ST. PETERSBURG — Eckerd College trustees gasped when chairman Miles Collier and his wife, Parker, announced a $25-million gift to the school in 2006. It was the largest financial contribution in the college's history.
As Eckerd continued its 50th anniversary celebration at a dinner Friday night in the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, another Collier announcement elicited a standing ovation: The couple pledged an additional $15-million from a family foundation if other donors would match the amount.
The money will pay for a new $30-million science complex and renovation of existing science resources.
"This commitment was made last April as we talked about how to kick off the public phase of the campaign," Eckerd president Donald R. Eastman III said. "Given the impact of the national and world economy on everybody's assets, including those of our donors, I was particularly delighted that the Colliers went ahead with this commitment."
Nearly half of Eckerd's students intend to major in science, Eastman said, making the new science facility a priority.
Friday's event launched the public phase of the 50th anniversary capital campaign. In two years, the college has raised $65-million toward its $80-million goal, officials said.
Also on Friday, the Eckerd board extended Eastman's contract to June 30, 2014. He began his term in July 2001. In 2006, his contract was renewed for a second five-year term.
Grover Wrenn Jr., vice president of the board and chairman of the capital campaign, recently announced a $1-million donation, the largest from any Eckerd alumnus. Wrenn, who graduated in 1964, is a member of the founding class of Florida Presbyterian College.
The campaign also received gifts from Tampa Bay area residents Tom and Mary James, Jean Giles Wittner, Helmar Nielsen and Martha Rudy Wallace, and from the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco.
Miles Collier was unavailable for an interview. He is founder and managing partner of Collier Enterprises in Naples, which is involved in real estate investment and development, agricultural and private equity investments. He is the grandson of Barron Collier, founder of Collier County. He has been a member of Eckerd's board of trustees since 1988. The $15-million pledge is from the Mill Park Foundation, earmarked by a bequest from Collier's mother, Isabel Collier Read, who died recently, said college spokesman Lisa Mets. Miles and Parker Collier control the foundation.
Eckerd, a private coed college of liberal arts and sciences, has about 1,800 students. It was founded in 1958 as Florida Presbyterian College and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. In 1972, the college's name was changed to honor the late Jack M. Eckerd, a civic leader and businessman who was a major contributor to the school.