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  1. Education

Intrigue: Philanthropist Kate Tiedemann gives another $3 million to USF St. Pete

Under USF's pending consolidation, the business college named after Tiedemann could be downsized to a school. With her latest donation, she wants to make sure its dean stays in place.
Published Jan. 31

The donor responsible for the biggest gift in the history of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has given another $3 million to the school.

And while the first donation from retired businesswoman Kate Tiedemann went to support the business college that now bears her name, the new gift will fund a deanship for the college. It's a move that essentially cements Tiedemann's original investment at a time when USF's effort to consolidate its three-campus system threatens to weaken the St. Petersburg school's standing.

Tiedemann's $10 million donation in 2014 is what gave the Kate Tiedemann College of Business its name. But under a consolidated USF, it is likely to become a "school" that falls under the Muma College of Business in Tampa.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Entrepreneur gives her name and record $10 million gift to USF St. Pete College of Business

Tiedemann said she wants to ensure USF St. Petersburg's program retains its identity and autonomy to make relationships with local businesses, which she believes significantly boost student success. And for that to happen, it must keep its dean, Sridhar Sundaram.

"I think very highly of (the dean), and I think getting the community involved in education is something he has always aimed for," Tiedemann said. "He gets students involved at an early stage so they have a clue about what's going on in business."

When consolidation is complete, USF can have only one college per discipline, according to the state's accreditation rules. While plans are still in the works, those close to the consolidation process have suggested a model that downgrades USF's business colleges in St. Petersburg and Sarasota to schools specializing in specific business topics.

ALSO READ: USF faces a reality as it prepares to consolidate: This is going to be hard.

As those ideas have come to light, Tiedemann said, USF president Judy Genshaft has assured her that neither Sundaram nor the work he has done in St. Petersburg will be lost. But she figures the money will help make sure of it.

"It's like buying insurance," Tiedemann said. "I want to make sure they can keep doing what they're doing, and this money doesn't hurt."

USF St. Petersburg spokeswoman Carrie O'Brion said the gift reinforces the tradition of having strong leadership on USF's three campuses. And that's something Tiedemann deeply understands, Sandaram said.

"The gift agreement certainly is an important part of the (consolidation) conversation," the dean added. "But it was broader than that. It's about the role that we play here … about broader engagement with the St. Petersburg community."

Tiedemann said she always thought "school" had a better ring to it than "college" anyway. As long as the business program continues its success, she is happy.

"I'm not really concerned," she said of the post-consolidation structure. "If you put your name on something, you have an obligation to support it."

Recommendations by USF's consolidation task force, consolidation implementation committee and recently developed faculty teams are due to university leadership by Feb. 8

The university's Consolidation Accreditation and Preeminence committee will meet to review them on Feb. 12, before the full USF Board of Trustees votes on final plans March 5.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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