Press Release for Thursday, November 13, 2003

Crawfords give $1.5 million to UNF

A $1.5 million gift to the University of North Florida was announced today from Antonia K. “Toni” Crawford, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and her husband, Felix A. “Andy” Crawford. It will fund two endowed faculty positions in the area of early childhood learning and literacy.

“The children of this community are our most important assets,” UNF President John Delaney said. “Toni and Andy’s gift will help us improve the quality of early care and learning for children in our community and throughout the country. The Crawfords are great friends of UNF and great advocates for Jacksonville’s children.”

The Crawford Distinguished Professor will develop a practice-focused research and development agenda that concentrates on ways to ensure all children come to school ready to read, learn and succeed.

The Crawford Distinguished Professor will work closely with staff from the Don Brewer Early Learning and Professional Development Center, which is being built by the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, to create a model early care and learning center. The distinguished professor’s research will help determine how the strategies and materials developed in the center can be exported to other programs throughout the city, state and country.

The distinguished professor’s primary assignment will be at UNF’s Florida Institute of Education, a statewide research center. The institute’s mission is to improve the quality of education in Florida by developing collaborative programs among the state’s universities, community colleges, public schools, school readiness agencies and surrounding communities.

“This gift will serve as a catalyst for widespread improvement in the early learning and literacy opportunities available to young children in Jacksonville

and around the state and nation,” said Dr. Cheryl Fountain, executive director of the Florida Institute of Education. “The Crawford professor will also enhance programs at UNF through teaching undergraduate and graduate courses."

The second faculty position being established by the Crawfords is the Crawford Early Literacy Faculty Fellow.

“This gift is particularly meaningful to me because this is the first such endowment for the College of Education,” said Dr. Katherine Kasten, dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “This gift is an investment in the faculty of our college, premised on the conviction that UNF faculty can make a difference in the quality of life in Jacksonville.”

The Crawford Early Literacy Faculty Fellow will hold an appointment in the College of Education and will be called upon to provide expertise in early literacy and early childhood education. The faculty fellow will work with the Crawford Distinguished Professor to implement a practice-focused applied research agenda for early literacy.

Toni Crawford, in addition to serving on the UNF Board of Trustees, is the vice chairwoman of the Jacksonville Ready Child Coalition, which is a county-based committee formed to help get children prepared for school. She is also the past chairwoman of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission. Andy Crawford is the chief executive officer of Advanced Disposal Systems.

“We feel this community has been good to us, and we want to give something back,” Toni Crawford said when asked why she and her husband decided to make the $1.5 million gift. “Our family is deeply committed to helping make Jacksonville a city where early literacy and learning is a core value, and where all children have the opportunities they need to build the foundation for their future success — in school and in life. We are delighted to be a partner in this exciting endeavor that will improve the readiness outcomes for Jacksonville's children now and in the future."

The Crawfords’ gift is eligible for $750,000 in state matching funds. This would increase the amount of the gift to $2.25 million.