Judy Genshaft Honors College holds ribbon-cutting ceremony
The new $56 million Judy Genshaft Honors College (JGHC) building held its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday with USF leadership and former USF President Judy Genshaft in attendance.
Construction of the 85,000-square-foot building began in December 2020 after the university raised $43 million for the building, which included a $20 million donation from the building’s namesake Judy Genshaft and her husband Steven Greenbaum. The university also acquired approximately $8 million in state funds to pay for the project and remaining costs were covered by the university.
USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman, president Rhea Law, sitting Board of Trustees (BOT) Chair Will Weatherford and former BOT chair Jordan Zimmerman spoke of Genshaft’s commitment to the university at the grand opening ceremony which lasted about an hour.
Addressing a room full of over 100 attendees, Law characterized the new facility as the perfect place for the talented honors students to pursue their passions and create long-lasting memories. She said the long-held vision of the building is something which people will incorporate to their own education experience.
“I just know that [students are] going to treasure this space as they continue to ascend to new heights in their academic journeys. And frankly, can you just imagine the wow factor the first time we walk into this room? I mean, just imagine,” she said.
Law also thanked Genshaft for her work during her tenure as university president. She said Genshaft’s leadership and commitment to excellence was instrumental in shaping the success of the university.
When Genshaft stepped down as president in 2019, she and her husband began looking for a pursuit which would have a transformative impact, according to Greenbaum. Given that Genshaft had worked with gifted and talented students prior to her tenure at the university and because she had created the honors college – upgrading it from a program to a college – the idea for the JGHC building came quickly.
The project represented the perfect pursuit as it cut across all three campuses and intertwined every undergraduate major, Greenbaum said.
“We knew that the Honors College needed an upgrade, as we heard from occupying the oldest building on campus to something new,” he said. “From the start, personally I envisioned a beautiful, amazing building that would reflect my wonderful wife’s elegance, style, her collaborative nature, and her desire to create an amazing environment.”
Genshaft said the building was the realization of a dream and would be the home to endless possibilities for both students and faculty.
SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE / PAMPHLET PROVIDED BY USF
“This is a home of endless possibilities, both for honors students and the dynamic faculty members who helped shape their future. It’s a broad canvas in which countless ideas will be painted,” she said.
Talking to the students, donors and USF leadership in the room, honors college Dean Charles Adams said the building embodies the thoughts and dreams of the students. He said while the prospects of the construction became a reality, the honors college organized workshops to receive student feedback on what the honors experience means and what it should look like.
This feedback was then taken into account throughout construction and he said the “special places” within the JGHC are a product of those conversations. Adams said he sees the building as a beehive where students will collaborate, debate, learn and discuss.
Many of the speakers at the ceremony also recognized the stark change between the JGHC and the John and Grace Allen building, which currently houses the honors college. The new five-story building features 22 learning lofts, 14 classrooms and studios – including a food and culture studio, art and design studio, multimedia studio and a technology studio.
The construction of the JGHC is an example of planting seeds that will blossom into something in the future, Weatherford said. Quoting a proverb, Weatherfod characterized the building as a place where “iron sharpens iron,” where the best and the most ambitious come together and challenge each other.
“We have an incredible board that are stewards of this university and not just thinking about where it will be this year or next year but where it will be 50 years, 100 years from now and [they are] planting seeds today that we may not see in our tenure but that we know will blossom into something special into the future,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford said the building is an architectural marvel. Besides classrooms and learning lofts, the JGHC also features an atrium event space, a Buddy Brew Coffee location and study rooms for students.
The opening of the new college signified a special day for higher education in the state and for honors colleges throughout the nation, according to Adams. The JGHC will become a place where students can fill their imaginations and think outside the box to address the challenges their generation is currently facing, he said.
“Our students will be leaders in every walk of life but the thing that binds them together in my mind is that they care about making the world a better place. Here they have at last an academic home worthy of their dreams. So while today is a culmination, it’s also a starting point,” he said.