Spring 2022 | Volume 6, Issue 1


Philanthropy helps UCF turn challenges into milestones

Sunshine State Supremacy

The UCF Knights defeated UF Gators 29-17 in the 2021 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at a full-capacity Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on December 23, 2021.

It marked UCF’s 50th win in the last five seasons. That’s 11 more than any other team in the State of Florida during that span, including the Gators. It’s UCF’s third bowl victory since 2017, which is also the most of any team in the state.

The Knights will soon play in the Big 12 Conference, which could begin as early as the 2023 season.

“I’m very proud of our team. We’re building the foundation. We’re just getting started. The best is yet to come. I am so proud of our guys. The character that they have shown through tough times this year is amazing. These seniors have helped us build this foundation, and I am very proud of their effort.”

Guz Malzahn

Head Coach, UCF Football

One Day of Giving
and a Lifetime of Impact

Over the past eight years, UCF has participated in Giving Tuesday, a global day of generosity created in 2012 that takes place one day on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. In 2021, more than 870 donors from all over the nation contributed more than $1.16 million — marking UCF’s best Giving Tuesday yet. The funds will benefit a range of areas that support student success, social mobility and innovative research.

UCF’s next 24-hour fundraising event is UCF Day of Giving on April 7, 2022.

It is an opportunity to support and enhance the student experience, invest in groundbreaking research and keep UCF charging on.

For more information on UCF Day of Giving, please visit:

UCF President Alexander Cartwright, Rick Walsh ’77 ’83MS HC’14, Clarence Otis Jr., former CEO and chairman of Darden Restaurants, and Ken Robinson, president and CEO, Dr. Phillips Charities, during the recent Crossroads Speaker Series.

Intersection of Business and Philanthropy

UCF, in partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities, recently launched the Crossroads Speaker Series, held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando.

Inaugural speaker, Clarence Otis Jr., former CEO and chairman of Darden Restaurants and lead director of the Board of Directors of Verizon, discussed lessons learned during his time at Darden and shared his views about how a successful business—and individual entrepreneurs—have an important role to play in improving their communities through philanthropy.

The event, moderated by Rick Walsh ’77 ’83MS HC’14, is an example of how Dr. Phillips Charities and UCF work in partnership to improve our educational programming and the health and vitality of downtown Orlando.

“UCF and Dr. Phillips have had a long tradition of partnership and support that has had a significant impact on all that we have done and all that we will do into the future.”
Alexander Cartwright

UCF President

Everyone who helped is a hero — that’s the cool part of this.

Zachary Pamboukas,

a Limbitless bionic arm recipient, who raised money for future bionic kids through the sale of inclusive-focused comic book series, Bionic Kid.

UCF Breaks Into Top 10 Best Online Schools

UCF’s high-quality online programs were recognized by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked the university No. 7 in the country for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. This year’s ranking is up seven spots from No. 14 last year and is best in the university’s history.

“We have been dedicated to high-impact, high-value online programs for 26 years and remain focused on innovating to provide students from every walk of life with flexible options for earning degrees that fuel their futures,” says UCF President Alexander Cartwright.

“We are thrilled to have cracked the top 10 in the national rankings — rankings that highlight and validate the work of our top-notch faculty and staff in their pursuit of high-quality online learning.”

An Innovator in Online Learning

At UCF, students get the best possible education at a university that’s a leader in online learning — with more than 25 years of experience. It’s the same quality education, just virtually. From new technologies to course materials to faculty support, UCF provides students with all the tools needed to succeed in online learning.

UCF considers how students learn as much as what they learn. This ensures a meaningful learning environment that sets them on the path to success. And although not physically present in a classroom, learning doesn’t stop. Students still have class, participate in projects and coursework, talk with professors, as well as collaborate and connect with other classmates. Students have adapted to these changes and continue to learn as much as they would on campus.

It’s not just taking learning and putting it online, it’s rethinking the entire college experience in the virtual world.

UCF’s Biggest Campus Tour

UCF is featured on Season 3 of “The College Tour,” a TV series streaming on Amazon Prime. Nine alumni were involved in filming, producing and editing the one-hour episode, including Martin Olarte ’12. “I’m excited to show people just how cool and unique UCF is as this major metropolitan university with amazing opportunities here in Orlando,” he says. “I feel so lucky to have the opportunity, and that’s partly due to UCF, the education I received and the connections I made there.”

