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DC Noles 50th Anniversary Gala: A Garnet and Gold Affair

7 p.m. Saturday, April 25 — City Tavern Club

Good evening, and congratulations!

It’s wonderful that the Seminole Club of Greater Washington DC has been around for 50 years! That’s something to celebrate.

I want to thank Howard Shores and the committee for making this gala possible.

The DC Noles owes its start to a small group of dedicated alumni who met regularly in a Washington townhouse bonding over their shared love of Florida State University.

I’m pleased that one of those alums, Florence Ashby, is with us tonight. Flo has the distinction of being the club’s first official member, and she has the membership card marked #001 to prove it.

After graduating from FSU in 1957 and later moving to Washington for a job with IBM, Flo was happy to reconnect with her classmates through the Seminole Club. One of those classmates was Laird Anderson. Flo and Laird were married for more than 40 years until he passed away last fall.

I’m sure that Flo and Laird are not the only ones who can credit their love story to the DC Noles. Especially when we consider that the small group they started 50 years ago is now one of the largest Seminole clubs in the country.

I think it’s safe to say that Florida State holds a special place in the hearts of many of us in this room. And let me tell you, there are some exciting things on the horizon at Florida State.

FSU is already recognized by the state Legislature as a preeminent university for meeting rigorous standards of excellence. This designation has allowed us to advance on several fronts. These include hiring new faculty in emerging disciplines and hiring entrepreneurs-in-residence to teach our students how to turn their ideas and innovations into practical enterprises.

As we chart our future, we are forging a path that is determined and ambitious. As you may know, FSU has established a goal to rise in the national rankings until we are recognized among the Top 25 public universities in the country.

I am confident we can rise in the rankings based on the quality of our academic programs, faculty and students. Many of our colleges and schools are already recognized as the nation’s best or in the Top 10.

Our faculty have distinguished themselves in many disciplines and have gained the high regard of peers around the world.

The quality of students we are attracting is already on par with the top national universities. In fact, the average GPA for students accepted into FSU’s freshman class this year was a 4.0 and their average SAT score was 1864.

These high-achieving students are well prepared for the rigors of academic life. So we also see our retention and graduation rates increasing.

FSU achieved its highest total to date in research funding last year, bringing in more than $230 million from federal, state and other funding sources.

In addition, our faculty members transform their knowledge into products and services that can help people, our economy and society as a whole. Last year, we had 39 patents granted, 25 license deals signed and seven startup companies created based on FSU research.

Attaining our Top 25 goal also depends on our success in STEM fields, so we are moving aggressively with several strategic hiring initiatives. We are hiring some real stars in the fields of energy and materials; coastal and marine ecosystems; and brain health and disease.

National rankings are important for reasons beyond bragging rights. That’s because rankings signal to employers, clients and others the value of a degree from Florida State University.

This is not just important to our young alumni who are just entering the workforce. An increase in the rankings benefits all of us, no matter when we earned our degrees.

The best investment I ever made was when I decided to come to FSU in 1961. My business and law degrees have opened doors for me throughout my life. Now it’s great to see how my diplomas have appreciated in value over the years. They will continue to do so as Florida State reaches even greater national recognition.

Our $1 billion “Raise the Torch” fundraising campaign will help us to reach our goals. Private giving will allow us to implement bold ideas that will continue to distinguish Florida State as a preeminent university. It will allow us to strengthen our most successful programs and lift other areas to higher prominence.

The student experience we offer is just as important as rankings and research. We would like FSU to be recognized as one of the best universities in the nation for combining academic rigor with a warm and caring environment that provides students with an array of research, creative and engagement opportunities.

Florida State has long been a leader among universities in developing students beyond the classroom, so I believe we are well on the way to reaching that goal.

Our students are well rounded and global in their perspective. By the time they graduate, many of them have completed several internships, volunteered dozens of service hours in the community, worked closely with professors on research projects, and traveled overseas to learn and conduct research in every corner of the globe.

Now, new studies are showing that these kinds of experiences in college will have lifelong benefits. Engaged students become engaged employees who report higher career satisfaction and greater well-being. Not only are we preparing career-ready college graduates, we are producing good citizens who can improve the world.

One of these students is a junior named Daniel Hubbard. Daniel has just received a Truman Scholarship, a prestigious national award given to juniors who seek to improve their communities through public service.

He is one of just 58 students in the nation and the only one in Florida to receive this recognition.

Daniel spent five years as an Army medic before enrolling at Florida State. He is now working with one of our top faculty members on researching the causes of suicide, particularly in the military community. The work that he is doing has real potential to save lives.

I am very proud of the work we are doing to ensure that all of our student-veterans have the resources and tools they need to succeed.

Military Times named Florida State No. 8 in the nation in its latest “Best Colleges for Vets” rankings, and we also received a national award in recognition of our exceptional progress in increasing retention and graduation of veterans.

These recognitions show we are well on the way to achieving our goal of becoming known as the most veteran-friendly and empowering public university in the nation.

This is an exciting time for Florida State University. We are on the threshold of a new era, with some challenges, but incredible opportunities.

You can make a real difference in our future. There are so many ways to give back to this university that we all love. You may choose to contribute to our fundraising campaign, or volunteer your time or talent to one of our many initiatives.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for all you already do for Florida State University. The DC Noles have been among our most loyal and devoted alumni for more than five decades!

You do service projects that reflect well on Florida State here in the nation’s capital, and you support a scholarship for a deserving high school student from this area to attend FSU. We appreciate all that you do to lift this great university even higher.

Thank you.