Local attorney Glen Greenfelder and his wife, downtown restaurateur Gail Greenfelder, have committed to the first $1-million donation in Saint Leo University's history, school president Arthur Kirk announced Wednesday.
"Without my experience at Saint Leo, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today. It opened doors that I never thought would open," Glen Greenfelder said. "I've been so blessed."
Greenfelder, 60, said the school took him in when his family couldn't afford tuition more than 40 years ago. He is a 1961 graduate from what was then Saint Leo Preparatory School, and a 1963 graduate of Saint Leo when it became a college. He is chairman of the university's Board of Trustees.
Mrs. Greenfelder, 57, runs the couple's popular downtown Kafe Kokopelli restaurant.
"My husband attributes so much of his success to the fact that he ended up at Saint Leo's prep school, and the monks and the nuns are the ones who guided him and gave him this quest to learn," she said. "He and I sat down and said, "Look, we have been so lucky in our lives, and Saint Leo has been so important to us.' So we stepped up."
The donation comes as the university is engaged in a $20-million capital and endowment fund drive, part of the school's 20-year vision that includes new academic and residential buildings, a parking garage, road and infrastructure improvements and continued emphasis on distance learning and international expansion.
Kirk said talk of the donation even before it was formalized has already generated talk of more donations.
"Fundraising is leadership by example. Glen and Gail Greenfelder have just set a tremendous example for everyone," Kirk said. "These are two people who know the university intimately and have demonstrated by their gift that it is worthy of their support."
The Greenfelders said the $1-million is a heavy commitment, but they have talked about the donation with their children, and they expect to make sacrifices where they have to, and now that the commitment has been made, they vow to honor it.
Greenfelder said that growing up, his family did not have the money to send him to Saint Leo, but the school gave him the opportunity.
He said working jobs both on and off campus to help pay for his education instilled a work ethic and values that lasted a lifetime, and it's an education he wants others to have as well.
"It's hard to talk about. It always leaves me emotional," he said. "It was more than an education, it was the setting, the individual attention, the way they motivated you."
He said he hopes the donation sparks more community involvement and donations from others in the area.
"People in the community have said, "You know what? We can do this,' " he said. "Is it going to hurt? Yeah. But anything that is meaningful, you pay something for."
The gift is not the couple's first. They joined with Glen Greenfelder's law partner, A.R. "Chip" Mander and his wife, Deanna, in 1998 to donate the Crescent Theatre property as the future site of a senior center.
Kirk said the school's plans for the future loom large and depend on the support of donors.
"It is a grand and ambitious vision," Kirk said. "With the kind of leadership our trustees are providing, and Gail and Glen Greenfelder being the best examples of that at the moment, we will achieve that vision."
_ Chase Squires can be reached at (352) 521-5757, ext. 27 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 27. His e-mail address is squiressptimes.com.