USF Lakeland starts own lecture series

The USF Lakeland campus will begin its own lecture series next semester with the help of a donation from a local family.

The donation was made in the form of a five-year endowment with an initial $5,000 given to help with operating expenses. This will allow the university to start the lecture series immediately, said Al Sistrunk, the executive director of development at the USF Lakeland campus. The Saxena family made the donation.

“We are very excited about this gift, and we appreciate the vision of the Saxenas and the commitment that they have made,” Sistrunk said.

The Saxenas are creating a permanent endowment through the Lakeland Community Foundation. Sistrunk said the actual endowment money will not be spent, but will be used to generate more funds, which will be used to fund the upcoming lecture series.

“When the University Foundation creates an endowment, we never spend the money that goes into the endowment. That money is invested and it spends off of the interest,” Sistrunk said.

In addition, Sistrunk said some of the interest received from the invested endowment will be put back into the endowment fund in order to generate increasing returns.

The Saxena family owns a Lakeland engineering firm called ASC geosciences, inc. The Saxenas got involved with USF by helping the university acquire land for the Lakeland campus, as well as helping with the engineering aspects, said Sistrunk.

The idea of the endowment came during a discussion between the Saxena family and Sistrunk. The Saxena family wanted to know what they could advance the campus into a stronger relationship with the community it serves, said Sistrunk.

“One of the ideas they brought up was their interest in supporting a lecture series for the campus,” Sistrunk said.

The Saxenas also decided to give the endowment to USF because of the generosity they experienced in the community.

“We have seen the way the community has rallied around causes or events that are important in the development of the community, and we, being citizens of the community, wanted to do our part or at least a portion of our part, here at USF Lakeland,” said Anu Saxena, the eldest son and senior executive vice president of ASC geosciences, inc.

Sistrunk said this is an important gift because a lecture series provides opportunities for the university to sponsor speakers on meaningful topics as well as extending an invitation for community members to get involved in university life.

Another important aspect is that this endowment is the first of its kind, said Preston Mercer, Lakeland campus vice president.

“It is really a seed planted. It is our first contribution of that nature here at the Lakeland campus, so we are hoping that this will show leadership to the community so that other people will do the same thing,” Mercer said.

Ideas for lecturers and topics have not been discussed yet, Mercer said, but a faculty committee will be organized to review suggestions and the select topics.

Anu, as the spokesman for the family, said they are delighted to help the community and believe that their investment will reap future benefits for everyone.

“Education is the engine that really drives everything else in the economy and we are aware of that. We have been in the community for almost 30 years and have seen the dividends that education pays in the community over and over again,” Anu said.