“I’m excited to show people just how cool and unique UCF is as this major metropolitan university with amazing opportunities here in Orlando.”

Martin Olarte '12

Managing Director, Adrenaline Films

Celebrating Diversity

Ginsburg Center for Inclusion and Community Engagement established.

With a gift of $5 million from the Ginsburg Family Foundation, UCF will establish the Ginsburg Center for Inclusion and Community Engagement. Since 2003, the Ginsburg Family Foundation has supported organizations that celebrate diversity and improve Central Florida’s quality of life.

The Ginsburg Center will serve the UCF family and the greater Orlando community with education and training aimed at building cross-cultural and global competencies. The center will support diversity, equity and inclusion, promoting civil discourse, inclusive environments and community engagement. To foster equitable access for all, the center will also support first-generation college students, people with differing abilities and disabilities, veterans and individuals of various cultures, backgrounds and beliefs.

Designed by Lauren (Haar) Waters ’06, the UCF downtown donor wall celebrates many of UCF’s philanthropic partners, including the Ginsburg Family Foundation.

The Ginsburg Family Foundation gift will be amplified by a $2.5 million co-investment from UCF, through the UCF Challenge. This strategic initiative provides funding from the transformational $40 million gift made in 2021 by philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.

“Universities have always been places where people of differing viewpoints and backgrounds come together to learn, innovate and engage with respect and civility,” says UCF President Alexander Cartwright.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Ginsburg Family Foundation, this new center will enhance our efforts to lead with care and compassion, leverage our collective strengths, and discover solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.”

UCF Celebrates the Arts

Every year, UCF brings its best and brightest artists to Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for a large-scale celebration of the things that make our world more interesting and beautiful.

This year, UCF Celebrates the Arts is bigger than ever, with a multiday production of an award-winning, family-friendly musical, concerts in the new Steinmetz Hal, lectures and discussions, multimedia events, chamber music, an expanded visual arts presence throughout the center and more.


10 Minutes With…

Ashley Taylor ’12

Lecturer, UCF School of Visual Arts and Design, College of Arts and Humanities



Ashley Taylor ’12 teaches printmaking and design in the College of Arts and Humanities and was formerly a professional printer and designer for Flying Horse Editions, a nonprofit publisher of limited-edition prints, artist books and art objects by internationally renowned artists, and a collaborative research studio for UCF visual artists.

She is the 2021 Chuck D. Dziuban Award recipient for Excellence in Online Teaching given by the UCF Center for Distributed Learning, and she was a featured artist in The Corridor Project Billboard Edition, a recent exhibition featuring the artwork of 30 Orlando-based artists on billboards throughout the area.

 Why is art important to society?

Art is communication, and design is how we arrange imagery to be perceived. I use design more than the term art. Design is all about intention. In making art, we are using design methods of combining line, shape, space, value, form, texture and color to express ideas or ask questions. When you think about how much imagery you see in one day, you realize your world is made up of artists questioning the world in which they live.

Where do you find inspiration?

I believe the role of an artist is understanding one’s relation to the world in which they live. For my personal work, I find inspiration from the day to day, observing the world around me. I walk outside and I see imagery, typography, color and human interactions. I love observing how humans interact and these observations find themselves perpetuated through satire. I came to realize that the history of caricature and satire is the foundation of my work. Embracing that I am a satirist, my subject is social commentary. I comment quite a bit on the current state of contemporary society in particular, human behaviors influenced by cultural rules, by attitudes, emotions and values. The work takes shape in the form of prints and drawing.

You recently received a UCF award for online teaching. How do you integrate technology and art?

One of the courses I teach is Introduction to Computer Art, a foundational design course. I create an educational experience to accommodate a broad spectrum of individuals, majors and career goals because I instruct both majors and non-majors in design courses. Students enrolled start off very eager yet concerned that they aren’t creative or proficient in the software. By the end of the semester, they prove to themselves that they were always creative, they just needed the push. They design for real world situations, including creating the concept and executing a finished polished design for a food truck, gig poster, social media campaigns, editorial design and package design. They complete assignments that help them develop their own resume and portfolio. Receiving the Dziuban Award for this course is a tremendous honor.

