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UT Begins Yearlong Celebration

Published: October 06, 2006
David Spaulding, grandson of UT’s founder and first president Frederic Spaulding, exited a Ford Model A Roadster to climb Plant Hall’s steps and re-enact the pivotal moment the majestic building became The University of Tampa. His quiet portrayal during UT’s 75th Anniversary opening ceremony, amid music, dancing and dignitaries, allowed hundreds in attendance on Oct. 5 to reflect on the institution’s humble roots.


“I tried to put myself in his place and imagine him walking up to this building,” said Spaulding, 39, a resident of Princeville, Hawaii. “I considered the time in history with the resources that he had available and didn’t have available. It would have been an awesome moment to think of the possibilities and also the challenges. I think the students can feel that when they come here, and I think that’s part of the strength that the school has.”

Anchoring the event, Dr. Robert Kerstein, professor of government and world affairs, and Dr. Terry Parssinen, professor of history, spoke of Tampa’s history and the political and financial obstacles that UT overcame to become a prominent university.

“Those who organized the University were public-spirited in their efforts, which makes their work quite remarkable in the Tampa of the early 1930s,” said Parssinen to the crowd gathered on Plant Hall’s East Verandah. He noted that by 1935 President Spaulding had incurred significant personal debt in order for UT to persevere.

Kerstein and Parssinen continued with details of the ups and downs of the past 75 years, up to UT’s second “golden age” marked by the current 11-year presidency of Dr. Ronald Vaughn, who has presided over a tremendous growth in capital, campus buildings, programs and students.

The historical celebration was enlivened by student performances and tributes to UT alumni such as Bob Martinez ’57, former governor of Florida, former mayor of Tampa and UT trustee emeritus, and Freddie Solomon ’75, UT football star and former Super Bowl champion. UT’s cheerleading squad and championship baseball team also were featured.

During Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio’s official proclamation of the day, she spoke of how the destinies of The University of Tampa and the city of Tampa were closely intertwined.

“The University of Tampa for 75 years has been a key part of Tampa’s growth and development,” said Iorio. “It is truly Tampa’s jewel.”

President Ronald Vaughn closed the event by asking listeners to learn of UT’s history while also considering its greater possibilities.

“I am excited about what we’ll become, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to change lives,” said Vaughn. “Remember that you, too, are a part of the legacy of UT, a remarkable, evolving work in progress.”