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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 Chair Dedicated to the Study of Renewable Energy

FORT MYERS, FL - Today, Florida Gulf Coast University announced a $1 million gift from John D. Backe, President of the Backe Foundation Inc., to establish the “Backe Chair in Renewable Energy Endowed Fund” to attract a nationally renowned Eminent Scholar dedicated to the study of renewable energy. In addition, FGCU has joined the Backe Group in a collaborative venture to develop a 1.2 million square-foot, state-of-the-art research and development area.

The Chair's leadership, knowledge and cutting edge research will enhance the learning experience of FGCU students, and bring prominence to FGCU and the research park. Florida Gulf Coast University will ask the state of Florida to match the funds for an additional $750,000 to create a total $1.75 million fund.

FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw said, "Florida Gulf Coast University and the Backe Chair in Renewable Energy are an ideal match; the Backe Chair complements the institutional values and strategic priorities of the university. Our students will benefit from work in the classroom and labs with the Backe Chair; our faculty will benefit as opportunities for collaborative research emerge; and our neighbors in Southwest Florida will benefit as this new scholar engages researchers outside the university in collaborative ventures."

The Chair will teach classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels in renewable energy or those closely related to the discipline; conduct research on this emerging field and disseminate his or her research as widely as possible; conduct outreach activities including seminars and symposia for the community about the benefits of renewable energy; and support the efforts of the local Economic Development Councils (EDCs) to attract industry partners in renewable energy.

The Florida Gulf Coast University Innovation Hub research park will be the proposed home of a state-of-the-art facility to be built for studying renewable energy, solar energy, alternative energy sources, biotechnology, green technology and other programs.

"I believe that the creation of the Florida Gulf Coast University Innovation Hub is a reflection of a new level of maturation for the university. The range of programs and areas of study at FGCU, and the faculty expertise and wide spectrum of research interests, make this a perfect time to engage in this kind of cooperative initiative," said Bradshaw.

The research park will be located on 241 acres adjacent to and on the south side of Southwest Florida International Airport. The site is also near FGCU's main campus and Gulf Coast Town Shopping Center.

"Considering the growing importance of 'green' and 'sustainability' on a national and global scale, we feel the Hub will attract attention to the area, and create a leadership role for Florida Gulf Coast University in the area of environmental sustainability," said Backe.

"Our hope is that the Florida Gulf Coast University Innovation Hub becomes home to the vision, diversity of talent and spirit of collaboration that will guide the region and the entire state of Florida into the future."

The development team for this project includes John D. Backe Sr., John E. Backe, and developer Richard Galvano, owner of Galvano Development.

A Website has been developed to provide more information and updates about the FGCU Innovation Hub:

For further information, contact Assistant Vice President for Community Relations and Marketing Ken Schexnayder at (239) 590-1083.

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