One of the strongest incoming classes in Jacksonville University history is being greeted by one of the strongest eras of investment in academic excellence, innovation and community involvement in the school’s history.
An active summer of planning and continued enhancement of outstanding personnel and programs caps off more than $35 million invested in growth and improvement in recent years.
“We are dedicating ourselves – right now – to major improvements here at Jacksonville University,” said President Tim Cost. “That plays out in exciting ways: tighter focus on student success, support for our faculty, investments in our technology, innovations to our physical space, additions to our course offerings, engagement in our community and recruitment of top talent – both as staff and students. Together, we are on a path to a culture of excellence, one that this region deserves and we are committed to delivering.”
As it puts its mission to become one of the finest higher ed institutions in the region into high gear, the University welcomed a diverse, academically gifted class of more than 500 students at an evening matriculation ceremony under the oak canopy of the Science Green.
They heard from a distinguished panel of speakers including Cost; Dr. Donnie Horner, new Senior Vice President of University and Academic Affairs/Provost; Dr. Colleen M. Wilson, School of Education Chair and Professor of the Year; Capt. Neil Karnes, commanding officer for JU’s Naval ROTC program; and basketball legend and JU alumnus Artis Gilmore ‘71, who told the students he couldn’t imagine having attended any other school, and to make the most of their time here.
The Class of 2020 includes students from more than 30 states, as well as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Ghana, Canada, India, China, Ethiopia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
Valedictorians, Eagle Scouts, national honor society members, military veterans, singers, dancers, scientists, student athletes of the year, social media experts, engineers, entrepreneurs and Jacksonville University legacies make up the group.
“This is an amazing combination of talent, ambition and potential,” Cost said. “Tonight we become connected as you have joined the Jacksonville University community, and I formally welcome all of you.”
The new students are joining in the legacy of a University now in its 82nd year and one that is adding new degrees to meet market demand, attracting and keeping the highest-achieving faculty, drawing even more research dollars and offering a small, private school living learning environment second to none.
“I really like the atmosphere and how small it is,” said Malyssa Peabody of Fleming Island, a double major in marine science and music. “It felt like home. Everyone was so nice every time I came here on a tour. I fell in love with it the first time I stepped on campus. I love how beautiful the campus is, the professors are so nice and it’s close enough to home to where if I need something my parents are there but it’s far away enough to where I have freedom. I am super excited to get started.’’
Dwayne Mattushik of Paramus, N.J., who was recruited to play lacrosse, agreed JU offers the perfect blend of academics, culture and social opportunities.
“The campus is beautiful and I definitely thought it was a good fit for me,” he said. “I’m not really a type person to like a big school; I like the small school, and everyone welcomed me with open arms. I love the ocean. I’m a big SCUBA diver so I love to go to the water.”