Southwest Florida's FGCU Celebrates 20 Years

Florida Gulf Coast University is now in its 20th year.

The history of FGCU is a visionary one built on support for higher education opportunities in Southwest Florida. Area citizens began the initiative to bring a state university to this part of Florida, and their early requests were quickly supported by elected officials at the local and state levels.

The former Florida Board of Regents formally recommended in January 1991 the development of Florida’s tenth state university to be located in Southwest Florida, and, in May 1991, then Governor Lawton Chiles signed the legislation authorizing the new university. Southwest Florida’s support for a university was never more evident than during the next year, when private landowners offered more than 20 gift sites for the university campus. In early 1992, the Board of Regents selected the site offered by Ben Hill Griffin III and Alico, Inc. of 760 acres of land located just east of Interstate 75 between Alico and Corkscrew Roads.

Roy McTarnaghan was named founding university president in April 1993. Initial staff was hired that summer, and the university’s academic and campus planning began in earnest. Plans for the first phase of campus construction were unveiled in February 1994, and shortly thereafter, the Florida Legislature named the institution as “Florida Gulf Coast University.” The vision for the university was one that would address emerging higher education needs for the 21st century, including the use of technology in the learning/teaching process and multi-year contracts as an alternative to faculty tenure. The Board of Regents approved an agreement in May 1995 with the United Faculty of Florida allowing FGCU to offer a contract system for faculty.

Campus groundbreaking was held on November 28, 1995, with more than 600 people participating in the celebratory event for Southwest Florida. With aggressive academic program and campus development schedules slated to culminate in an opening day of August 25, 1997, the early staff and faculty were busy meeting deadlines every month. Inaugural degree programs were approved by the Board of Regents in March 1996. The FGCU Foundation, a private fundraising arm of the university, gained extraordinary financial support for an institution that at the time could only be seen on a drawing board. Faculty members throughout the country were attracted to FGCU for the opportunity to offer higher education in new and innovative ways.

The first FGCU student, Mariana Coto, was admitted in January 1997, and she participated in the historic ribbon cutting on the university’s August 25, 1997 opening day.

Big Island Builders congratulates FGCU for 20 years of excellence in the community providing a superb education for Southwest Florida residents as well as students from around the world, and applaud the university's commitment to our community. For more information regarding Southwest Florida's premier custom luxury homebuilder call 239.262.6867 or visit

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