The University of South Florida's Muma College of Business got a $10.9 million shot in the arm that will put the names of Barry and Dana Collier atop the college's student success program.
The newly renamed Collier Student Success Center, dean Moez Limayem hopes, will bring the business school closer to its goal of 100 percent employment or continuing education for students after graduation.
"That's a lofty goal," Barron "Barry" Collier III said. "It piqued our interest."
The center teaches students out-of-the-classroom skills — dining etiquette, how to write a resume, even how to chat in an elevator.
The Colliers' gift was announced at a news conference Thursday with USF president Judy Genshaft. Students filled the floor of the Muma building's atrium and leaned over the second-floor balcony, cheering at the news.
The donation is the latest in a series of generous eight-figure gifts made to USF, and the Tampa campus' business college in particular. In 2014, the school was renamed for Les and Pam Muma after their record $25 million donation to the university.
The Colliers' $10.9 million gift expands on their recent contributions to the college. They have donated $300,000 over the past six years to fund the Collier Scholarship, which has been awarded to more than 70 business students. The couple also has contributed to the corporate mentor program, which helps students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Limayem said business leaders in the community believe students are learning technical business knowledge but need more "soft" skills beyond the classroom: Communication. Networking. Interviewing. Negotiation. Even ballroom dancing.
The student success center already taught those skills. But now, it will be able to enhance its offerings and serve even more students thanks to the Colliers' gift.
"Now, because of your generosity, we will be able to help more and more students with these soft skills," Limayem told the Colliers, who sat on the stage behind him Thursday, holding hands.
Having students ready to "hit the ground running" when they graduate goes beyond Muma and USF, the dean said. It's good business.
"It helps the area compete even better in this global market. It keeps businesses in the area and attracts more businesses," Limayem said. "It has a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay area."
Collier said after giving scholarships for first-generation college students and supporting the corporate mentor program, he was moved by the totality of the offerings from the business school's student success center. It combines student advising, scholarships and the corporate mentor program. Some business students even live together in the same dorm.
"The end result is a great, well-rounded graduate that can confidently enter today's competitive world," Collier said. "Hopefully, other alumni and businesses will donate because this is not only the opportunity for a great education but a shot at getting a job, which is what college is all about, and that's what this program is about."
His grandfather was Barron Gift Collier Sr., the New York advertising magnate who helped give rise to modern Southwest Florida. When the state ran out of money to build the Tamiami Trail to connect Miami to Tampa, Barron Collier Sr. paid to finish it. That's why Collier County was named for him.
Barry Collier is a partner in Barron Collier Companies LLC, which oversees the family's land holdings and its businesses in agriculture, minerals and real estate. He and his wife, Dana, raised four children and live in Naples. He graduated from the USF Tampa campus' business college in 1980.
"This has a unique flavor to it because it's one of our very own alum coming back and investing in student futures," said Limayem of the $10.9 million donation.
The gift is the largest donation to the business college since the Mumas' $25 million donation in October. Major donations also have been made to USF St. Petersburg's College of Business, the School of Mass Communications on the Tampa campus and the new medical school tower planned for downtown Tampa.
Still, Limayem said, it's not every day he has an alum come back like this.
"I'm a very happy dean."
Contact Anne Steele at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @annemariesteele.