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Tribune: Morsanis Give $10 Million

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Morsanis Give $10 Million To USF Health, Athletics


Published: Jun 2, 2006

TAMPA - As the medical school grew and a national spotlight shined on the football program, Frank Morsani considered making another donation to the University of South Florida.

That was a year ago. He told his wife, Carol, that it was time. They talked about $5 million.

Soon they realized, though, that their hopes were even bigger than that - hopes for an innovative program that could help turn around a national health care crisis, hopes for staying competitive in the big time Big East conference.

Five million dollars, Morsani decided, was not enough.

On Thursday, at a meeting of the USF Board of Trustees, the Tampa philanthropist officially announced that he and his wife will donate $10 million to USF and lead a new fundraising effort for USF Health.

New outpatient clinics called the Centers for Advanced Health Care will receive $7 million. The remaining $3 million will go toward new football practice fields and a new softball stadium, the largest single gift ever to USF Athletics.

In addition, the state will match the donation to the medical school, making the total gift worth $17 million.

Just A Mechanic

At 75, Morsani remains modest about his philanthropy. The automobile dealer made headlines 10 years ago with an $8 million gift to the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. He donated $1 million to USF's football program when it launched in 1997, and recently donated $1 million to the medical school.

USF President Judy Genshaft said Thursday that Morsani likes to refer to himself as just an auto mechanic. "Some mechanic," Genshaft said.

The Morsanis "have figured out that health care is broken," Genshaft said, and their donation proposes a fix.

The gift to the Centers for Advanced Health Care will boost a program in which health professionals will work as teams instead of separate specialty groups. "Doctors will learn from nurses, and nurses will learn from doctors," College of Medicine Dean Stephen Klasko said.

The $64 million center, which will stand six stories tall, is set to open in December 2007.

Each building will bear the Morsani name.

The $3 million athletics gift will go toward a new $4 million softball stadium and new $2 million football practice fields, which will be named the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex.

USF Athletics Director Doug Woolard said the remaining $3 million must be raised before the projects can be completed.

"This is certainly a great first step," Woolard said. "This is the catalyst for it."

With the football practice fields being built on the site of the old softball stadium, Woolard said it's possible the softball team would have to play off campus one season while the new stadium, with a seating capacity between 800 and 1,000, is being completed.

Recruitment Boost

"What a difference this will make," said USF softball coach Ken Eriksen, who has led the Bulls to seven NCAA Tournaments in 10 seasons. "Instead of having to avoid showing recruits where we play, it will be nice to show them the new stadium."

Added USF freshman pitcher Cristi Ecks, "It puts your school out there. You can host [the NCAA] regionals and it really helps the school out a lot."

The athletics gift also will go toward a 100-yard artificial turf field at the track stadium that the football team and other USF teams can use when preparing for away games on artificial turf.

"The Morsanis are very giving people," USF football coach Jim Leavitt said. "The thing that can be the most important is by Frank and Carol leading by example, we need to have other people do this. That is critical."

Tuition Increases

In other action at Thursday's trustees meeting:

&bullThe board voted to raise tuition for resident undergraduate and graduate students by 3 percent. The increase for undergraduate students, the smallest increase in years, was mandated by the Florida Legislature. There is no increase for out-of-state students.

&bullThe board elected new officers. Trustee Rhea Law, president and chief executive of the Fowler White Boggs Banker law firm in Tampa, will serve as board chairwoman. Law formerly was vice chair, a position now held by Trustee John Ramil, president and chief operating officer of TECO Energy Inc.

Law replaces real estate developer **** Beard, who has been chairman since the board's inception in July 2001. Beard will remain as a trustee.

Contact Adam Emerson at (813) 259-8285 or aemerson@

tampatrib.com. Contact Brett McMurphy a t (813) 259-7928 or bmccmurphy@tampatrib.com.

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