Fifty years ago, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce wanted a local college to complement the growing city’s increasing number of museums, theaters and symphonies. It envisioned a place free of the restraints of a traditional grading system, where the emphasis was not on competing with other students but on obtaining the highest level of education possible. It was from that idea that New College was founded in 1960, and the institution maintains that ideal to this day.
The New College of Florida is the state’s officially designated honors college for the liberal arts and sciences. It is a small community of 825 students and 73 full-time faculty. Students create their own curriculum, walk around campus barefoot and attend classes in a mansion from the John Ringling estate that overlooks Sarasota Bay.
“Once I got to New College, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else,” says Michael Long, a New College freshman and co-president of New College Student Alliance. “That’s how it is with most of the students. You don’t just become friends with everyone here; you’re part of a family.”
New College will hold its 50th anniversary celebration the weekend of Feb. 11 to 13. The weekend will kick-off with a 50th anniversary tribute dinner Friday evening, at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota and will feature three days of campus open houses, presentations, musical performances and more. For a complete list of events, visit www.50th.ncf.edu.
1964: The charter class arrived on campus and received a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson, who wrote, “New College has reached the threshold of an educational endeavor that I am confident will be of immense significance both to Florida and to the nation.”
1965: The I.M. Pei Residence Halls were designed by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei in 1965. Pei, who later designed the Hancock Building, in Boston, and the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre, originally wanted to build the dorms directly on the water but was unable to receive approval for the location, so he built them on land, instead.
1965: The first New College Medieval Fair was held in 1965, and a decade later New College teamed up with Ringling College of Art and Design to form the Ringling-New College Medieval Fair. The fair is now held at the Sarasota Fairgrounds and features hundreds of costumed performers for two weekends each year.
1967: The first graduating class opted not to wear the traditional cap and gown as a statement of their individuality, and the tradition continues to this day. Although the class of 1967 played it safe, many of them dressing in their Sunday clothes, students in recent years have gotten creative by wearing costumes and going barefoot.
1968: Time magazine ran a full-page article titled, “The 1967 New College All-Americans,” including two Danforth Awards, two National Science Awards, five Woodrow Wilson Fellowships and two Fulbright grants.
1975: On July 1, the private New College joined the state system and became New College of the University of South Florida.
2001: On July 1, Gov. Jeb Bush established New College of Florida (as it is now known) as the 11th independent member of the state university system and designated it the state honors college for the liberal arts and sciences.
2003: In January, the new Florida Board of Governors and chancellor approved Dr. Gordon E. Michalson Jr. as president of New College of Florida. He had served as acting president since 2001.
BY THE NUMBERS
$1.7 million — The amount of the largest individual grant in New College’s history, awarded to physics professor Mariania Sendova by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in 2009 for nanotechnology research.
3.91 — Average high school GPA of incoming freshmen
321 — Number of courses offered in two semesters
18 — Average class size
John M. Cranor, class of ’64, is the former president/CEO of Wilson Sporting Goods, KFC Worldwide, Long John Silver’s, Pepsi-Cola Fountain Beverage and Pepsi-Cola East.
Bill Thurston, class of ’64, won the coveted Fields Medal in mathematics.
Lincoln Diaz Balart, class of ’71, is a former U.S. Representative for District 21.
William Dudley, class of ’71, is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Carol Flint, class of ’76, is a Hollywood scriptwriter and producer. Over the last two decades, she has written and produced episodes regularly for such television shows as “China Beach,” “L.A. Law,” “ER” and “The West Wing,” all shows for which she received Emmy nominations. After sharing in “ER’s” Emmy win for “Outstanding Drama Series,” Flint both wrote and produced the long-running TV drama’s 1997 season premiere.
Nancy McEldowney, class of ’78, served as U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria prior to her most recent appointment as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
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Contact Maria Amodio at [email protected]