By Phillip Milano
Dane Grey was like many of the alumni who packed the Howard Building lobby to meet JU President Tim Cost at a Presidential Reception Wednesday, June 26.
He’s hearing the buzz about Cost and Jacksonville University around town and wanted to soak it all in for himself.
“It’s all I hear lately,” said Grey, a 2007 Aviation graduate who owns Elite Parking Services of America in Jacksonville. “People are learning about this very prestigious place and the level of education and academics being put out by JU. From putting more money into scholarships and our endowment to all the physical upgrades, the response to student needs is phenomenal.”
More than 100 alumni jammed the lobby to rub shoulders with old friends and hear Cost, a 1981 alum, discuss JU’s future (see full photo gallery below). Before he spoke, the crowd was treated to a few impromptu words from JU legend and Chancellor Emeritus Frances Bartlett Kinne, who praised Cost as a “born leader” who will make the University’s leap forward “fun and exciting.”
“Every day for me is better because of Tim leading us,” she said of Cost, who began his new role in February of this year. “You won’t find any better projects and academics than here, and we all need to support it. You all really have something to be proud of.”
Cost took a few minutes to thank the audience for attending, and introduced his wife, Stephanie, a “powerhouse” who plans to “dive into the community,” and his daughter, Melanie, who recently moved to Jacksonville for a new position with CSX.
“I’m Tim Cost, and I work for the students,” the president said. “I can’t tell you how passionate I am about this great University.”
Cost listed some of the progress to date at JU and projects on line for the future, telling the crowd, “You will not believe what you are going to see in the coming months here.”
Enhancements on campus to be started or completed in the near future include a renovated River House for students, alumni, faculty and staff; a new football/lacrosse stadium; the new College of Health Sciences building; a completely remodeled main cafeteria; a rebuilt Nellie’s to feature Chick fil-A; a Student Veterans study center for JU’s hundreds of military-related students; and much more.
“Let me emphasize that we’re not trying to build a country club here; we’re trying to build a place you will be proud to come back to and to bring your children and nieces and nephews to,” he said. “It’s fun to get excited about these developments, and I ask you all to reach out to someone who doesn’t know about us and tell them what’s going on.”
Cost highlighted JU’s School of Orthodontics – “the largest program in the nation” – and its Nursing program – “at the top in the region.”
“Our incoming Nursing class has a 3.7 GPA, and we turned down seven excellent Nursing students for every one we accepted,” he said.
Alumni – recent and longtime – are noticing the changes.
“Tim is going to do amazing things for JU,” said Audrey Moran, a 2010 Davis College of Business graduate whose father, JU Trustee Andrew Moran, is a 1978 alum. “Just look at the momentum we’re seeing over the last few months, and so much that is in the pipeline. He’s student-friendly, and he’s using the river, which is such a huge asset here. Now you’ve got the Strom Amphitheater, Dolphin Green, the golf practice facility and the plans for the River House.”
Caroline Geoghegan, a 2010 Public Relations/Communications graduate who was on the Alumni Board of Governors, agreed the access to the river was a big step forward.
“Before you couldn’t even get to it,” she said. “It’s exciting to tie everything to the St. Johns. I’m really looking forward to Homecoming this fall.”
Frank Pixler, a 1971 alum and former JU director of alumni relations who has worked with several of the University’s presidents, came up from Vilano Beach to show his support for Cost.
“The scholarships, the better infrastructure, and improvements to student and campus life are all so important to retaining students,” he said. “I like Tim Cost a lot; he is an unbelievably strong leader and an intelligent, positive guy. I talk with a lot of people with ties to JU, and they are noticing how good it is. And getting better.”
Janice Lee stopped by after hearing about Cost from her daughter, Ally Lee, a JU senior and women’s soccer team member.
“The athletes here love Tim. I hear them talking about the new president, how he’s the ‘students’ president’ who they see everywhere,” she said. “Ally went to see a symphony performance here and was so excited that President Cost was sitting a few rows behind her. He comes to everything.”
Perhaps most important to Janice Lee, though, is the feeling of satisfaction she has at knowing her daughter is so impressed.
“It just makes me so happy to know that she is happy with the choice she made by going to JU.”
TIM COST ALUMNI PRESIDENTIAL RECEPTION PHOTO GALLERY