Skip to Main Content

Press Release for Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ann and David Hicks Donate $7M to University of North Florida

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102


The University of North Florida announces a $7 million gift by Ann and David Hicks, longtime community leaders, philanthropists and UNF supporters, establishing the Hicks Honors College—the University’s sixth academic college—formerly known as the UNF Honors Program.

“The University is so grateful for the generosity of Ann and David over the years,” said UNF President John Delaney. “We’re thrilled to announce the establishment of the Hicks Honors College, which will provide a unique interdisciplinary learning experience for some of UNF’s high-achieving students.” The new college was approved earlier in the day by the UNF Board of Trustees.

UNF’s ultimate vision is to develop an Honors College that provides students with a transformative four-year experience, including not only taking classes from the University’s most accomplished faculty but also engaging in experiential, high-impact learning, living and learning among their peers in a community of academic excellence, as well as cultivating skills and competencies that will prepare them for a lifetime of leadership.

“In all my years of affiliation with UNF, I have wanted to establish a small Amherst College in the midst of our vibrant university. It’s the best of both worlds for the honors students,” said David, a successful Jacksonville business executive.

“These high achievers have the benefit of small classes and intimate learning experiences, while participating in the dynamic atmosphere of the larger university,” said Ann, a 1994 UNF graduate. “Of utmost importance, the honors students will graduate without the burden of debt, which might have been incurred had they chosen a prestigious private university. Our goal is to have their education comparable to that of top-tier institutions.”

The University has become widely known as a choice destination for academically talented students, and the establishment of the Hicks Honors College comes at a time when UNF’s academic profile is at an all-time high. The fall 2015 freshman class has an average GPA of 4.02 and a 1218 SAT, the smartest class in the history of the University.

Thanks to the donation from the Hicks, approximately $180,000 a year will be used by the Honors College for study abroad scholarships, sending around 60 students a year on study abroad opportunities for longer transformational experiences (summer, semester or year). Study abroad opportunities will be expanded that both target a broader diversity of students studying abroad as well as a diversity of majors.

Research scholarships will be structured to provide incentives for honors students to work closely with faculty in joint research activities in their chosen discipline. Around $80,000 a year will fund Hicks Fellows, selected honors students who are juniors and seniors, to fund participation in undergraduate research, travel to conferences, special projects, academic competitions or performance opportunities.

Several changes will need to be implemented in the areas of curriculum and co-curricular activities in order to move from an Honors program to an academic college. Currently, there are nearly 580 students in the Honors Program. The Honors College will increase its role in honors recruitment/admissions and will increase connections and engagement with both UNF alumni and the Jacksonville community.

Curriculum in the Hicks Honors College will grow in depth, breadth and coherence. Its learning outcomes will entail robust linkages to academic disciplines across the UNF campus that foster interdisciplinary learning. Regarding co-curricular activities, the Honors College will increase student residential living and learning opportunities that offer enhanced connections both across the four-year college experience and with UNF faculty. Honors students will also increase engagement both within and outside the campus.

The Hicks have been longtime supporters of UNF. In 2012, the University dedicated UNF Hall, Building 53, as Hicks Hall to honor Ann and David for their dynamic leadership and unselfish support to Northeast Florida. David was the former CEO and chairman of Computer Power, Inc., the leading supplier of software and services to the mortgage industry. He is credited with turning around the Jacksonville Housing Authority, where he served as chairman for seven years after his retirement from CPI. David used his entrepreneurial skills to have the JHA partner with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, constructing more than 1,400 Habitat homes, which resulted in HabiJax being the largest and most successful Habitat affiliate in the United States.

In 1996, the couple originated the idea of the Pathways to Success Scholarship program at the University. This innovative program, which David and Ann generously funded, provides a way for students in HabiJax and public housing to attend UNF. The program’s initial goal was a $10 million endowment to fund scholarships. With David’s leadership, it succeeded in securing more than $15 million in donations from over 30 donors in Florida.

Ann has made significant leadership contributions to UNF as a member of the University’s first Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board. She is also greatly involved in providing scholarship assistance to students. Ann established the Gray Scholarship Program in honor of Rev. Neil Gray, an Episcopal priest and UNF adjunct instructor who made a deep impression on her while studying for her second bachelor’s degree.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.