journalist, professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta and a social-justice activist. His speech will focus on how culture, education, community involvement and mentoring intersect.

The event is open to the public. It’s $350 to purchase a table and $35 for an individual ticket. Money raised will support scholarships and annual celebration breakfasts. Contact DeLaine Priest at [email protected] by Jan. 13 to reserve a seat.

5. In case you missed it, the alumni-loaded Jonnie Morgan Band won a national songwriting contest and will get to record at legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles. Check out this UCF Alumni Today feature on how Morgan found his passion for music while he was still a student at UCF.

Alumni Band Rocks On To Big Win

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 23, 2016) — A self-taught musician, Jonnie Morgan ’10 won a national songwriter contest last week that will send his band – the aptly named Jonnie Morgan Band – to Los Angeles for a recording session in legendary Village Studios.

“We really want to put Orlando on the map as a music city. It’s very important to me to try to build that culture, and that’s why this contest is almost as important to me as anything else,” he said. “I feel like there’s a responsibility to represent where you’re from.”

Morgan grew up on the west coast of Florida and ended up at UCF based off a recommendation from his 10th-grade high school Spanish teacher.

He studied economics and minored in marketing – not exactly the DNA of rock stars. But as a junior, the he started to write his own music.

His inspiration for one of his earliest songs was what else, but a relationship. He called the love song Saranade, named after the girl he wrote it for.

“To this day, it’s still some people’s favorite song of mine,” he said. “Once I wrote that song, the floodgates opened. Everyone was like where are these songs coming from?”

Soon after he formed a band with bass guitarist Jeremy Adams ’12. The two serendipitously met at a pizza place on campus.

They drafted other bandmates along the way, including Brandon Sollins ’11 ’15MS, at open mic nights and local gigs. He thanks former SGA presidential duo Logan Berkowitz ’08 and Brandon Delanois ’10 for always pushing him to perform by booking him for tailgates or happy hours at the Dungeon.

“I love this university. I love everything that it stands for. The experiences. The friends that I’ve made. The people that have helped me and still help me to this day,” he said. “This is the place where I found out I wanted to do music for the rest of my life, and I think that’s something special.”


The band has experienced some pretty cool moments, like opening up for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cheap Trick at the 2013 SunFest. Even though some of the players have changed in the lineup, the Jonnie Morgan Band has become family.

That family includes Morgan’s wife, Amie, who has been there rooting for him every step of the way, even as she battled breast cancer twice before the age of 29.

Morgan was in the room with her both times she learned she had cancer. He was there for her treatments, the scans, the tests and cared for her through six surgeries. Their first four months of marriage earlier this year included the bulk of her chemotherapy treatment.

“I am so thankful that I have had Jonnie next to me through this, I am not sure how I would have handled it without him,” she said. “I am a very practical person, and I never expected to be a musician’s wife. It’s a bit of a different lifestyle. But I see this guy, and he is just so talented. As an added bonus, he has surrounded himself with such an amazing group of guys in the band. We have really created such a great JMB family, and I am so thankful for each one of them.”

Now that Amie has been deemed cancer free, the band went back to recording music and booked tours in different regions of the United States in the New Year.

When a booking agent called about the EON One Take contest, Morgan figured why not? The contest was judged by legend Quincy Jones and Andrew McMahon (known for hit song Cecilia and the Satellite).

JMB made it to an initial cut of 20 semifinalist, to a top 10, to finally the last band standing with a trip to Village Studios.

“This is what we’re supposed to do and this is the time to do it,” he said.

Village Studios has hosted legends like Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, B. B. King and Bob Dylan to current artists like Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and John Mayer. Even soundtracks like “The Bodyguard” and “The Shawshank Redemption” were recorded there.

He said winning the contest has helped give him the confidence to continue pursuing what he feels is his purpose in life – helping people. He believes music is the tool to achieve it.

“If you look at some of the greats – Bob Marley, Bob Dylan – they have shaped people’s lives. They help you when you’re down. They help you think about things differently,” he said. “I feel like that’s one of my purposes.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Dec. 19

1. Although the football team didn’t get the result it wanted at the AutoNation Cure Bowl, the Orlando Sports Foundation and AutoNation combined to donate $1.15 million to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. UCF researcher Annette Khaled, PhD, and Dean of UCF’s College of Medicine Deborah German, MD, were on hand to support the cause.

P.S. We enjoyed seeing so many alumni and friends at our last tailgate of the season. We’re already counting down the days until 2017, but in the meantime, you can relive Saturday’s fun and tag yourself in this Facebook gallery.
2. “There was no way I was going to miss his graduation. He changed my life.” – That’s original bionic kid Alex Pring, who surprised Limbitless Solutions founder Albert Manero as he walked across the stage at commencement on Saturday. Manero is now a three-time UCF alumnus after receiving his doctorate over the weekend. Twenty-nine other Limbitless members earned degrees among the nearly 5,400 Knights who graduated this December.

View: UCF 2016 Fall Graduation Exposure Gallery

3. Switching gears to basketball, both the men’s and women’s teams are off to great starts in their new eras. Senior guard Zykira Lewis became UCF’s record holder for all-time 3-pointers over the weekend. Everyone’s favorite big man Tacko Fall dropped a career-high 31 points on Sunday, and he’s still leading the nation in field goal percentage, converting an average of 83 percent of the shots he attempts. Both squads have home games this week and several over the holiday break. Check out their schedules: Men | Women (Helpful hint: ticket links are listed for each game).

4. We’d like to send a big congratulations to the Jonnie Morgan Band, named for its founder, UCF alumnus Jonnie Morgan ’10. The band won a national contest on Friday that featured judges Quincy Jones and Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, and will get to record at legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles. Be on the lookout for a story this week on about the band’s journey to victory.

5. UCF is coming for you, Naples! The next stop on the IGNITE Tour is headed to Florida’s west coast on Jan. 23. Register for this event and learn more about future stops on the tour by visiting