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FSU President T. K. Wetherell and his wife, Virginia B. Wetherell
Oct. 24, 2003
By Jeff Robison
In an unprecedented gesture of support for Florida State University, FSU President T. K. Wetherell and his wife, Virginia B. Wetherell, have made the largest personal donation to a public university in the United States by a sitting president.
Through their estate, the Wetherells will leave a $7.5 million, 1,000-acre farm to the university to help countless students pursue their dream of a college degree.
The gift will be made to the FSU CONNECT Campaign and the Seminole Boosters. Upon receipt by the university, the Wetherells’ property, Oak Hill Plantation in Jefferson County, can be sold but must remain one parcel, in its natural state.
The announcement was made today by Bill Smith, chairman and CEO of Capital City Bank and chairman of the FSU CONNECT Campaign, at a press conference on the Florida State campus.
“This is a great day for Florida State University,” Smith said. “The Wetherells’ incredibly generous gift will help thousands of FSU students in the future. T.K. often says FSU is all about the students and T.K. and Ginger are leading by example with their commitment to the FSU CONNECT campaign.”
Upon receipt, the gift will provide for: the construction of a scholarship house at the Southern Scholarship Foundation to be named The Wetherell Family House and endowed scholarships that will support eligible students for that house by providing their tuition and fees; support for the construction of the Alumni Center; endowment of a new, innovative Westcott Scholars Program; support for FSU graduate fellowships; and endowment of a Wetherell Family Scholarship Fund, which will provide athletic scholarships to be split equally between male and female students.
The Wetherells have long been passionate believers in the value of higher education and the importance of making it accessible.
“Ginger and I believe the two most significant gifts one can bestow are the gift of life and the gift of an education,” President Wetherell said. “Hopefully, these funds will provide educational opportunities for others.”
“This is our way of giving back to a university that T.K. and I love so dearly,” said Ginger Wetherell. “Our dream is to see generations of students benefit from the excellent educational opportunities that Florida State University offers.”
The “FSU CONNECT Campaign” already has attracted $419 million in gift commitments toward its $600 million goal.
“The FSU CONNECT Campaign’s objective was to put in place the financial resources needed to make FSU a great institution,” said Jeff Robison, president of the FSU Foundation. “T.K.’s and Ginger’s gift is dedicated to our highest priorities – scholarships and fellowships for students.”
Thomas Kent “T.K.” Wetherell was appointed president of Florida State by the FSU Board of Trustees on Dec. 18, 2002, and he took office on Jan. 6, 2003.
He attended FSU on a football scholarship and played on the 1963-67 teams. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social studies education in 1967 and 1968, respectively, and earned a doctorate in education administration in 1974.
He often credits that education with putting him on the path to success, from his tenure as a legislator from 1980 to 1992, the last two years as House Speaker, to the presidency of Tallahassee Community College from 1995 to 2001. Before becoming president of TCC, he was president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, served in a number of top administrative positions at Daytona Beach Community College and was an associate professor of education at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
Virginia Wetherell served as Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from 1991 to 1998 and previously served as a state legislator representing Pensacola. She currently is president of Wetherell Consulting Services.
They are the parents of three children and have two grandchildren.