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Office of Vice President and
Chief of Staff
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


FGCU Announces Major Gift to Establish a Center for Environmental Research and Outreach

FORT MYERS, FL - Florida Gulf Coast University today announced a $3 million gift and 67 acres of land from Kitson & Partners to establish a Center for Environmental Research and Outreach state-of-the-art facility at Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County that will house a cutting edge education and research program focused on meeting the long-term environmental planning challenges of Southwest Florida.

The $3 million gift will be matched by the State of Florida Courtelis Fund to create a $6 million fund for the building dedicated to upland and wetland studies.

The land donated is divided into two tracts: fifty acres at an estimated value of $1.25 million and another 17 acres at an estimated value of $425,000. The total value of the gift is $7.675 million.

"Recognizing that it serves a unique geographic region with environmentally sensitive ecosystems and understanding the ever-increasing demands placed on our natural resources and fragile ecosystems, FGCU made a conscious decision at its inception to incorporate environmental education and research as a major part of its overall education mission," FGCU President William C. Merwin said.

"This gift will significantly further our work in environmental studies for the benefit of Southwest Florida, the state and beyond."

The Center for Environmental Research and Outreach will provide opportunities to help meet the long-term planning challenges of the region. The Center will take on a leadership role in the study and restoration of uplands and wetlands, engaging in sustainable land use, and in conservation of natural resources.

"The opportunity for research on wetland and upland ecosystems on the Babcock Ranch property is a logical extension of the work being done on the FGCU campus. It affords us a real probability of making an important and lasting impact on the Florida environment and beyond," Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Bonnie Yegidis said.

The Center will address regional concerns regarding the use and conservation of natural resources by supporting faculty research and graduate and undergraduate education through the incorporation of knowledge gained from environmental research.

Sydney Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners said, "Our partnership with FGCU is a natural extension of the public-private partnership we have with the State of Florida that culminated in the permanent preservation of over 80% of Babcock Ranch."

"The diverse wetland and upland ecosystems of the Babcock Ranch Preserve will serve as a 74,000 acre laboratory - an ideal place to carry out environmental research that will benefit the entire region."

The proposed 24,000 square-foot facility will provide the University community and residents in the greater region with a venue for short courses and public seminars for ecological phenomena on Babcock Ranch, presentations by eminent scholars, annual seminars on research findings by faculty, and dissemination of information to the citizens of Southwest Florida.

For more information, media representatives should contact senior director of Advancement Linda Lehtomaa at (239) 590-1071 or Lisa Hall at (850) 508-7782.

A map of the Babcock Ranch can be viewed and downloaded at

A photograph of Sydney Kitson is available for download at

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