TAMPA — The student seemed a little lost. Backpack on tight, class syllabus in hand, looking around at the packs of people walking this way and that.
"Hi," said a woman in a green dress, reaching out her hand. "I'm Judy Genshaft."
The girl looked up and blinked in recognition. "Oh my gosh, hi! I've seen you on the website!"
It was like this all morning on the first day of school at the University of South Florida — with USF president Genshaft surprising students in the financial aid office, the bookstore, the Marshall Student Center.
"We're glad to have you back," she told them, beaming.
Most students stopped to talk for a few moments. A few on cell phones offered confused waves and kept walking. Two girls asked Genshaft to pose for a photo.
"Okay, you've got to come to Round Up," Genshaft told one of them.
She was talking about USF's big back-to-school pep rally scheduled for Thursday night, which features comedian Ralphie May. It's one of about 100 new semester events coming up in the following days as part of the school's Weeks of Welcome, otherwise known as WOW!
After the handshakes, Genshaft thrust Round Up flyers and WOW! calendars at the students, urging them to get involved. "We want you to run USF," she told them. A grinning USF student body president Matthew Diaz trailed behind her, handing out fresh notebooks.
The whole scene was one made for photographs, and a USF campus photographer took plenty of them. But cheesy or not, it was clear this was something Genshaft had looked forward to for many slow summer months.
"Wait, wait, what's that? I think we've got one," Genshaft said, scurrying up to a startled student wearing a garnet and gold Florida State University shirt. She hammed disbelief, shook her finger and then said, "Come with me."
The poor kid didn't have a chance to say no. Pretty soon they were in the parking garage, Genshaft rustling through the trunk of her car. She pulled out a brand new T-shirt with big, green letters on the front: USF. The student ducked into a stairwell and then emerged in a new get-up.
A born-again bull.
"There's my guy," Genshaft said. They hugged. A camera flashed. And the president sent the student back on his way.
Reach Kim Wilmath at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.