Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – April 2, 2018

1. UCF’s Day of Giving on March 29 was a smashing success thanks to YOU! Your combined efforts blew by the donor goal of 1,000, and your love for UCF supported a variety of scholarships and programs at the university. Read more about the day and check out the results:
Day of Giving Infographic

2. In addition to the buzz of UCF Day of Giving on March 29, the Florida Board of Governors unanimously confirmed the selection of Dale Whittaker, PhD, as the University of Central Florida’s next president. Whittaker, who currently serves as UCF’s provost and executive vice president, will become the university’s fifth president on July 1.

3. UCF Alumni announced the recipients of its fourth annual 30 Under 30 Awards on March 30. The winners will be recognized in a formal ceremony on campus at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on May 19. View the complete slate of honorees.

4. What do sea turtles, veterans, language programs, science and football have in common? They’ll all be better off thanks to the generosity of Jim ’81 and Julia Rosengren, who have committed $6.6 million to support those programs at the University of Central Florida. Combined with their previous donations, the Rosengrens have committed $7.95 million to UCF – the largest total from an alumnus in university history.

5. If you missed news from UCF’s Pro Day last week, get yourself caught up with this recap. In addition to 60-plus scouts and executives from around professional football in attendance, nearly 70 members of the media were credentialed to cover the event. That media contingent included two crews from ESPN and one from NFL Network, in addition to coverage from Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports and every local outlet that usually covers the UCF football team.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 26, 2018

Blake Bortles will suit up for the Jacksonville Jaguars through 2020

1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected four finalists for UCF’s next transformational leader, and each finalist will visit UCF to meet with students, faculty, alumni, donors and community partners and also will give a presentation at an open forum. The campus community and public are invited to attend presentations by each of the candidates scheduled for March 2 and March 6-8. Attendees will be able to provide feedback. Visit www.ucf.edu/presidentsearch to learn more about the finalists and their soon-to-be scheduled visits.

2. DUUUVAL! Former UCF football great Blake Bortles signed a contract extension over the weekend with the Jacksonville Jaguars to lead the team through the 2020 season. “This is definitely the place I wanted to be,” the quarterback said, also citing personal reasons such as Jacksonville being close to his hometown of Oviedo, Florida.

3. Radio-TV alumna and former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 overcame three eating disorders from the time she was in middle school until she was ready to get help in college. Now, she’s using her experience to help others and raise awareness for mental health. Check out this National Eating Disorders Week spotlight

4. UCF has brought in 1,575 new football season ticket accounts since Jan. 1, its highest amount since the stadium first opened in 2007. Season ticket renewals are also around 90 percent sold. Shannon Green breaks down all the rewards from the best football season in school history in this Orlando Sentinel article.

5. FAIRWINDS Credit Union will fund a new $1.1 million endowed professorship for a proposed UCF FinTech program, the first of its kind in the State University System. The gift to benefit financial-technology education, to be fulfilled over the next eight years, was announced Feb. 20.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 19, 2018

1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected eight semifinalists vying to become the university’s fifth president and next visionary leader. The 15-member search committee will interview the semifinalists on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Student Union. Following the final interview, the committee will vote to bring three to five finalists to campus. Find out more about the semifinalists.

2. The UCF football team announced the date of its annual spring game: Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m. at Spectrum Stadium. More details about activities surrounding the game will be forthcoming.

3. Three Knights are featured among Orlando Weekly’s annual selection of its “10 people making Orlando a better place to be.” College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni Ricky Ly ’08 and Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD along with College of Medicine alumna Rasha Mubarak ’08 all received shoutouts in the recent article.

4. This year’s recipients of the Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious student award, were announced Friday. Of the 22 honorees, four are already alumni of the university.