How did you pivot during COVID?

When we had to go remote, the last thing I wanted were daily Zoom classes — they sounded horrible! I wanted to honor everyone’s learning styles so I decided all my courses would be asynchronous. I created video tutorials for most of the assignments and allowed students a chance to work at their own pace. This was quite interesting when teaching drawing. I would hold weekly optional Zoom check-ins for students to get one-on-one feedback. The experience was great. When we went back to school, I continued to incorporate video tutorials for additional help.

What impact has the university had on your life, as a student, as a faculty member and as an alumna and what impact do you hope to have on the university and future Knights?

UCF was the first place I felt connected to other creatives. I found my best friends here. I didn’t start drawing until I went to UCF; I learned Art History, and I discovered a love for design and printmaking. When I graduated, I learned about the professional side of printmaking, working as a collaborative printer at UCF’s Flying Horse Editions, and now I get to do the thing I love — teach.

 I want to help students find their voice. I strive to instill in them a desire for risk-taking and problem-solving. I show them that making mistakes is part of the process. I encourage this mindset because the mistakes lead you to somewhere unexpected and usually the best solution.

Why should we fund the arts?

The arts are a vital part of our community.  Imagery shapes our culture, helps express our ideas and records our histories. Funding the arts creates a more authentic and enlivening world.

Ashley Taylor ’12 also creates posters, scarves and T-shirts as a member of the U.S. men’s and woman’s national soccer teams’ official fan group, the American Outlaws.


No matter the challenge, UCF continues to rise above thanks to the partnership of our friends, alumni, corporate partners and employees whose generosity enables us to do more and be more.

The Power of Philanthropy

Inspiration and partnership helps create lab and opportunities.

Rob Adams still remembers the enthusiasm in his colleague Justin Klocman’s ’06 voice.

Klocman, a Burnett Honors Scholar who earned his degree in electrical engineering, had just left a meeting of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean’s Advisory Board and immediately called Adams en route from Orlando to his home in South Florida.

“He said to me, ‘Rob, you need to come up here — we need to be doing more,’ ” Adams says.

The ‘we’ was Florida Power & Light (FPL), the largest energy company in the United States, serving more than 11 million residents across Florida with clean, reliable and affordable electricity. Adams serves as director of Power Delivery Grid Control Systems, and Klocman is general manager of the Performance and Diagnostics Center and one of Adams’ mentees.

FPL has long hired UCF alumni, as well as funded projects, centers and scholarships, but Klocman saw the potential for a deeper, more strategic partnership. Adams agreed.

Thanks to conversations initiated by Klocman and Adams, and the collaborative efforts of FPL, GE Digital and UCF over the span of two years, the partnership came to fruition in the form of the new Microgrid Control Lab co-sponsored by FPL and GE Digital, opened on the UCF main campus in November. The state-of-the-art research facility, which features control-center equipment and software that students can use to simulate and test real-life grid control operations, will ensure that UCF students in the field will be industry-ready upon graduation. FPL and GE Digital together employ approximately 400 UCF alumni in their workforces.

“The lab will give us a place to talk to students early on and get them excited about the power industry and the opportunities available to them,” says Adams, who believes that UCF graduates make some of the strongest employees thanks to their experience within the university’s robust engineering programs focused on power, renewable energy and cybersecurity.

The strength of UCF’s programs is no surprise to Adams and his wife Adrienne, who are also UCF parents to three Knights: son, Joshua Perlstein ’12 ’15MS (engineering); daughter, Madison (mechanical engineering junior) and daughter, Savannah (health sciences freshman). They also know the importance of a well-rounded college experience, which includes co-curricular and service activities — many of which are funded by philanthropy.

“The lab will give us a place to talk to students early on and get them excited about the power industry and the opportunities available for them.”

As members of the UCF Parent & Family Philanthropy Council, the Adamses’ goal is to provide resources for enhanced student experiences.

The Adams family left to right: Adrienne, Savannah, Joshua Perlstein ’12 ’15MS, Rob and Madison.
“For the lab, FPL’s philanthropic objective was to provide students with a real-world avenue that will help them achieve career success, but our personal family objective for giving is legacy,” says Adams. “Regardless, there’s a real opportunity here at UCF to make a meaningful difference in a student’s life, especially first-generation students.”

