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Jacksonville University unveils historic $85 million ASPIRE fundraising campaign


By Phillip Milano

Marking a seminal point in its nearly 80-year history, Jacksonville University publicly unveiled its $85 million ASPIRE Campaign Friday, Nov. 30, announcing bold plans to move the university dramatically forward with new scholarship and research funds, state-of-the-art health sciences facilities, vastly improved athletics venues, a robust endowment and more.

From left, JU Athletics Director Brad Edwards, JU Vice President of University Advancement Michael Howland, JU President-Select and ASPIRE Chair Tim Cost, JU College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Judith Erickson and JU President Kerry Romesburg announce the ASPIRE Campaign.

“This is our future. This moves us to where we should be to keep fulfilling our promise to students, parents and the community,” said JU President Kerry Romesburg.

The sweeping campaign (see http://www.ju.edu/Aspire for details and a video) began its quiet phase in 2009. It now moves into an active public phase, seeking to take the university to new heights in a way that profoundly affects students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community, said incoming JU President Tim Cost, who is also ASPIRE’s chair.

“We wanted to go public by the end of 2012, and we wanted to reach a critical mass of initial fundraising with commitments from all of our 34 Trustees,” Cost said, announcing that more than $43.1 million has been raised so far. “This is a comprehensive campaign. It’s not the time to leave anything or anyone out.”

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a 1985 and 1989 JU graduate, lauded ASPIRE for its depth and breadth, and for its potential for impact outside the university.

“ASPIRE goes beyond capital investment and research to cultivate opportunity that inspires and encourages young minds to push for the greatest of accomplishments,” he said. “As a student, I always found a nurturing environment at Jacksonville University, and I’m proud to see the commitment of excellence continue to grow. When people talk about Duke or Notre Dame or Princeton, I want Jacksonville to become part of the discussion. ASPIRE marks a great step not just for the campus but for the spirit of education throughout Northeast Florida.”

From its humble beginnings in 1934, JU’s enrollment is now above 3,700 students, majors are offered in more than 70 areas, signature programs are attracting nationwide notice, and award-winning faculty are preparing the next generation of leaders. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly recognized it as one of “America’s Best Colleges.”

The game-changing ASPIRE campaign seeks to capitalize on that momentum, Cost noted. It’s not based on hunches, he said, and has been well-researched and planned, using staff and outside experts. It’s designed to take advantage of trends and maximize the impact of the money raised on students, faculty, programs, facilities and the community at large.

Its five fundraising pillars were outlined Friday for the media, JU Trustees and friends by Romesburg, Cost, JU Vice President of University Advancement Michael Howland, JU College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Judith Erickson and JU Athletics Director Brad Edwards:


“What drives any University to greatness is the quality of its students. With ASPIRE we are staying ahead of the curve in having scholarships and financial aid available to attract and keep the best and brightest minds for our programs and for this area,” Cost said.


Student Scholarships – $15 million

JU seeks to put an end to financial barriers to enroll the best and brightest students. JU’s competitive tuition rates already offer a great value for the dollar. However, in today’s economy fewer and fewer of the most prized students can shoulder the full cost of tuition. ASPIRE’s merit and need-based scholarships will prove essential to making JU students’ first and final choice.

Faculty Development and Research – $1 million

With support from ASPIRE’s funds, JU’s highly qualified faculty will have long-term access to resources, materials and training that they need to hone their skills, perform research and keep JU attractive and visible for years to come. Great faculty is what sets a school apart.

The JU Honors Program – $1 million

JU’s best and brightest enrich themselves and the entire campus with their rigorous coursework, research and scholarship. ASPIRE will boost Honors Program funding toward course development, travel to conferences and symposia and research projects.

Undergraduate Research – $1 million

Creative, innovative research costs money. ASPIRE will provide for the travel, data collection, labs, supplies, equipment, software and more needed for JU scholars to make sophisticated findings during their JU careers.

Davis College of Business Initiatives – $1 million

JU’s internationally accredited business program will further invigorate students and the business community with plans for a doctorate program in business administration, more travel options in business courses and building internships with global and entrepreneurial ventures.


“With the new health care law and an aging population, more nurses and other health professionals will be in great demand,” Erickson said. “Our signature Nursing program’s most recent year-to-date state licensure exam pass rate is nearly 98 percent, and our premier nursing bachelor’s and master’s programs emphasize excellent faculty and a rigorous curriculum. ASPIRE will give us the critical space we need for our growing program.”