5. Let’s make Monday a little more fun. Take this UCF Study Abroad-inspired quiz to find out where you should travel this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alumna Giving Back In Celebration Of Daughter’s Memory, Perfect Season

Alumna Sarah Dodson ’01 plans on honoring the memory of her daughter, Marlie, with a special volunteer project in Atlanta and Orlando on New Year’s Eve.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 24, 2017) – On Dec. 31, 2011, Sarah Dodson ’01 knew New Year’s Eve would never hold the same meaning to her again. After five years of treatment, her 8-year-old daughter Marlie, who dreamed of becoming a UCF cheerleader and nurse, died of a brain tumor (Pineoblastoma).

In 2012, Dodson and her family established a new tradition with the hope that they could re-channel their feelings about the day into a positive experience. As a tribute to Marlie’s life, the family has sponsored a Share-A-Meal each year at the Ronald McDonald House at Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Medical Center.

This year, they’re expanding their efforts to Atlanta where the family of Knights fans will be to support the undefeated UCF football team in its Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl appearance on Jan. 1 against Auburn.

“We were moved by memorializing Marlie for this event, but ultimately it was representing UCF in a community that we’ve been invited to be a part of with this bowl game,” Dodson said. “That was a big piece of it for me – how cool is it that we can represent UCF and give back to this community on something that we’re all so passionate about? What an honor it is to represent UCF in addition to Marlie’s memory.”

The idea to extend the Share-A-Meal to Atlanta was planted at the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Dec. 2.

A longtime supporter of the football team, Dodson was sitting in the stands at Spectrum Stadium before the last play when her sister turned to her and said, “They’re going to win this game. What are you going to do? I guess you’re going to have to have the Share-A-Meal in Atlanta.”

Dodson said she laughed it off as an unrealistic possibility. She was already committed to their annual meal in Orlando, but the idea stuck with her.

She researched the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and learned of its reputation as college football’s most charitable bowl and its commitment to education and the community’s children. As an educator herself with Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, it struck a chord.

She also learned the bowl is celebrating its 50th year – it’s golden season. Gold also happens to be the color for childhood cancer awareness. And “forever golden” is how Dodson’s entire family refers to Marlie.

Dodson felt there were too many signs to ignore. Her friends and support system at home told her they would take over the Orlando meal this year and encouraged her to go to Atlanta.

“This has almost been like a movement for Team Marlie. Now we know we can do this anywhere,” she said. “We can have multiple groups travel to any city because we’re so supported. It’s so perfect that it worked out and our first city will be Atlanta, and we’ll be there because of UCF.”

Dodson connected with the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Scottish Rite. They’ll be serving meals to the patients, families, nurses, doctors and hospital staff.

Although Dodson can only bring three helpers onto the floor with her to serve the meals, her entire regular tailgate crew of 12 will help in the preparation.

“Meals are very important for the families who visit the family room. Most families do not want to leave their child’s bedside even if that means going downstairs to the cafeteria, so having a place where they can eat as a family moments away from their hospital room and worry free of cost, is a special treat,” said April Smith, family support services manager for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. “Families have expressed how grateful and appreciative they are to have groups and individuals volunteer their time to provide and serve warm prepared meals. I was happy to hear Sarah wanted to continue her volunteer work while visiting in Atlanta.”

They also plan to distribute sparkling apple cider and champagne flutes to help create a festive New Year’s Eve atmosphere in the children’s rooms.

Dodson said experiences like these are always a balance of excitement and compassion. Inevitably there will be some tears, but she is looking forward to the opportunity to honor her daughter’s memory on a weekend she knows her little cheerleader would have been thrilled to be a part of.

“This season was something that we’ve all been waiting for. The thing about Marlie was win or lose, she was a fan. I know her pride for this team would be through the roof,” she said. “If I was able to put to words what Marlie might feel, looking down on us, I think mostly she would be excited that we were living life and embracing another community and another group of children. She taught us to live life and to find happiness and love in everyone you come across. Continuing to be her voice and share that passion, I think she’d be excited we have smiles on our faces and are enjoying the experience.”

Marlie Dodson

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