Florida Gulf Coast University’s comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs prepare students to excel and innovate. Our students, alumni, faculty and staff are actively engaged and environmentally conscious citizens. They serve their communities and inspire others by leading, doing and making a difference.
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As a public institution, Florida Gulf Coast University eagerly accepts the leadership opportunity and obligation to meet the educational needs of Southwest Florida. To do so, it will collaborate with its various constituencies, listen to the calls for change, build on the intellectual heritage of the past, plan its evolution systematically for the twenty-first century, and be guided by the following principles.
The history of Florida Gulf Coast University is a visionary one built on support for providing higher education opportunities in Southwest Florida. Area citizens began the initiative to bring a state university to this part of Florida, and their early requests were quickly supported by elected officials at the local and state levels.
The former Florida Board of Regents formally recommended in January 1991 the development of Florida’s 10th state university to be located in Southwest Florida, and in May 1991, Governor Lawton Chiles signed the legislation authorizing the new university. Southwest Florida’s support for a university was never more evident than during the next year, when private landowners offered more than 20 gift sites for the university campus. In early 1992, the Board of Regents selected the site offered by Ben Hill Griffin III and Alico, Inc. of 760 acres of land located just east of Interstate 75 between Alico and Corkscrew Roads.
Roy McTarnaghan was named founding university president in April 1993. Initial staff was hired that summer, and the university’s academic and campus planning began in earnest. Plans for the first phase of campus construction were unveiled in February 1994, and shortly thereafter, the Florida Legislature named the institution as Florida Gulf Coast University. The vision for the university was one that would address emerging higher education needs for the 21st century, including the use of technology in the learning/teaching process and multi-year contracts as an alternative to faculty tenure. The Board of Regents approved an agreement in May 1995 with the United Faculty of Florida allowing FGCU to offer a contract system for faculty.
Campus groundbreaking was held on November 28, 1995, with more than 600 people participating in the celebratory event for Southwest Florida. With aggressive academic program and campus development schedules slated to culminate in an opening day of August 25, 1997, the early staff and faculty were busy meeting deadlines every month. Inaugural degree programs were approved by the Board of Regents in March 1996. The FGCU Foundation, a private fundraising arm of the university, gained extraordinary financial support for an institution that at the time could only be seen on a drawing board. Faculty members throughout the country were attracted to FGCU for the opportunity to offer higher education in new and innovative ways.
The first FGCU student, Mariana Coto, was admitted in January 1997, and she participated in the historic ribbon cutting on the university’s August 25, 1997, opening day. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) awarded FGCU accreditation candidacy later that year, and a comprehensive self-study was launched. The first commencement was held in May 1998, with 81 FGCU graduates. In August 1998, the first phase of student housing opened. The university received official notification in June 1999 that it had achieved, in record time, accreditation by SACSCOC.
The Florida Legislature established governing boards of trustees for state universities in 2001, and 13 members were appointed to the Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees. This governing board continues to provide leadership that is strategic, forward focused, community based, and responsive to the region and state. Student enrollment grew 60% from 2007 to 2016, and new undergraduate and graduate degree programs continued to be added, along with academic buildings and student housing. FGCU Athletics achieved NCAA Division I status and emerged as national powerhouse in 2013, when “Dunk City” became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
As FGCU approached its 20th anniversary in August 2017, the FGCU Foundation exceeded a $100 million fundraising campaign to fuel continued development of scholarships, athletics and programs that contribute to student success. Graduates grew to more than 25,000, spurring the launch of 10 Alumni Association chapters across the country.
Florida Gulf Coast University, a comprehensive institution of higher education, offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs of strategic importance to Southwest Florida and beyond. FGCU seeks academic excellence in the development of selected programs and centers of distinction in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines; health professions; business; and marine and environmental sciences.
Outstanding faculty and staff—supported by a strong community of advisers—prepare students for gainful employment and successful lives as responsible, productive and engaged citizens. FGCU emphasizes innovative, student-centered teaching and learning, promotes and practices environmental sustainability, embraces diversity, nurtures community partnerships, values public service, encourages civic responsibility, and cultivates habits of lifelong learning and the discovery of new knowledge.