By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
The 29th Brunch on the Bay, the marquee fundraising event for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, raised $465,000 for student scholarships, campus expansion and other initiatives.
A sold-out crowd gathered on campus on Sunday enjoyed fine dining from local restaurants and catering companies. They also heard updates from USF President Rhea Law and Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook on how the campus is growing – the event took place on campus in the shadow of a new $42.3 million, 100,000-square-foot student center and residence hall under construction.
They also listened as one Sarasota-Manatee student described the impact the generosity of past Brunch donors has had on her academic career. Angela Perez Cruz, a child of Cuban immigrants who is studying at the Sarasota-Manatee campus on a scholarship funded by Brunch on the Bay, told attendees their support allows her and other students to pursue their dreams.
“From my first day, the University of South Florida has consistently proven that it prioritizes student growth and success above all else,” Perez Cruz said. “Not only have I achieved everything that I set out to do, but I have exceeded my own expectations.”
Once again USF Federal Credit Union served as title sponsor for the 29th Annual Brunch on the Bay. Prominent local business executives Lisa Krouse and Rod Hershberger were co-chairs of the event. Guests included USF President emerita Judy Genshaft, USF Foundation Board members, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and numerous other federal, state and local officials, as well as members of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board, including Chairman Rick Piccolo.
More than half of the restaurants and catering companies that prepared food and drinks for Brunch on the Bay are women-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned businesses.
The total raised came from ticket sales, sponsorships and proceeds of a paddle raise during the event. Since its founding, Brunch on the Bay has supported more than $6.5 million in scholarships for more than 2,000 students. It also supports campus initiatives, including current expansion projects.
In their remarks Sunday, both Law and Holbrook said the campus is enjoying an elevated status that comes with USF’s high rankings among other higher education institutions and the university’s admission into the elite Association of American Universities earlier this year.
“USF’s upward trajectory is especially evident here in Sarasota-Manatee — where we have a bold vision for the future,” Law said.
As examples, Law pointed to the student center and residence hall, set to open for the fall 2024 semester, and continued planning for a $61.7 million Nursing/STEM building that will allow the campus to offer students and faculty new and expanded academic offerings and research opportunities.
“We have a lot of momentum going on,” Holbrook said. “Yes, we are constructing buildings, but we are really constructing the future leaders, innovators and influencers of Sarasota and Manatee counties and beyond. ... Our campus is transforming to meet the demands of an ever-expanding region.”
Both Law and Holbrook celebrated the campus’s connection with the community, as illustrated by the size of the crowd and enthusiastic support exhibited during Brunch on the Bay.
“Students in the area and beyond have a choice in the type of education they seek, and I am proud that one of their choices is our USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, a branch of a preeminent research university, one of only three in the State University System of Florida,” Holbrook said.
Perez Cruz, a junior double majoring in biomedical sciences and psychology as a student in the Judy Genshaft Honors College, said the new laboratories planned for the Nursing/STEM building would eliminate the need for her and other students to travel to an off-campus site to pursue their academic and research interests.
“Ultimately, your contributions fund our collective efforts to continue excelling both as an institution and as individual students,” she said.