News | August 10, 2016


Welcome Back kicks off 20th anniversary celebrations

How big is Florida Gulf Coast University’s 20th anniversary party?

All you have to know is that the bash — which officially begins at the Welcome Back Celebration on Aug. 11 for administration, faculty and staff — will last 16 months. That’s well before and way beyond the actual 20th anniversary of the campus opening that took place Aug. 25, 1997.

At the Aug. 11 kickoff event at noon in Alico Arena, the FGCU family will enjoy a barbecue lunch and be welcomed back for the final time by Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw, who’s stepping down after 10 years as FGCU president. Attendees also will get a limited-edition “FGCU at 20” commemorative tumbler and be treated to a special 20th anniversary cake presentation.

“It’s going to be a big year for us, so we want to kick it off right,” said Deborah Wiltrout, associate vice president for University Marketing and Communications. She’s co-chair of the 20th Anniversary Committee, a group of campus leaders from administration, faculty and staff representing a cross-section of the university that has been brainstorming and implementing the extensive celebration.

“We’ve got some surprises planned, plus there’s Mission BBQ,” Wiltrout said. “What’s not to like?”

So why would we party for 16 months?

What started as land and a grand plan more than 20 years ago has evolved into a regional hub that has stayed true to, and greatly transcended, its higher-education focus. We have become, in many ways, the heartbeat of Southwest Florida.

While our students have been learning to become engineers, teachers, business executives, health professionals and other public- and private-sector leaders of impact these past 20 years, they also have been giving 2 million hours of volunteer service to the community and serving the region’s workforce.

While our administrators and faculty have been advocating for and teaching those students for two decades, they also have been expanding academic programs, growing campus infrastructure and extending community outreach — all in explosive fashion.

While our athletes, artists, musicians and resort and hospitality students have been gaining knowledge, maturity and experience, they have been thrilling and entertaining hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors, bringing fame and fortune to the university.

So to properly recognize and celebrate 20 years’ worth of all that accomplishment — what we refer to as The FGCU Effect — we’re going to need every minute until Dec. 31, 2017. And it all starts with the big bash Thursday, Aug. 11.

“What I am most excited about is the sense of pride and community that will occur at this year’s Welcome Back,” said Kimberly Wallace, director of Alumni Relations and co-chair of the anniversary committee with Wiltrout. “We are not only kicking off a great year, but also celebrating a milestone in FGCU’s history — our 20th anniversary. I am honored to get to say that I was there and a part of this special event.”

Even though the kickoff event is for faculty and staff, the public will have plenty of chances to celebrate with us. You’ll see specially themed events, programs, performances, banners, keepsakes and other FGCU at 20 markers and milestones for the rest of 2016 and throughout 2017 — all tied in with our 20th anniversary. We even have a one-stop spot to learn all about the hoopla, our special 20th anniversary website.

On, not only will you be able to find out what’s happening when and where as part of the 20th anniversary party, you’ll also learn more about who we are, where we came from and where we’re headed. You’ll find an easy-to-read chronological history of the university — complete with photos and videos — and hear some of FGCU’s first family members share their memories. You’ll even learn how you can share your own recollections.

It’s all part of FGCU’s 20th anniversary party. And you have 16 months to enjoy it.