Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Cake and lies



FAU may be lying about its age to garner more donations.

The university boasted its 50th anniversary a few weeks ago in an e-mail from President Mary Jane Saunders. But she should really wait to order the cake — another three years or so.

Fifty years ago, in 1961, according to FAU’s official website, the state legislature approved the building of FAU.

“Just one hitch remained,” the site reads on. “While the state had approved building a new university in Boca Raton, it had provided no funding for planning, architectural design or construction.”

Next, a bank threw in some money and a donation pool was started (through the “Endowment Corporation”—what today is called FAU Foundation) under a campaign called “Open the Door in ‘64.”

Then everyone wondered what to call the university. According to the website, a local newspaper was juggling some ideas: Palm State, Peninsula University, Gulfstream University, Kennedy University of Florida, and Bryant State.

Out of this list, the “Board of Control”— today’s Board of Trustees, a committee that makes FAU’s biggest decisions — chose the name Florida Atlantic University. That was in 1962.

1963 saw the passing of legislation for a $75 million bond to help FAU expand itself.

1964 brought political favors, one of which was getting then-U.S. President Lyndon Johnson to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He did. And it was grand. Doors were finally supposed to open on Sept. 8, 1964, but a nasty hurricane struck the university.

“Hurricane Cleo swept its way up Florida’s east coast, causing $100,000 in damage to the campus and delaying the start of classes by six days,” the site reads. “FAU’s charter class of 867 students arrived to begin their studies on a treeless campus marked by a flagpole that was bent like a used pipe cleaner.”

I checked out the website for University of Florida, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006. Its doors opened a hundred years earlier in 1906. The state approved its construction in 1903. Then I checked Florida International University. FIU’s doors opened in 1972, but I found anniversaries celebrating 1965, 1969 and 1972 birthdays. There may be no right way to celebrate a birthday.

So, why do we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2011 if our doors didn’t open until 1964? Should we celebrate it again in 2014? Ex-President Frank Brogan would probably think so.

His “message from the president” website for FAU’s 40th anniversary came out in — wait for it — 2004.

Brogan wrote that the anniversary is “dedicated to the dreamers who saw a great university rising in a place where others saw only weed-choked landing strips and buildings that had long stood empty.” He continued, “And it is dedicated to the 867 students who brought the dream to life when they arrived for the first day of classes on Sept. 14, 1964.”

I tried calling Brogan and asking him about it. I got as far as his chief of staff, who wrote in an e-mail that he was busy but offered Brogan’s statement about the anniversary.

“The 50th anniversary of Florida Atlantic University is an opportunity to consider the incredible advances FAU has amassed in a relatively short timeframe,” his message began. Short timeframe, indeed, since the 40th anniversary happened only seven years ago, according to Brogan’s website.

Next, I tried getting in touch with President Mary Jane Saunders.

She was busy in meetings, but a spokesperson was able to get me “a brief quote from her.”

“We take tremendous pride in all that Florida Atlantic University has become in a comparatively short period of time and the positive impact it has had on generations of students and entire communities in South Florida,” she wrote.

These statements didn’t answer my questions. So I moved on and found the co-chair of FAU’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, Lynn Laurenti — she happens to be one of those 867 students who came to FAU in 1964.

She said that the reason FAU is celebrating now is the 1961 state legislation that gave money toward funding FAU. In the 1990s, under FAU President Anthony Catanese, the year 1961 was added to FAU’s seal.

“That truly was the founding date of the university,” she said and laughed. “We discovered we were born earlier than we thought we were.”

I asked Laurenti if we were going to have another birthday in 2014.

“I don’t know what plans might be made,” she said. “Possibly there’ll be some sort of celebration, but that hasn’t been discussed. Nobody’s saying we’re going to celebrate two anniversaries.”

Laurenti said, “There will not be a very big budget.” She explained the anniversary will be mostly celebrated in conjunction with other events, like homecoming. There is one event, though, that is solely sponsored for the anniversary.

It is a fundraising gala.


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