USF St. Petersburg announces another large gift for its business college

The donor hopes new scholarships can help less well-off students focus on class work.
Published January 28 2016
Updated January 29 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg will have a chance to vie for new scholarships in the college of business, thanks to a $1 million donation announced Thursday.

Businesswoman Ellen Cotton and her partner, Kate Tiedemann, said they hoped the endowed scholarship would give a head start to students who might not be able to pay for college otherwise. Tiedemann, who gave $10 million to name the business school in 2014, didn't finish high school in her native Germany, and said it took her years to get up to speed in the business world without a degree.

Their goal, Cotton said, is to help students "to come to school to learn and not have to get a side job or anything else to support themselves, to just be able to concentrate on studying."

Tiedemann added: "The endowment will stay there, and student after student, as time goes on, will be able to take advantage of having his education paid for if his grades are good and he can qualify."

University officials haven't decided how many undergraduates will receive scholarships because of the gift or how much they'll be worth, said Sophia Wisniewska, regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg.

But Wisniewska said it would give a hand to students who have to take time off or sign up for fewer courses to make ends meet. More than 90 percent of the school's students receive some form of financial aid, according to the most recent federal data.

"Our student body is not privileged as a whole," Wisniewska said. "Often, students will reduce their course load or even skip a semester because they may not have the funds to continue in a progression that would allow them to graduate in four, five, six years. This kind of scholarship gives them the leg up that they need to continue on a path to graduation."

The announcement came as USF marked the ceremonial "topping out" of the business school's first-ever building, a midpoint in its construction. Work will now focus on putting up walls and filling in the interior before the building opens this fall.

The business school doesn't currently have a dedicated building. Its new home will sport features such as a cafe, a trading room with Bloomberg terminals and a courtyard lined with palm trees.

USF will acknowledge the latest donation by naming the building's atrium for Cotton, further cementing a legacy at the school for her and Tiedemann, who moved to Pinellas County from New Jersey.

Cotton said they decided to give to the school again after seeing the excitement their earlier donations drummed up on campus. Tiedemann's $10 million gift is the largest in school history, and Cotton previously funded a hub for student groups.

"I fully expect that enthusiasm to grow as we watch this beautiful new building open and our first students walk through the front doors of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business and into (the) Ellen Cotton atrium," said USF St. Petersburg board member Judy Mitchell.

Contact Thad Moore at [email protected] or (813) 226-3434. Follow @thadmoore.