The freshman class has the strongest academic profile ever.
Published Oct. 4, 2007|Updated Oct. 9, 2007

There was a moment of silence for Rachel Futterman, the popular University of South Florida sophomore who died last Monday of bacterial meningitis.

An announcement that, in light of her death, students living in residence halls must show proof they've received the meningitis vaccination starting in January.

And applause for the nationally ranked football team, whose success has brought unprecedented attention to a campus already experiencing one of its most eventful years in recent history.

Since August, USF has been in the news for good reasons and for bad ones.

Two international students, Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, were accused in August of carrying explosive materials across state lines and now face federal charges.

By late afternoon, during her annual fall address, USF president Judy Genshaft dwelled less on negatives and the past, and more on positives and the future.

She talked about plans for a new 1,500-bed dormitory with a dining hall and student fitness center.

She praised this year's freshman class, which has the strongest academic profile of any in the school's 51-year history. Almost 30 percent of new students were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. Since 2001, the median SAT score has increased 100 points.

Freshman applications are up 40 percent over the last four years.

For the second consecutive year, USF exceeded the $300-million research funding mark. Genshaft gave a nod to a newly announced $169-million grant to study juvenile diabetes, the largest in USF history.

Still, she said, "we must do more to shape our research profile."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at (813) 269-5303 or