Ann Hicks has experienced UNF from myriad perspectives. She has been a student, an alumna, a donor and a member of both the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board. But more importantly, she also has been an ad hoc parent who has proudly witnessed the graduations of hundreds of “her” students who might have otherwise been left behind or attended another university.
Her unique perspective is infused with a credibility few others can match when talking about UNF. So it is especially reassuring when such an individual remains as passionate about UNF today as she was on the day she first enrolled as a student.
Dr. Pierre Allaire, vice president for Institutional Advancement, has known Hicks since she became associated with UNF.
“Anyone who knows Ann Hicks from only one perspective will probably be surprised to learn that this multi-dimensional woman has, in her quiet way, played a significant role in UNF’s success,” he said.
Hicks received her first bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. Circumstances and an innate thirst for knowledge led her to UNF.
“I discovered I really hadn’t explored some subjects to the depth I should have as a youth,” she said.
Attending classes at UNF, she said, was not only enlightening because of the faculty but also because of the students she befriended.
“I met some very bright, dedicated students who were under a great deal of pressure to study and finance their education with outside employment,” she said. “That’s when David and I decided to help.”
She and her husband, David Hicks, a successful Jacksonville business executive, funded scholarships for students in public housing and HabiJax homes and for students entering the visual arts and humanities. This later scholarship was named in honor of the Rev. Neil Gray, an Episcopal priest and UNF adjunct instructor.
“It was my good fortune to have my very first course taught by Father Gray,” she said. “He was one of the most, maybe the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life.”
As a Gray Scholar, Arielle Schneider was one of the more than 330 students who have benefitted from Hicks’ generosity.
“I was immediately struck by how graceful and intuitive Ann Hicks was,” she said.
Schneider went on to study in Egypt, complete internships in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., and found her life transformed by the experience.
“People who end up changing the world were most significantly influenced, not by their four years in college, but by the people who chose to invest and believe in them,” Schneider said.
After Hicks received her second degree in 1995, a bachelor’s of arts in liberal studies summa cum laude from UNF, she continued to be involved at UNF. She served on both the UNF Foundation Board, of which she was president, and the Board of Trustees, which provided different experiences. She and David witnessed a community coalesce around a goal when they became co-chairs of the successful Access to Excellence capital campaign from 1997 to 2003, which raised more than $100 million. But it might have been her role on the BOT that was most enlightening.
“I’ve never served on a more dedicated board whose members worked so hard to further an organization,” she said. “Breaking up the old Board of Regents and establishing local boards was the best thing that could have happened to UNF.”
She said the experience has also taught her about the quality of a UNF education.
“When a student graduates from UNF, it’s something to be proud of because it’s a rigorous education,” she said. “We are fortunate that so many of our graduates stay in Jacksonville where they can contribute to the quality of life. I hope they have an opportunity to experience the joy of giving back.”