St. Petersburg investment banker Bill Hough was not only a member of the University of Florida's first master's of business administration class in 1948, he reckons he received the first MBA from the university.
"There were only two in our graduating class, and I came first in the alphabet, so I got my diploma half a second before my partner," he said.
Sixty-two years later, the ties binding Alumnus No. 1 and his school will be even stronger.
Hough, 83, will be in Gainesville today for the dedication of Hough Hall, a new $23 million home for the graduate business school.
Hough donated $30 million to UF in 2007, the largest private gift it ever received. Most of the donation was earmarked for an endowment; about $5 million went to Hough Hall.
Long known in business and civic circles in St. Petersburg, Hough recently talked with the St. Petersburg Times about his history, the current economy, and the future business climate.
What makes your connection with UF special?
I was in the (U.S. Navy's officer training program) in World War II and finished my degree at Miami University in Ohio. When I was discharged from the Navy, I went to the University of Florida for a master's of business administration. I had grown up in Florida (in St. Petersburg) so it was natural I would want to go there.
I've had a successful business career in the municipal bond business, and I was very grateful to the university and wanted to give back. I really do think my education at the University of Florida was responsible for the success of my business career.
What are you going to speak about at the dedication?
I'm going to talk about how (students) need to work harder and go to school more hours. That's the measure of success. I think internationally the Chinese and the Koreans are eating our lunch because they go to school longer in the day than we do and our kids are playing around.
I also think that the state of Florida cannot afford to continue subsidizing all of these universities without finding ways to economize. And one way to economize is to go to school for only three years and graduate (by taking) more hours every year or every semester.
You've seen this region go through numerous economic ups and downs. With the current slump, do you see a gradual recovery or are you in the camp predicting a double-dip recession?
I think we're going to be flat for quite a while. I don't anticipate a lot of growth. In Pinellas County … we're pretty well filled out. We're overbuilt. I'm very much against the stimulus. I think they were stimulating the wrong things: housing and the auto industry. We've got too many cars and too many houses now. We've been guilty of over-consumption.
What would you have done instead of the stimulus plan?
I'm of the Hayek Austrian school of economics. This school of economics does not like to see government intervention, counter-cyclical intervention, which causes a lot of unintended consequences. We have an overbuilt society and too much debt. So I think the proper way to correct it would be to let it fall and not try to hold it up like the government is trying to hold it up. Like it's trying to hold the price of houses up. They will find their own level through supply and demand.