University of North Florida President John Delaney knew his old friend and former Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa wouldn’t just pop over to his office to shoot the breeze. So, Delaney had his longtime assistant Sheri Sands tell Mousa that the former mayor needed to see him about something and it was urgent.
No, Delaney didn’t want to talk politics. He lured Mousa to the UNF campus to announce the first Sam. E. Mousa Endowed Merit Scholarship Fund. The first Mousa Scholar is Luke Hopper, a Fletcher High grad and an honor student with a 3.6 GPA.
“I was extremely surprised,” said Mousa. “I thought I was going to talk Gator football and family and just generally BS. I never thought this was in the works. This was the best kept secret in town.
“My secretary kept my calendar open, which I didn’t notice.”
Delaney said the scholarship is actually the product of an idea generated by engineers John Coxwell and Fred Odom, who raised $100,000 which was matched with another $50,000 from the State of Florida.
“Fred came to me and said Sam Mousa is the kind of public servant we want to encourage the creation of,” said Delaney. “He said, we want to create a merit scholarship in his honor.”
According to Delaney, the original plan was to have 20-30 people present when Mousa arrived. As word got out, that figure swelled to nearly 150 family and friends that included past and present City Council members, Chief Judge Don Moran, Property Appraiser Jim Overton, Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland and many others.
“Everybody said, ‘I just want to see his face.’ Sam did tear up a little,” said Delaney.
Originally, the scholarship was going to go to a student majoring in engineering or politics, but Delaney said many students enter school expecting to major in those fields only to change majors.
“We decided what was best for the university was to leave it open,” said Delaney. “Luke is a really impressive student and the whole night was fun. It was one of my favorite nights of the year.