Skip to Main Content

Buildings dedicated to civic leaders


When universities name a building after someone, the customary practice is to place a plaque near the main entrance. Over the years, the plaques weather and darken, obscuring stories about the people and events that helped shape an institution’s history.

At the University of North Florida, however, a dramatically different tradition is emerging. It’s a tradition that will serve to remind alumni, students, faculty, staff and the community about the individuals whose contributions have made UNF what it is today.

While traditional plaques continue to grace the exterior of UNF buildings, interior displays now tell a story about the individuals who have not only greatly assisted the University, but been driving forces for change and innovation across the entire community.

The three most recently unveiled interior displays tell the stories of two dynamic couples and a persevering former UNF president who have made lasting contributions to UNF. The stories of Adam Herbert, Ann and David Hicks and Betty and Tom Petway are memorialized in these displays for generations of future visitors. They elaborate on how dedication to education, selfless community service and dogged determination can change lives.

Pierre Allaire, vice president for Institutional Advancement, said the naming of the buildings is part of an overall effort to depart from a long-standing practice of using numbers to refer to UNF campus structures. It’s a practice that started when the University was young and had few champions to honor. However, Allaire said UNF has matured in 40 years and now boasts a rich history of supporters who have stepped up to make a tremendous difference to the institution’s quality of education and transform the lives of thousands of students.

“Since we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year, it’s appropriate for us to do a better job of talking about our history and the people who have built this University,” Allaire said. “Creating permanent displays is our way of doing that.”

When future generations of UNF students listen to a lecture at the Adam W. Herbert University Center, check on the status of their financial aid at Ann and David Hicks Hall or take an education class at Tom and Betty Petway Hall, they will also have an opportunity to learn about the five remarkable individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the growth and development of UNF.

Their contributions span different areas but are linked by one common element — a lasting love of the University of North Florida and its students. Jacksonville residents Betty and Tom Petway were recognized for their groundbreaking support of early learning literacy initiatives and higher education leadership with the dedication of the new education building in their names. Jacksonville residents Ann and David Hicks were recognized for their leadership, innovation and scholarship support of UNF students with the dedication of UNF Hall in their names. Former president Adam W. Herbert was recognized for his vision and determination in building numerous bridges to the community, symbolized by the construction of the University Center that now bears his name.

UNF President John A. Delaney praised all five individuals.

“We cannot overestimate the impact these five individuals have had on this University,” he said. “Because of their leadership, dedication and commitment to education, UNF is a better university today and in the future. Indeed, the entire Jacksonville community is a better place to live because of their contributions.”

Betty and Tom Petway

“When children can read, they can overcome many other problems.”

Those words, spoken by Dr. Cheryl Fountain, executive director of the Florida Institute of Education, reflect her years of experience working with schools and children throughout Florida. And she, above all others, realizes how many children are reading today because of Betty and Tom Petway.

“Their investment contributed to the changing landscape of early literacy education and school readiness in Jacksonville and Florida,” she said.

That steadfast commitment to early learning literacy and to UNF was recognized when the new education building on campus was dedicated to them in November.

The building housing the College of Education and Human Services, along with several other related campus organizations, was designated Petway Hall. In addition to literacy, the Petways also have supported a wide range of UNF programs, including the Disability Resource Center, which is also housed in the building.

The Petways’ generous support for the Jacksonville Early Literacy and Learning Initiative has resulted in major changes in literacy education across the state. Through this commitment, the Florida Institute of Education at UNF has leveraged the Petways’ private investment to generate more than $16 million in grants for early literacy learning.

Tom Petway’s commitment to education extends far beyond UNF. A graduate of Florida State University, he was chairman of the FSU Foundation and received an honorary doctorate from FSU. He also served on the State University System’s Florida Board of Regents and the subsequent Florida Board of Governors, being the only individual to have served as chairman of both boards. Among his many awards, he also has received the Prime F. Osborn III Distinguished Business Leader Award from the Coggin College of Business.

Petway was gracious and humble in accepting the UNF honor.

“We are interested in improving education at all levels in Florida,” he said. “Betty and I don’t care who gets the credit, we want to get the job done.”

A prominent area business leader, he is president of The Petway Companies and founder, former chairman and CEO of Zurich Insurance Services Inc., a national insurance marketing and administrative services company. He is also the founder and partner of Prudential Network Realty, a locally owned and operated residential real estate franchise.

Tom Petway also was an original minority partner in the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL's 30th franchise. He also has been co-chairman of the organizing group for Super Bowl XXXIX and co-chairman and CEO of the Jacksonville Super Bowl Host Committee.

His other duties include serving as chairman of the board of directors for the Community Hospice Foundation and as a board member emeritus for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. He served as chairman of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC), the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the Jacksonville Preservation Project and served on the boards of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the World Golf Village.

Betty Petway, co-chair of The Petway Family Foundation, has served on the UNF Foundation Board and is an honorary UNF alumna. She has been involved in many philanthropic initiatives throughout Jacksonville, including campaigns for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where she is an honorary board member, the Children’s Home Society and Hope Haven. She was the first woman to chair the capital campaign for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, where she is also an emeritus member of the board of directors. She won the Florida Times Union’s distinguished EVE Award in 1996 for her work.

