Advertising mogul gifts $10M, mass comm school renamed

Jordan Zimmerman donated $10 million Monday to the now-named Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, which installed his logo to the building’s side. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Though education is priceless, the going rate for a school at USF is $10 million.

Keeping the USF Unstoppable campaign going strong, the university announced its fourth record-breaking donation in six months as they unveiled the new name and logo on the Communication and Information Sciences (CIS) building Monday.

Named after USF Board of Trustees member Jordan Zimmerman, the School of Mass Communications is now the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications following the announcement of a $10 million donation from the advertising mogul and USF alumnus.

“There’s no better way to spend $10 million than on education at the university that gave you your start and for each and every one of you to propel your dreams and your career,” Zimmerman told students in the crowd Monday.

Just last month, the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy was renamed for the retired Raymond James Financial executive who donated the same amount.

As founder and chair of Zimmerman Advertising, the fourteenth largest advertising agency in the world with over $3 billion in published revenue and responsible for marketing campaigns on big brands like AutoNation, CBS, Dunkin Donuts, Papa Johns and Office Depot, Zimmerman had a bright start.

In 1991, USF named him Entrepreneur of the Year for his then startup advertising agency — a company that later led him to a spot on South Florida CEO Magazine’s “One Hundred Most Powerful People in South Florida.”

“I’ve always been a dreamer and I am proof that dreams do come true,” Zimmerman said. “This great institution inspired me to dream big and it taught me how to succeed, it gave me confidence, it educated me and yes — it inspired me.”

He said his goal is to inspire and encourage students to never lose the ability to dream big.

“We owe it to these students to build a world-class institution, one that gives them the foundation and education to compete wherever they go in the world,” he said. “But not just compete, competing isn’t enough — they need to win and we’re going to teach them how to be winners.”

The donation is the single largest gift in the history of the College of Arts and Sciences. The dean for the college, Eric Eisenberg, said the money will help put the school on the map.

“The advertising and mass communications industries have been rapidly changing, and it is imperative that we transform the way we are preparing our students to succeed in the world they are about to enter,” Eisenberg said. “This transformational gift from trustee Zimmerman will enable us to become a destination program for aspiring advertising and mass communications professionals.”

Eisenberg said the gift will also propel the school’s programs in multimedia journalism, broadcast production and public relations to “new heights.”

Since 2002, Zimmerman has worked to improve USF’s advertising program by endowing a scholarship for advertising students and later a professorship in advertising in 2006.

Additionally, in 2005, Zimmerman helped create the Zimmerman Advertising Program (ZAP) between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business to revamp the advertising curriculum and make it relevant to students in an expanding global market. The program is now a Living Learning Community housed on campus in Poplar Hall.

“Our students live in a global economy that’s connected socially and digitally every single day,” Zimmerman said. “When they tour our university with their families, we want them to say we’ve never seen anything like this. Any time we bring them here, we connect with a family like that, we win as a university.”

When ZAP launched in 2005, Zimmerman said 12 percent of USF advertising graduates worked in the advertising field. Today, 72 percent of graduates work in the field. 

Though his name is now on the CIS building with a new logo, he said branding is more than just a sign and hopes his gift will revolutionize the curricula at USF.

“A brand is much bigger than a sign on a building. It’s up to each and every one of us to fill that brand with meaning like the best curriculum, like the best faculty, like the best resources and of course, students, the hungriest students…that connection between Zimmerman and the university is priceless,” Zimmerman said.

In addition to Pippenger’s $10 million donation, Zimmerman’s gift is the latest in a series to USF, including retiree Kate Tiedemann’s $10 million to the USF St. Petersburg College of Business in September, Les and Pam Muma’s $25 million to name the Muma College of Business and the land donation by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to create a new building for the USF Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute for part of a billion-dollar project to revitalize downtown Tampa.