More than 200 guests gathered at James M. Seneff Plaza to celebrate the campus’ transformational effect in downtown Orlando on Thursday, February 10. The crowd represented dedicated donors and community partners; business and industry leaders; government champions; and the students, faculty, and staff of UCF and Valencia College.
Reflecting on the shared vision for the downtown campus, UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright thanked the many donors and elected officials who helped make the campus a reality, which provides access to education in the Orlando’s urban core. “UCF Downtown and Valencia College Downtown are more than a collection of buildings. It is a place where discoveries and innovations are to be made by the teachers who research and create here, and countless students will have the opportunity to change their trajectory fueled by the power of the education they receive here” , says Cartwright.
Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill spoke about the impact the campus has already had on the city of Orlando, particularly the Parramore neighborhood. With the shared campus in Parramore, she says, “we have the most robust educational ecosystem in the entire state.”
Hill also pointed to the vast opportunities that exist on campus today — from short-term job training to 2- and 4-year degrees — opportunities that didn’t exist for residents like her when she was growing up in the neighborhood. .
Among the donors who made the campus possible was James M. Seneff, for whom the plaza and fountain are named. Seneff is chairman and founder of CNL Financial Group, a private investment management company.
“I founded CNL in 1973 in the city of Orlando,” says Seneff. “Next year will be our 50th anniversary and we have seen the city center transform from a shopping district to a major business centre. I have long been a supporter of expanding UCF into downtown Orlando, believing it would create a special catalyst for future growth.
Seneff, who is a longtime supporter of UCF and Downtown Orlando, made one of the first donations to UCF Downtown and helped the university secure additional state funding. .
Guests at the event dined on authentic soul food from Parramore’s Nikki’s Place and Chef Eddie’s Catering and sampled Black Bee Honey, organic honey harvested through an entrepreneurship program for youth run by the Orlando community and the Youth Trust in Parramore.
Additionally, the artist Christian Stanley ’11 guests inside the East Wing of Dr. Phillips Academic Commons to help paint Elevation, a new mural that he hopes will remind viewers of the opportunity education offers people to reach new heights and forge new paths in life. The celebratory event ended with a special ceremony in which donors poured water from UCF’s reflecting pool on main campus into the Seneff Plaza fountain, symbolizing partnerships and forever connecting the two campuses.