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Munoz gift attracts faculty and students


When Oscar Munoz was growing up in southern California, the idea of going to college was the farthest thing from his mind. The oldest of nine children, Munoz was from a blue-collar family and assumed after high school he would simply get a job. “No one talked about college in my circle of friends,” he said.


A high school counselor, however, changed his plan and convinced Munoz of the benefits of continuing on to college. He became the first generation of his family to attend college. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University.


The decision to go to college eventually led Munoz to his current position as executive vice president and chief financial officer of CSX Corporation in Jacksonville.


The memory of that counselor’s role in his life also was a factor in the decision by Munoz and his wife, Catherine, to support the First Generation Scholarship Program at UNF. The popular statewide scholarship program is specifically dedicated to students who are the first in their families to attend college.


However, Munoz didn’t stop with the undergraduate scholarship program. He also decided to fund a presidential professorship and a presidential fellowship. These commitments represent an important emphasis on graduate education at UNF. The three commitments total $100,000.


The professorship and fellowship stem from a luncheon in which he had an opportunity to discuss higher education with three of UNF’s deans. “It was clear that they were facing funding challenges in a number of areas,” Munoz recalled. “I asked myself what could I do in my own little way to be helpful in improving the quality of education.”


The presidential professorship will allow UNF President John A. Delaney, in consultation with the provost, to supplement a salary to either recruit an outstanding faculty member or retain a talented individual on the faculty. The fellowship will allow the selection of an outstanding graduate student at the master’s level for up to two years of financial assistance.


Both the professorship and fellowship are key ingredients to enhancing graduate education at UNF and providing transformational experiences for students, said Pierre Allaire, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “The Munoz gift, and others like it, give us the flexibility to attract the best and brightest faculty and students to UNF. We are grateful not only for the gift, but for the vote of confidence it represents,” he said.


Since 2010, Munoz has had an opportunity to watch the growth and development of UNF through his position on the University’s Board of Trustees. “I’ve been impressed with the great talent and skills that are required by the administration to navigate their way through the State University System,” he said.


Munoz said those skills have produced a robust university that is a tremendous asset to the community. “As a corporation headquartered in Jacksonville, it behooves us to improve the quality of education because we are ultimately a direct beneficiary,” he said.