UF’s College of Education has received the largest donation from an alumni in its history.
Anita Zucker, an alumna from the College of Education, donated $5 million to the college to enhance early childhood development and learning experience programs.
UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies will now be called the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies in honor of Zucker’s donation.
“This gift will ensure that the center will be endowed and will exist in UF forever,” said Patricia Snyder, director of the UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.
Zucker has worked with children since she was 12 years old. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from UF and taught English and social studies to elementary school children in Florida and South Carolina for 11 years.
She later became the CEO of the Hudson Bay Co. and head of the InterTech Group after her husband, Jerry, passed away.
“What I have come to learn from the state I live in (South Carolina) is the youngest children are the most ignored and the most suffering and the most living in poverty, so the opportunities are great to make a difference in the lives of young children,” she said.
Zucker’s donation will be combined with another $5 million in preeminence support from the university.
Zucker said she is glad to give back to her former college.
“I’m just honored to be a Gator,” she said.
The center is housed in the College of Education and will collaborate with other colleges on campus such as the College of Medicine, the College of Public Health and Health Professions, and the College of Nursing.
The center will also collaborate with research centers, such as the Baby Gator Child Development Center and the UF Institute for Child Health Policy.
“It’s bigger than just the College of Education, it’s bringing together people interested in early child issues from birth to 5 years old,” said Maureen Conroy, co-director of UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.
Other faculty members in the College of Education, such as professor Mary Brownell, said it’s important when a donor is interested in improving early supports for children.
“I wish more individuals interested in financially supporting the university would consider the importance of supporting the College’s efforts to improve teaching and research on teaching, particularly for those populations of students that are most vulnerable, such as students with disabilities,” she wrote in an email.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/13/2014]