The Adamses give to the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Medicine and to Limbitless Solutions — where Madison is the head intern for assembly and hand repairs.

Madison is also an ambassador for 4EVER KNIGHTS (4EK), whose mission is to educate students on the importance of establishing and maintaining a lifelong relationship with UCF. As a member of the philanthropy committee, her goal is to help build a student culture of philanthropy through outreach and events. “We stress that the relationship with UCF is forever,” she says. She also works with students in EXCEL, a program that aims to increase student success in STEM during the first two years at UCF.  “I try to pipeline my students to the appropriate programs and facilities where they can achieve the most impactful accomplishments,” she says.

Sean Farrell, director for advancement in the College of Undergraduate Studies, who worked closely with the family and corporate leaders throughout the planning, creation and launch of the microgrid lab, says that the work Madison and the 4EVER KNIGHTS are doing is vital. “Establishing that relationship early on, as students — with philanthropy and engagement — is what makes things like the microgrid possible,” he says. “Their work is what allows us to have important conversations down the road.”

Farrell has nothing but praise for the work the Adamses are doing for the university and the impact they are making. “From Rob driving from South Florida to take initial meetings about the lab and exploring opportunities outside of FPL’s traditional university partners, to Rob and Adrienne volunteering for the parents’ council — whenever there is a challenge, the answer has always been ‘yes.’”

Deeply Invested

Engineering pioneer mentors and supports STEM students.

“My UCF degree is like an investment in Apple or Amazon,” says Tandreia Bellamy ’98MS, “because it just gets more valuable as time goes on.”

As a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board, Bellamy gets an up-close look at the future. “Everything that is cutting edge — the cybersecurity lab, the virtual reality lab, artificial intelligence — is on that campus,” she says. “When you talk about students being prepared to enter the world today, UCF has it all.”

But more than cutting-edge programs, what Bellamy says really comes through loud and clear is the sense of care and commitment the faculty have for their students. “The professors seem to have a vested interest in the success of students,” she says. “And that makes the education at UCF so much more personal and so much more valuable.” That engagement helps students to thrive. “When you look at the number of programs [at UCF] in engineering like GEMS (Girls EXCELling in Math and Science) or WISE Mentoring, the message is clear: We want you here, and we want you to succeed in STEM fields.”

An industrial engineer who recently retired from a successful 34-year career at one of the largest global shipping and logistics companies worldwide, Bellamy has a wealth of knowledge that she shares with many student groups at the university and mentors an industrial engineering student. The connection and outreach are a win-win for all. “I feel like I am valued by the university, so I want to invest in it.”

“When you talk about students being prepared to enter the world today, UCF has it all.”

Along with her investment of time, Bellamy recently established an endowed scholarship benefitting women in STEM, to help balance a playing field where women have always been underrepresented. “We’ve got to crack the code — we have got to take that thought process away that girls cannot excel in math and science.”  The scholarship will assist undergrads studying in STEM fields and, because it is endowed, will benefit students for generations to come.

Bellamy knows the impact the scholarship will have because she was fortunate to receive scholarship assistance as an undergrad at Stanford University. “I came out of Stanford with very little student debt, and it would not have been possible without scholarships.” She plans to stay engaged with her alma mater so she can see the impact of her giving firsthand and because she’s excited about what’s to come for the university.

“UCF cares about all things Knight, and it is really refreshing,” she says. “I’m proud to be involved.”

Bellamy with fellow alumnus Mark Calabrese ’78 ’79MS 

Bellamy receiving the outstanding alumnus award from the College of Engineering and Computer Science

Honoring Educators 

Multi-million-dollar scholarship will impact generations of students.

Thanks to the generosity of Diane Lee Eriksson ’77, her husband Larry Eriksson and their family, students majoring in elementary education and early childhood development will benefit from the newly created L.A. Lee Family Endowed Scholarship. The Erikssons’ goal is to assist students by allowing them to focus on their education and become the best teachers possible without the worry of student debt.

The Erikssons’ $1 million gift honors the memory of Lee Eriksson’s late husband, Lynnwood Arthur Lee ’78 — to whom she was married for 40 years before his death in 2009. Lee earned a bachelor’s in economics from UCF and often served as a volunteer at his alma mater, Lyman High School, in Seminole County.