Indeed, JU’s programs have been so successful that they have overflowed their rooms in the Lazzara Health Sciences Center. Enrollment in the bachelors of nursing program is up 30 percent since 2008, and master’s enrollment has more than doubled. More master’s programs are planned, and JU’s first doctoral program is in full swing.

To meet an expected burst of demand in the medical field, JU’s 10-year plan is designed to meet these growth needs. ASPIRE envisions a new 45,000-square-foot College of Health Sciences building, with dedicated classrooms, faculty and staff offices, meeting rooms, a multidisciplinary simulation learning center and a computer laboratory.



“JU has a proud tradition of producing leaders for Jacksonville and beyond (mayors, admirals, business leaders and more),” Cost said. “ASPIRE seeks to continue to attract even stronger students from the local area and beyond, and part of that equation is to ensure our campus facilities are maintained and always state-of-the-art.”


Marine Science Research Institute – $800,000

JU’s $10 million facility on the St. Johns River, completed in 2010, has become a true gem at JU. To meet urgent needs, a state-of-the-art $300,000 floating research vessel and $250,000 dock are envisioned for the institute.

Land Development – $6.6 million

The ability to make land purchases when attractive to JU’s goals is critical. Timely investment by JU in nearby real estate that meets its plans and benefits students should always be an option, by having the needed funds on hand.

River House Remodel – $500,000

ASPIRE will convert what is known as the President’s residence into a place for students to congregate and relax, with an overlook to the pool, sand volleyball courts and river.

Phillips Fine Arts Remodel – $500,000

To keep pace with program and student needs, the College of Fine Arts’ Phillips Fine Arts Building must undergo extensive remodeling and restructuring. Performance and gallery spaces will be upgraded to adhere to long-term program goals and showcase student talent.

PILLAR 4: ATHLETICS — $17.6 million

Athletics are a gateway to a university’s reputation in the community and among prospective students, Edwards said. One of every five traditional JU students plays on at least one of 19 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I varsity sports teams.


Basketball and Volleyball Practice Facility: $7.5 million

With Swisher gymnasium serving the entire student body, a dedicated facility where JU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and volleyball team can train, practice and play will contribute significantly to the strength, vitality and recruiting power of these popular sports programs. Locker rooms, sports medicine and weight training facilities, offices and a video room will also be included.

Football and Lacrosse Stadium: $4.2 million (Phase 1)

By building a new, expandable 4,500-seat football and lacrosse stadium on campus, made possible by ASPIRE, Jacksonville University will greatly improve the home-field advantage enjoyed by its football and lacrosse teams. Outdoor track events can also be held at the facility, which will have a media area, concessions and hospitality area.

JU Athletics Center: $5.7 million

This center housing a sports medicine facility, weight room for student athletes and locker rooms for multiple sports will also be the new home for the Jacksonville University Athletics Hall of Fame, with an attractive lobby entrance and veranda for entertaining.

Softball Hitting Facility: $200,000

Women’s softball’s loyal fan base will be rewarded with even better prepared athletes after a new 3,000-square-foot, partially covered softball hitting facility is constructed with funds from ASPIRE. The facility will have upgraded batting cages, new pitching nets and a turf-covered padded concrete floor.


Nothing shows how much a community cares about its local university than its endowment. It allows a school to not only keep up with today’s goals but to fulfill tomorrow’s. ASPIRE shines a bright light on increasing JU’s endowment, which is now at more than $30 million, Cost said.

JU must be able to respond quickly to emerging current needs and opportunities to serve students, prospective employers and the greater Jacksonville community. A “nest egg” to meet accelerating future demands is vital. A portion of endowment income will be used to support endowed professorships, extending faculty career ladders to recognize the highest levels of experience and qualification.

Ultimately, ASPIRE is about more than buildings and land, but about people working together to create the imaginings of tomorrow.

“With ASPIRE, we are taking aggressive steps to propel us even further toward being the exemplary private university our region needs in order to thrive,” Cost said.

To view the ASPIRE website and an exciting video showcasing the campaign, visit


For more information, contact Phillip Milano, Director of News and Publications, pmilano@ju.edu, (904) 256-7042.