The University of Florida
Note from the Dean
Memories of Dramatic Change
UF Leads the Way
Around the College
Gifts & Pledges to CLAS
Is There Method in This Madness?
Alumni CLASnotes is published twice a year by the University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for its alumni and friends. Please send all correspondence to the Editor, 2014 Turlington Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dean, Neil Sulllivan
Associate Director of Development, Amanda Delp
Director of Development and Alumni Affairs, Jennifer Denault
Editor, Alumni CLASnotes Laura H. Griffis, Coordinator of Information and Publications
Contributing Editor, Allyson A. Beutke
Copy Editor, Bill Hardwig
Print Design, Summit Design, Inc.
Additional Pre-press Assistance & Web Design, Jane Dominguez
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida is the largest college on campus, with nearly 700 faculty members and the teaching responsibility of more than 17,000 students. CLAS offers 36 degrees in 22 departments and is home to 33 centers and institutes including The Center for Excellence in Teaching, The Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research and The Center for African Studies. CLAS occupies more than 500,000 square feet in 21 buildings.
After years of contemplating the best way to express fondness for her alma mater, Kathryn Chicone Ustler found a perfect fit last month when she agreed to help fund the renovation of a historic UF campus building--the Women's Gym.
"My family and I have always been interested in historic building preservation," said Ustler. "The more I thought about saving the gym and restoring it to practical use, the more excited I became about getting involved."
Built in Tudor Gothic style in 1919, the gym originally served as both an indoor basketball arena and an assembly hall. Through the twenties, thirties, and forties, the multipurpose facility was a center of Gator athletic activities--including gymnastics, fencing and boxing--but was also used as a chapel, dance hall, movie theater, and lecture hall. When the UF campus went co-ed in 1948, the building was labeled the Women's Gymnasium, and it has continued to bear that name despite subsequent changes in use.
Funding from Ustler, coupled with matching funds from the state of Florida, clears the way for the long sought-after renovation, which will complement the growing list of early UF buildings restored to their original beauty, including Griffin-Floyd, Keene-Flint, and Anderson Halls. With the necessary approval of the Florida Legislature, the renovated gym will be dubbed Kathryn Chicone Ustler Hall, making it the first UF academic building named for a woman.
Ustler learned about the significance of the naming only after she made her gift. "I went to Stephens College in Missouri [a small women's college] as a freshman before transferring to UF as a sophomore," Ustler explained. "At Stephens everything was named after women, so I was used to this and just assumed academic buildings were named for women at all schools."
When completed, the 14,700 square-foot, three-level Ustler Hall will house classrooms and faculty and administrative offices for CLAS Women's Studies programs. The redesigned building will also include a library, gallery, and garden. "The garden really struck me when I saw the model," says Ustler. "Transforming a parking lot into a park people can sit in and enjoy is a wonderful idea and will greatly add to the beauty and utility of the building."
Ustler, a 1961 graduate in liberal arts with a major in sociology, is a native of Orlando. In the early 1920s, Ustler's father, Jerry Chicone, Sr., relocated from New Jersey to Winter Garden, Florida, where he settled and started the citrus and real estate business his family still runs today (Chicone Groves/Properties).
Chicone, Sr. met his wife, Maude Lee of Sylvania, Georgia, while she was visiting relatives in Winter Garden. After a long distance courtship, Maude Lee moved to Orlando to teach, and soon after the two were married. The Chicones were together for 64 years until Maude Lee's death in 1994. Chicone, Sr. passed away in 1998 at the age of 96.
Kay and her older brother, Jerry, were raised in the Orlando area where she graduated from Edgewater High School before moving on to the University of Florida. "I wouldn't trade anything in the world for having gone to UF--I have many good memories of my time there," she says, adding, "It makes sense to me to give back to my college."
Ustler's gift is not the first Chicone family donation to the university. Chicone, Sr. was one of 30 organizers of the Gator Boosters program in the 1950s and a trustee emeritus of the organization. The North Endzone Gator Booster offices are named after him. Jerry Chicone, Jr., who graduated from UF in 1956, is also a loyal supporter of Gator athletics and is the president of Gator Boosters.
Ustler says her family's commitment to the university definitely influenced her decision to make a major gift. "I wanted to keep the tradition going. If my dad and brother hadn't done what they'd done for UF in the last few years, it may not have occurred to me to do something at this level. I met their challenge," she says, "and hopefully, when his time comes, my son will meet my challenge." Ustler's son, Craig, a CLAS economics graduate (1991), is a commercial real estate developer and urban planner whose projects center around the revitalization of historic downtown Orlando.
Ustler extends her challenge to all UF alumnae: "I would encourage other ladies to give serious thought to what they would like to do for the University of Florida. I think in too many instances, it is the husband or the man of the house who handles charitable contributions. I encourage women to read about what is happening on campus, to find out about UF's needs, to identify which of these needs interests them and touches their hearts, and then to get involved."
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