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Jacksonville University President Tim Cost
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 24, 201512:00 PM EST

Jacksonville University well on way to hitting $120M ASPIRE goal

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of Jacksonville University has raised $100 million of its $120 million goal.

The nine-figure mark for “ASPIRE: JU 2016” was reached with a $2.5 million donation from the Bisk Family Foundation, the largest single investment in online learning at the university. The gift will establish the Nathan M. Bisk Center for Online Learning.

Nathan Bisk is founder and chairman of Bisk Education, a Tampa-based company that works with colleges to develop online undergraduate, graduate and professional certificate programs.

The center will focus on enhancing the educational relationship between JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences and its Davis College of Business.

ASPIRE is the third capital campaign at JU since 1986, when $16 million was raised through the “Golden Campaign.” It was followed in 1998 by “Beyond Excellence,” which raised $60 million.

University President Tim Cost said ASPIRE is on track to achieve the $120 million goal.

“We are very pleased with the progress so far,” Cost said. “I’m very gratified that our hard work on behalf of students, faculty and staff and the community is receiving support.”

Another success in the ASPIRE campaign came last year when the state approved $12 million for the school’s Entrepreneurism, Policy, Innovation and Commerce program.

It is the largest state funding in the 81-year history of the university.

Working with industry experts, students and professors are using the program to study issues such as coral reef restoration, mobile water quality monitoring and biomechanical assessment of athletes.

D.B. Milne Field, where the JU Dolphins play football and lacrosse, now has 2,900 permanent seats, new restrooms and a renovated concessions area.

Those improvements were made with donations from Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, Gary and Nancy Chartrand, Robert and Margaret Hill, Bill and Eloise Gay, the W.C. Gentry Family Foundation and MCC Sports.

The 6,000-square-foot River House student and community center has received a $1.5 million renovation including a brew pub, wide-screen TVs and a tiered deck outside overlooking the sand volleyball complex.

The new $250,000 Nelms Plaza outdoor study space near the Swisher Science Building is open, along with the $300,000 Nimnicht Fitness center.

New laboratories have been added in the Nelms, Merritt Penticoff, Reid Medical and Swisher academic buildings and at the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences with $2.2 million in ASPIRE funds.

In addition, $16.8 million in named and endowed scholarships have been awarded and $17.1 million is designated for faculty and student research projects.

The university’s endowment has increased from $30 million to $45 million through the ASPIRE campaign.

Cost said with the campaign’s fundraising goal in sight and many of the program’s initiatives already in place, the university will be a “serious steward” of all the gifts.

“It’s full speed ahead for supporting the key pillars of ASPIRE for the next several years,” he said.

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