It was 3:45 p.m. on a Tuesday. The air was cold, rushing against my cheeks, warning of the imminent downpour. For January in Gainesville, this was the best weather I could hope for. As I began the journey from Library West to Tigert Hall gripping two iced coffees, I contemplated the whirlwind that my life had become in just a couple of hours.
The day before, I returned to my dorm after class filled with the traditional anxiety of a Monday night, stressing about the busy week ahead. My roommate, Will Hasell, greeted me with a tone of great excitement, prompting me to check Twitter. I discovered President Kent Fuchs had tweeted about my previous column on iced coffee.
Oftentimes in life, a small victory can cause a massive shift in someone’s mood. This was one of those times. I checked the state of my direct messages and found them overflowing. The clout of a Fuchs retweet gave me a small taste of Gator glory. It was the first time in my life I felt like an actual writer.
The next morning, I rode the emotional high with a bold follow-up. I sent President Fuchs an email at 10:26 a.m., the subject being: “Thank you and an important offer.”
President Fuchs revealed in his tweet that he had never mixed ice and coffee together to form the golden elixir of our generation that I had fawned over in my article, and I proposed that I should deliver him his first iced coffee. I expected no reply, or possibly a kind declination of my proposal. Instead, at 10:33 a.m. (less than 10 minutes later), President Fuchs replied saying, “Your article was great! I accept your offer!” He asked if I could meet him that day at 4 p.m. I accepted without a second thought, as I stared in shock at the screen of my laptop. He signed off with, “Warm regards, Kent.”
Warm, just like his preference in coffee. However, I was determined to convince him of the superiority of the iced form of the beverage.
I ran with a unique form of adrenaline. It was derived from the fear of being late to meet Fuchs and of letting his iced coffee melt in to a sad form of the drink. I arrived at 3:50 p.m. He was out of the office when I got there, scheduled to return promptly at 4 p.m. As expected, Fuchs strode in at that time.
“You must be Kyle,” he said with a grin. I nodded, speechless as I went to shake his strong hand. I was face to face with a man revered as a god and it seemed almost like a dream. I regained my composure as our hands parted and offered a light joke. “The only downside of an iced coffee is a cold handshake!” President Fuchs laughed and directed me into his office.
Seated, he started off the conversation by saying, “Tell me about yourself!”
What followed was an incredible discussion about my experiences on campus, his involvement with The Alligator, my aspirations as a writer both at UF and beyond and of course our tastes in caffeinated drinks. After a wonderful conversation, we recorded a short video for his Twitter follow-up, where he put my knowledge of coffee to the test. We then clinked our plastic mugs and took photos around the office. President Fuchs bid me farewell by stating, “I like that you write, Kyle.”
While this experience is something I will remember forever, I think it says more about Kent Fuchs and his willingness to engage with students, than it does about me. Fuchs is not just the leader who is guiding UF up the public university rankings, he is a compassionate and earnest man who cares about everyone on campus. When we spoke, he told me that he’d never met a student who said they regretted coming to UF. It’s much more likely they all saw in Fuchs a genuine passion for the school and its students.
Kyle Cunningham is a UF English freshman. His column appears on Mondays.
Kyle Cunningham, an Alligator columnist, and UF President Kent Fuchs, who has never had an iced coffee before, enjoy coffee together.