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UNF Foundation, Inc.

Encouraging student success

"It is great to see how people's lives can be enhanced because of someone's generosity." - junior Ariana Hernandez, a public health major

wards standing on a dockMichael Ward believes in the value of an education. The oldest of eight children, he knew early on that college was a key to future success. He worked hard to make that happen, becoming a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and an MBA from Harvard. Ward, who retired as CEO of CSX Transportation in 2017, and his wife Jennifer Glock, a first-generation graduate of West Virginia University, have been champions of education on all levels in Jacksonville. Their generosity is helping students succeed and thrive. 

“Education is the best gift,” said Ward. “It improves lives, and it helps students understand the world.” The Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation has had a significant impact on the University of North Florida and its students. In addition to providing funding for scholarships, Ward, a strong advocate of the armed forces, has given generously to UNF’s Military and Veterans Resource Center. 

Much of Ward’s philanthropy at UNF has focused on helping students overcome obstacles. A key area benefiting from his support has been the on-campus Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and its highly successful ACCESS Academy — Advancing College Competency: Encouraging Student Success. Students registered with the DRC are encouraged to participate in ACCESS Academy’s “boost sessions” covering  topics from time management and study skills to stress  management, self-advocacy and career readiness. Each class includes three one-hour sessions along  with individual time working with a mentor to implement the learned strategies. Once a class is completed, the student receives a $100 scholarship. 

“The boost sessions were very beneficial,” said Uche Onyibe, a senior majoring in computer science.  “I learned things that I hadn’t learned before. There was a lot of discussion between participants; you meet people you can relate to.”

Dr. Rusty Dubberly, director of the DRC, said the program has been incredibly successful, and gifts from the Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation, which provide the $100 incentive for the students and funding for program staff, have been vital to that success. “Gifts from the Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation have benefited hundreds of students with disabilities at UNF,” he said. “Their generosity directly impacts our students’ academic and career readiness, which is a gift that lasts a lifetime.”

According to Dubberly, during the 2017-18 school year, students participating in ACCESS Academy had a higher average GPA than the average of the full student body. During the past three years, over 99% of the students participating in ACCESS Academy have maintained satisfactory academic progress in their coursework at UNF — a clear indication that the program is working. 

“I’m so grateful. It is phenomenal that Mr. Ward chooses to do this and make an impact,” said junior Ariana Hernandez, a public health major. “It is great to see how people’s lives can be enhanced because of someone’s generosity.”