With support of a cumulative gift of $10 million from Jacksonville University President Tim Cost and first lady Stephanie Cost, the university announced Jan. 18 it will formally launch the Cost Honors College by fall 2025.
The naming of the Cost Honors College, endorsed by the university’s 26-member board of trustees, recognizes the Costs for their transformational philanthropic support of the university, according to a news release.
Their cumulative philanthropic support to JU now totals $10 million, the release said.
The Costs’ gift enables JU to elevate its honors program and transition to become an honors college.
“Consistent with our plan, since 2013, our university has introduced dozens of programs and academic offerings to create market-ready graduates in high-demand fields, and this is the next important step toward again upgrading what we do here,” Tim Cost, who became JU president in 2013, said in the release.
“Our goal has always been to build a much better university, serve the broader Jacksonville community, unlock potential, and graduate more ambitious, competitive, and well-rounded citizens.”
Cost a JU grad
Cost, a 1981 magna cum laude graduate of JU, will mark his 11th anniversary as president in February.
Under his leadership, JU has launched the College of Law, opened the interdisciplinary STEAM Institute and announced a partnership with Lake Erie College of Medicine to establish the region’s first four-year medical school on JU’s campus.
Lisa Sutherland, named the first executive director of the university’s Honors and Scholars Program in August 2023, will lead the honors college.
She served on the faculty at Dartmouth College and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As a corporate strategist, she advised global consumer brands including Walmart, Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Kraft Heinz and Ocean Spray.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are grateful and thank Tim and Stephanie for their incredible generosity and unwavering support of our students and the entire university,” JU board Chair Matt Kane said in the release.
“The Cost family is one of the University’s most generous, who consistently give their time, resources, talents, and voices to benefit our students, faculty, and staff dating back to the 1980s.”
“Tim and I believe in the impact that a high-quality, challenging education can have on a student’s life and their trajectory,” Stephanie Cost said in the release.
“We’re gratified to make this investment in the Honors College that will benefit today’s students and future generations.”
Honors colleges typically offer enhanced academic experiences with smaller classes and dedicated learning communities, according to a 2021 U.S. News & World Report article.
Program to college
JU’s honors program has been offered to undergraduate students for more than 30 years.
There are 220 students in the program.
All students already enrolled in the honors program will become members of the Cost Honors College.
The first cohort will graduate in spring 2026.
The Cost Honors College will focus on three pillars: academic excellence, thriving residential life and engaged global citizenry.
The gift also supports initiatives and projects that enhance the university’s overall academic and campus experience for its 4,000 students, the release said.
In an interview, Cost said he and his wife began talking with JU academic leaders about an honors college about five years ago.
“We were seeing how well the enhanced programming for another cohort, Division 1 athletes, was going. Division 1 athletes were receiving additional tutoring, curated study halls, places to live, the ability to enroll early, different kinds of food, literally,” he said.
“And they were delivering grade point averages above the student body, which is difficult for 500 Division 1 students. We were looking at that kind of enhanced offering to nonathletes, to all students.”
At the same time, Cost and his wife “were looking to continue invest in this community, which has changed my life,” he said.
In the same interview, Sutherland said JU is “uniquely positioned in this moment in time” to launch an honors college.
“We have a 30-year-history in honors. We meet a number of the National Collegiate Honors Council guidelines for a college already. We have President Cost, who has a student-centric philosophy, which is critical to this mission. And we have a student body that’s engaged,” she said.
JU’s goal with the honors college is not to create a “silo,” that is, an isolated grouping, but instead “an incubator,” Sutherland said.
The term is used by the honors council, an educational organization that supports and promotes honors education, “because it becomes the place where you can start to test and push and have ideas and think outside the box and be imaginative and creative,” she said.
Researching an honors college model included looking at “best-in-class honors colleges that were retaining students at the highest rates, that were graduating their students at the highest rates, that had their students go on into their graduate programs, versus leaving and going to other institutions, and then staying in the communities,” Sutherland said.
Discussions took place with JU senior leaders, faculty, staff, honors students and alumni.
Cost Honors College executive council
JU has established a 22-member Cost Honors College Executive Council to help guide the transition from honors program to honors college. It comprises:
• Will Baxley ‘16, J.D., Georgetown University; attorney, Washington, D.C.
• Amy Berg, member of JU board of trustees; president, Better Angels Society (retired)
• Joel Bogaert ‘23, electrical engineer, Reynolds, Smith & Hills (RS&H)
• Paul Boynton, member of JU board of trustees; retired CEO, Rayonier Advanced Materials
• Dee Brown ‘90, senior associate athletic director, JU University and Athletic Relations; former NBA basketball player
• Meredith Carlo, vice president, assistant general counsel, FIS Global
• Matthew Chang, PE, MBA ‘17, principal, Chang Industrial
• Gary Chartrand, former executive chairman, Acosta Inc; former chair, Florida State Board of Education