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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

College of Engineering gets $50 million, new name

<p>Herbert Wertheim (front row, fifth from left) does the Gator Chomp with UF students and faculty outside Weil Hall on Oct. 1, 2015. The College of Engineering is using Wertheim’s $50 million donation to launch a $300 million research initiative.</p>

Herbert Wertheim (front row, fifth from left) does the Gator Chomp with UF students and faculty outside Weil Hall on Oct. 1, 2015. The College of Engineering is using Wertheim’s $50 million donation to launch a $300 million research initiative.

UF alumnus Herbert Wertheim wears the same red hat almost all the time, save for when he eats dinner and showers.

"I ain’t ever takin’ it off," he said.

On Thursday, UF students, faculty, staff and members of the Pride of the Sunshine Gator Marching Band donned orange-and-blue versions of Wertheim’s woven fedora as they celebrated his record $50-million donation to UF’s College of Engineering. This is the largest cash gift to the university, and it marks the beginning of UF’s five-year plan to gather $300 million in investments, said UF President Kent Fuchs.

The College of Engineering will now be named the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering in honor of Wertheim and his family.

"This is the beginning of a truly transformational gift," Fuchs said.

At about 9:45 a.m., students in sneakers and faculty in business attire squeezed around an orange-and-blue carpet near former Weil Hall, the College of Engineering’s building across the street from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Then the marching band played.

"Go Gators!" attendees cheered. "Come on Gators, get up and go!"

A cluster of UF faculty, Fuchs, Wertheim and his wife, Nicole Wertheim, emerged. They smiled and waved at engineering students as they strolled over the carpet and into a large white tent. Attendees followed, funneling into and around a stage.

College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy welcomed the Wertheims, and the crowd applauded.

The money from this project, she said, will recruit, educate and empower UF’s engineering students, equipping them to contribute to the world’s economic and societal well-being.

This includes adding new facilities, esteemed faculty and programs and research opportunities, Fuchs said.

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Hans Van Oostrom, associate chair of UF’s biomedical engineering department, said Wertheim’s gift will help UF become a distinguished university.

The money will go toward building state-of-the-art facilities and purchasing advanced equipment, which Van Oostrom said will attract great students.

"This extraordinary gift enables growth and ensures the strength of engineering for the benefit of generations to come," he said.

Herbert Wertheim addressed the audience, and his first words were, "Well, gee whiz."

Wertheim, who founded Brain Power Inc. and identified ultraviolet light as a primary cause of cataracts, said Gator engineers should recognize the strength in their degrees.

"You can all be very proud of yourself in that you’re following this profession, this avocation, this calling," he said.

He told students that their education comes with great responsibility, as they must solve problems in their communities.

"Being an engineering student is hard work," he said. "It’s not for sissies. You’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be dedicated to be an engineer."

Mechanical engineering senior Elianne Gonzalez will graduate in December.

The 23-year-old said she’s prepared; she already has a job lined up with Exxon Mobile.

She said the mentoring programs in the College of Engineering prepared her for success.

"I can only say good things about the college," she said.

Gonzalez attended Thursday’s festivities, and she said she is excited to see how the college uses the $50 million.

"I know that whatever they use the money for, it’s going to (the college’s) benefit," she said.

Right now, classrooms feel too small, said UF mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Andres Hidalgo.

In his upper-division classes, Hidalgo said about 120 students cram into lecture halls. The 22-year-old said he hopes the money can be put toward making class sizes smaller.

Hidalgo and his friend, UF second-year master’s student Leo Caro, attended the celebration.

Caro, a 25-year-old studying aerospace engineering, said he wants more people to donate to the college.

"The opportunities are here," he said.

As Wertheim’s gift-giving ceremony ended, Abernathy gave him a special gift: a Gator football jersey.

Engineer

Herbert Wertheim dons a Gator jersey with the help of Cammy Abernathy, dean of the UF College of Engineering, at a press conference Oct. 1, 2015. The audience wore orange fedoras in honor of Wertheim, who donated $50 million to the college.

He took off his glasses and signature hat to pull it over his button-up shirt and tie.

"Herbie, welcome home," Abernathy said.

Contact Ansley Pentz at apentz@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @ansley_pentz

Herbert Wertheim (front row, fifth from left) does the Gator Chomp with UF students and faculty outside Weil Hall on Oct. 1, 2015. The College of Engineering is using Wertheim’s $50 million donation to launch a $300 million research initiative.

UF alumnus, engineer and donor of $50 million to the College of Engineering Herbert Wertheim speaks in Weil Hall on Oct. 1, 2015. He said he wears the same hat, which he bought about seven years ago in Ecuador, almost all the time.

UF President Kent Fuchs speaks in Weil Hall on Oct. 1, 2015. The Board of Trustees voted earlier the same day to rename Weil as Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

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