Tryon Estates Rotarians Learn About University Development

At the April 6th meeting of the Rotary Satellite Club of Tryon TE, Phil Goree (93), Tryon Estates oldest Marine Corp veteran, shared his memories about developing a university from scratch. Answering a plea from it’s citizens, the state of Florida decided to expand its university system in the mid 60s. Phil, a WW2 veteran of Guadalcanal found himself, as part of a team of two, tasked with developing a campus in Central Florida with a very meager budget.

From left to right, are Rotarian Jim Robards, Speaker Phil Goree, Rotarians Rachel Ramsey and David McDonald.

Starting in 1966, and working from a small rented office, Phil and the future University President had two years to get a campus up and running from ground zero. They found what they thought was a suitable location near a small town in Orange county, purchased 1500 acres of scrubland and got to work. They were able to meet their deadline and in 1968 with bare bone facilities completed, Florida Technical University opened with an initial enrollment of 1948 students. Over the years since and after battles over the school colors and mascot among others along the way, this small institution grew to become the University of Central Florida with an enrollment of almost 72,000 students. It currently has the largest student body in the United States. Oh, by the way, that small town they are near is Orlando. A company named Disney, coincidentally, happened to start a development in the area just about the same time. The school colors are black and gold (the same as Army’s), which, rumor has it, was picked by their first president who just happened to be an army veteran. Also, in spite of a strong movement among the students to adopt the vulture as the university’s logo the idea was rejected as there was fear that the media would refer to them as the buzzards instead. Instead they chose Pegasus which symbolizes the university’s vision of limitless possibilities. I guess that small budget project could be labeled as a bit of a success.

Submitted by Carolyn Dickenson