Throughout their community involvement, the Petways have always valued the quality of education.
“I think UNF is a wonderful asset to this community, and we’re happy to be part of the success story,” Tom said. “It’s a community success story. We know with the leadership of John Delaney it is becoming an even more prominent part of the community. We are proud to be associated with his dynamic leadership.”

Ann and David Hicks

The vision for a university doesn’t suddenly appear to its president and chief administrative officers. It evolves over time as conditions change and new challenges arise. Occasionally, those changes coincide with the rise of prominent civic leaders such as Ann and David Hicks.

Ann and David Hicks pose with a number of scholars they have helped through the years.The newly dedicated Hicks Hall, is probably one of the best illustrations of a university’s evolution. Hicks Hall was once a call center for AOL, but the company shed the facility shortly after it was built due to the burst of the bubble. President Delaney quickly saw the opportunity for expansion, and UNF purchased the property. The
135,000 square-foot facility soon became the gateway for students arriving on campus. It now houses Admissions, Financial Aid and One-Stop Student Services.

While these changes were occurring, Ann and David Hicks were themselves contributing to the evolution of UNF with groundbreaking ideas that cleared the path for hundreds of students hoping to attend the University.

David, a Jacksonville business executive, was instrumental in coming up with the idea for the Pathways to Success Scholarship program. This innovative undertaking, which he generously funded, provided a way for students in HabiJax and public housing to attend UNF. Many families who never believed they had the means to send their children to college discovered it was possible through Pathways to Success. The program’s initial goal was a $10 million endowment to fund scholarships. With his leadership, it succeeded in securing more than $15 million from many Jacksonville philanthropists.

Ann Hicks (B.A. ’95), who has made significant leadership contributions to UNF as a member of the first Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board, also became involved in providing scholarship assistance. She established the Gray Scholarship Program in honor of Rev. Neil Gray. The Episcopal priest and UNF adjunct instructor made a deep impression on Ann when she was studying for her second bachelor’s degree at UNF. She established a scholarship for students in visual arts and humanities.

The Hicks have contributed more than $6 million to their scholarships, a total that was matched by the State of Florida. Ann and David also served as co-chairs of the University’s first capital campaign — Access to Excellence. This highly successful campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2003, exceeded its $65 million goal by raising $103 million from more than 11,000 donors.

Additionally, David and Ann have been consistently active in the community. David has made improving housing in Jacksonville a major component of his civic involvement. David has also assisted the Jacksonville Community Foundation, the United Way of Northeast Florida, the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the YMCA.

Ann’s civic engagement includes serving on boards of the Jacksonville Public Library, HabiJax, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and The Bolles School.

The contributions of these two civic leaders led Allaire to suggest to President Delaney establishing a lasting connection between the role of the building and the role of the couple at UNF and in the community.

“It made perfect sense for us to name the building in their honor because they have been so instrumental in establishing a pathway to success for so many of our students,” Allaire said. “In a physical sense, the building is also a pathway to campus.”

At the dedication ceremony, Ann and David expressed their gratitude.

“This is the most amazing, most surprising and most humbling thing that has ever happened to us,” Ann Hicks told the assembled guests. “David and I are so proud to be identified with this University, and it is particularly significant to us that every prospective UNF student will walk through the doors of this hall. For us, our children and our grandchildren, we thank you for honoring us. You have created a legacy for our entire family.”

Dr. Adam W. Herbert

The Adam W. Herbert University Center was dedicated as part of the annual Founders Day celebration. Herbert was recognized for his vision in building a facility that has done double-duty serving the community and the University.

Dr. Adam W. Herbert stops to accept a hug after the dedication ceremony in his honor.Since opening in 1999, the University Center has compiled impressive attendance numbers. University Center Director George Androuin estimates the center has hosted more than 54,000 activities and attracted 2.2 million visitors in its lifetime. When many of these event participants visited the University Center, it was their first exposure to UNF, a success in terms of Herbert’s goal to raise the profile of the University in the community.

These figures also include separate events sponsored by the Division Continuing Education, the Florida Small Business Development Center and the Institute of Police Technology and Management, all of which have offices in the facility.

The attendance numbers substantiate Herbert’s “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. At the groundbreaking, he said it was clear to him there were few alternatives to the convention center in downtown Jacksonville especially for smaller conferences, meetings and lectures.

Construction of the 95,000-square-foot facility began in 1997 and proceeded rapidly. By February of 1999, it was ready for its grand opening.

Although Herbert had become chancellor of the State University System by the time the Center opened, he had many opportunities to view its operations in subsequent years. He returned to UNF in 2000 to become the founding executive director of The Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership.
Now, retired and living in Jacksonville, he is a frequent visitor for lectures and special events at the center.

During the dedication ceremony in October, Herbert recounted some of the difficulties he encountered when attempting to secure funding for the center.

“It was vetoed by the governor once, but we repackaged the proposal, and the following year it was funded,” he said. “I knew we needed to bring people to see the beauty of our campus and to feel that they had close ties with UNF. The University Center achieved that goal.”

All five of the honorees have made significant contributions to the Northeast Florida community and society at large. They have not only talked the talk — they walked the walk. And now, at UNF, their philanthropic legacies will live on in three of its most traversed and popular buildings. Future Ospreys will know what an impact these five individuals have made in the community and at the University of North Florida.