This is the second part of a three-part series detailing how the USF campus has changed through the eyes of the alumni who were there.
A little over a decade after MOSI Chief Operations Officer Vicki Ahrens left the university, Jim Harvey, president of Kolter Land Partners LLC, graduated in the class of 1988 with a bachelor’s in economics and finance . He currently serves as the chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Harvey came to USF from Detroit after applying to every college where it wouldn’t snow in the winter. His golf coach had recommended USF to him, so when he was in Florida for spring break in the mid-80s, he decided to check the campus out for himself.
Harvey was in Daytona Beach at the time and asked a friend if he could borrow his car to drive to Tampa to see USF. His friend refused. So, Harvey found other means.
He hopped on an Amtrak train and headed to Tampa. The train dropped him in downtown Tampa, where he asked around for ways to get to campus. Someone told him which bus to take, so he got aboard and got off at University Mall. Then he started walking, carrying with him a bag and his golf clubs, as he thought he was going to play on the golf team.
“… Then I proceeded to literally huff with my golf clubs and my bag across campus all the way to the golf course,” he said. “As I kind of walked around I was checking out buildings and checking out the pool and going, ‘This place is pretty nice,’ and that was history.”
During Harvey’s time at USF, the business building was new and students found it neat because it was partially buried in the ground. The buildings were mostly the blonde brick that students can still recognize on many buildings across the grounds. What campus lacked visually, he said, was character. Now, he said he feels that has changed.
“So today when you go to drive up there, (campus is) heavily landscaped, the trees are totally mature,” he said. “It has really taken on a sense of character and beauty that just didn’t exist in the early 80s.”
He also remembers parking being a huge issue, and this was before the parking garages and with what he estimates as a quarter of the lots campus has now. That, he said, is something about USF that hasn’t changed. He said he feels the university has transitioned well from a commuter school to a more residential school since his time at USF, and he also sees growth in USF’s reputation.
“I just think the overall reputation of the university and its focus on research and attracting top-notch faculty I think has really been a significant change that has really increased the value of my diploma and … I guess I’m just that much happier with the status of the university compared to when I was there,” he said. “That’s something we all can be proud of.”
Harvey said he feels the university’s sense of newness and freshness is still there, referring to USF as still the “new kid on the block” that can still establish traditions and have new impact on the community.
Read part one HERE.