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Friday, August 12, 2022

UF entrepreneurship professor Bill Rossi always wanted to be a teacher, but life got in the way.

While he was at the University of Massachusetts for graduate school, he got his first taste of commanding a classroom with a teaching assistantship. But as a married man with a baby on the way, he had to put his dream on hold.

Now after 15 years of teaching at UF, he’ll be retiring in December.

Before coming to UF, he was what he now teaches: an entrepreneur. He said he spent years building different businesses. In 1999, a friend approached him with the idea for what is now the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UF.

He said he was all in from the beginning.

"I walked into what’s been the absolute most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life," he said.

Fifteen years later, the center is nationally recognized. It has one of the top master’s programs in the country and offers an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship.

Rossi said his goal for his time at UF was not to receive awards but to give students the best experience possible.

"I wanted to be recognized as a great teacher," he said.

Students like Kristen Hadeed have come out of his classroom and gone on to create successful startups.

Hadeed founded Student Maid, a local cleaning service that employs students, while taking Rossi’s Principles of Entrepreneurship class. She applied his lessons to create her business, and Rossi even helped her write a business plan to get a loan.

"He made an effort to really cultivate a relationship with every student in that room," the 27-year-old said.

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Rossi said he’s taught about 18,000 students during his time at UF, and he’s proud of all of them.

He said he now wants to focus on teaching a larger audience, writing for business journals and writing a blog chronicling the creation of a company.

"I’m retiring, but maybe not in the way you might imagine," he said. "I’ve retired before, I’m retiring now, I’ll probably retire again."

Contact Alexandra Fernandez at afernandez@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @alexmfern

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