“Teaching and learning were always in the forefront for him,” says Lee Eriksson, who earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from UCF and taught first and second grade for 31 years at Longwood Elementary School. “After he passed away, I knew I had to do something in his honor.”

Upon learning about the UCF Challenge — a program the university launched in 2021 to co-invest with donors who give to several key areas, such as student success and scholars’ programs — Lee Eriksson knew the time was right for the gift. The co-investment brings the total of Eriksson’s gift to $2 million.

Diane Lee Eriksson ’77 with son Chris Lee and grandson CJ.

“I am over-the-top excited with this [opportunity] that came about this year,” she says. “I look forward to the blessings that it’s going to afford so many beginning teachers and the students they serve.”

UCF is one of the largest producers of teachers in the state and the gift will create a ripple effect that will impact generations of future educators.

Lee Eriksson says she’s excited about the opportunities that the scholarship will create for students, and her dream is that future teachers will be able to graduate without student debt.
“Woody loved helping others and encouraging them to succeed,” she says. “A good teacher can make a big difference in students’ lives, and the opportunities this will afford teachers and students in our community are very important to us.”

Her children, Chris Lee and Jenny Lee Demetree, say their father came from a line of educators, and education was always prioritized in their home growing up. “Dad always had a way of finding solutions to a problem and helping people,” they say. “Now, we can do that together.”

“I look forward to the blessings that [the scholarship] is going to afford so many beginning teachers and the students they serve.”

Diane Lee Eriksson '77

Opening Doors to Opportunity

$2 million in scholarships for first-gen students. 

Mark L. Plaumann ’74 ’79MBA had already broken down a lot of doors by the time he got to UCF at age 17 — not as a freshman, but as a junior. He had finished his high school’s three-year accelerated program in two years, tested out of all the courses for his two-year degree and was only a year away from earning his bachelor’s degree by the time he started at UCF.

Even though he had neither his high school diploma nor his two-year degree officially, Mark remembers how UCF welcomed him and allowed him to take junior- and senior-level classes, enabling him to graduate from the university at age 18. Mark says the engagement by UCF made a huge difference in his education and career and credits the university with opening even more doors — ones that would have remained closed to him had he not attended.

While his student experience was unique, Mark believes UCF’s outreach is not uncommon. “UCF goes the extra mile to assist its students,” he says.  And he and wife Marilyn Wilson have followed suit. For more than 30 years, they have supported a wide range of programs at the university. Mark also serves on the UCF Foundation Board of Directors and the College of Business Advisory Board and is a member of the College of Business Hall of Fame. “I give back so I can continue to open opportunities to generations of students — my passion is to invest in the future through education.”

Mark, a first-generation student who came from a working-class family, is grateful that UCF was affordable for his family, but understands that cost often prohibits many students from attending college. A few years ago, Mark and Marilyn directed their support to scholarships for first-generation students studying in the College of Business.

Earlier this year, they made an additional commitment of $1 million. Just as it did back when he was an incoming junior, UCF once again partnered with Mark to increase student success — this time through a co-investment program called the UCF Challenge, where Mark and Marilyn’s impact will be doubled to $2 million in support of first-generation students.

“I believe first-generation students are highly motivated to obtain their education and to improve their lives. Our donations will provide funding for scholarships that I hope will help many students obtain their degrees without incurring student debt and will aid in their upward mobility.”

UCF Foundation

Plaumann and Wilson receive on-court recognition for their generosity from Alexander and Melinda Cartwright, UCF president and first lady.

“I give back so I can continue to open opportunities to generations of students — my passion is to invest in the future through education.”

Mark L. Plaumann '74 '79MBA

IMPACT is published three times a year by UCF Advancement for alumni, friends and partners of the university who have made philanthropic commitments. Please direct correspondence or address changes to [email protected] or Impact Editor, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 250, Orlando, FL 32826

Interim VP for Advancement and Interim CEO, UCF Foundation
Karen Cochran

Managing Editor 
Susan Watkins | [email protected]

Staff Writers
Camille Dolan ’98, Char Eberly

Art Director
John Sizing |

Previous issues of IMPACT may be accessed here:

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