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Judy Genshaft gives $20 million to USF to build a new honors college

University officials say no other university president in the nation has ever given such a big gift.

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TAMPA — Outgoing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft is giving the school $20 million to build a new honors college that will bear her name.

The announcement came during a highly anticipated ceremony at USF Tampa on Wednesday. USF trustees chairman Jordan Zimmerman called the gift “transformational."

“We have searched far and wide and we cannot find that any president in the United States — anywhere, at any time — has given back to their university in this magnitude,” he said. “She is lifting the trajectory still of this university as she goes into retirement.”

OCTAVIO JONES | Times University of South Florida Trustee Jordan Zimmerman, left, speaks as outgoing USF president Judy Genshaft, center, and her husband Steven Greenbaum look on during an announcement Wednesday at USF Tampa. The couple is giving the school $20 million to build a new honors college that will bear Genshaft's name.

Genshaft, 71, ends her 19-year presidency July 1.

She is helping to fund the $47 million building along with her husband, Steven Greenbaum. It will be five stories high and more than 80,000 square feet, with space for events, offices and student collaboration, as well as art and music rooms and a coffee shop.

USF did not say when it will break ground on the new building, which will neighbor the Muma College of Business on USF Maple Drive. The 18-month design process is finished and construction should be complete “within the next few years," spokeswoman Althea Paul said.

Shown here is a rendering of a new $47 million honors college set to be built at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It was designed by two architect firms: New York-based Morphosis Architects and FleischmanGarcia of Tampa. Outgoing USF president Judy Genshaft and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, donated $20 million toward the building Wednesday. Rendering courtesy of USF

Genshaft said it is a “personal calling” to support the honors college, which she established in 2002, soon after taking the president’s job. Before that, USF had only an honors program.

The program was “too good” not to be expanded, Genshaft said. She told the dean who oversaw it at the time: “We have to elevate this.”

“That’s what this gift is about today,” Genshaft said Wednesday. “We have to elevate things here and let students know that USF is a place to try and make a difference in the world around them.”

Greenbaum spoke at the ceremony, too, telling attendees about the passion his family has for the university. He and Genshaft’s sons, Joel and Brian, were in the audience.

“It has been such an important part of our life and our family over the last 19 years,” Greenbaum said. “It’s only natural that we would do whatever we can to ensure its continued success.”

The couple has given much to USF since Genshaft became president. Hundreds of honors college students have traveled abroad to work and study because of the Genshaft/Greenbaum International Honors Study Scholarship and the Genshaft Global Presidential Scholarship, according to the university.

Genshaft and Greenbaum, a marketing consultant, have also contributed to USF Health and the university’s graduate school and athletic programs.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times Outgoing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, left, and her husband Steven Greenbaum pose for photographs during an announcement Wednesday at USF Tampa. The couple is giving the school $20 million to build a new honors college that will bear her name.

“Based on our research, Dr. Judy Genshaft has given more to the university in her 19 years than any sitting university president in the United States,” said Joel Momberg, CEO of the USF Foundation. “This is indeed a historic moment for USF and American higher education."

Genshaft became one of the highest-paid university presidents in the nation during her time at USF. Her salary, bonuses and other benefits combined have topped $1 million annually since 2016-17, when she ranked seventh for pay in the country, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dan Bauman, a reporter for the Chronicle who studies higher education compensation, told the Tampa Bay Times in October that Genshaft makes about double what most U.S. university presidents do.

Genshaft also comes from a wealthy family. Her father founded a meat-packing company in Ohio called Superior Provision when she was a child. It is now called Fresh Mark and run by Genshaft’s brother, Neil Genshaft, and she sits on the board of directors.

In June, the university told the Times Genshaft makes $8,000 per year for her work at Fresh Mark.

As president of USF, Genshaft is required to file annual financial disclosures with the state Commission on Ethics. The forms list her business connections but no specific monetary figures.

The most recent form, filed for 2017, lists only Fresh Mark. She listed the same a year prior, along with Ohio-based wealth management company Glenmede Trust and Securonix, a security intelligence company in Los Angeles. Freshmark and Glenmede are listed on forms going back to 2012.

Before being picked to lead USF in 2000, Genshaft worked as a psychologist and a professor. She has also edited books and written for numerous academic journals. A complete picture of her wealth, however, is not clear.

"It is our good fortune to be able to give back to the university,” Genshaft said Wednesday before raising her hand and exclaiming with the crowd: “Go bulls.”

The new honors college will attract talented students, she said, and high-quality faculty will follow. The building “will stand as a symbol of the university’s dedication to education,” honors college Dean Charles Adams said.

Today, about 2,200 students from various academic disciplines are in the honors college. That figure is expected to grow to 3,000 over the next five years with Genshaft’s gift.

“These are the days we all dream about, pray about and love to experience,” said Zimmerman, the board of trustees chairman.

Then he turned to Genshaft: “You’ve accomplished so much yet continue to do more and more and more each and every day. Today your leadership and philanthropy takes center stage.”

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Megan Reeves at Follow @mareevs.