That was a common refrain recently as Florida Tech celebrated its 60th anniversary Homecoming. It was certainly a worthy sentiment.
From a road race and a rocking concert in downtown Melbourne to the thrills of the gridiron and a beautifully bedecked Clemente Center filled with over 500 alumni, guests and members of the Florida Tech community, your university was in the spotlight.
At that gala, we recognized six men and women with alumni awards. Miguel Estremera, James Wong, Mojy Chian, Deborah Day, Trent Smith and Vic Verma, who won the night’s highest honor, the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award, represent success and innovation in technology and aviation, health care and business, space and engineering.
They are among our 60,000 alumni from 140 countries who continue to make us proud, to boldly represent their alma mater. These are men and women who reflect Florida Tech in their quest for excellence and in their refusal to accept the status quo. They, like Florida Tech, strive to be better, to push harder – to be, in other words, relentless in their pursuit of greatness.
Relentlessness is also thankfully a trait that Jerome Keuper possessed. He needed it starting in 1958 when he embarked on the amazing and difficult journey to establish Brevard Engineering College, later known as Florida Institute of Technology.
A physicist by training, he had arrived in Brevard County a year earlier to work at what would become Kennedy Space Center. Once he was here, he remarked on the dearth of higher education for the growing number of space workers who were joining him on the Cape.
He wanted to help these technicians become engineers and scientists, and with his experience as an instructor in night school back in Connecticut, he knew first-hand how access to higher education opportunities could be transformative. So it was that on Sept. 22, 1958, 154 students gathered for their first classes at B.E.C.
Keuper led this school for the next 28 years, through major accomplishments including a relocation, accreditation, the university’s first million-dollar building (Crawford), and the development of our first off-site location, the storied Jensen Beach campus.
That is relentlessly pursuing greatness. It’s about how you build for success, and how you overcome the inevitable challenges. Keuper brought the same vision, tenacity and passion to both.
Got a surplus of old Brevard Engineering College shirts now that the school is called Florida Institute of Technology? Call them collector’s items and double the price, Keuper said. Worried about one of your prized palm trees freezing in those occasional frosty Florida mornings? Wrap the trunk in an electric blanket, as Keuper did.
Those were entrepreneurial, even innovative solutions – an ethos Keuper embodied back then that still, 60 years later, guides us tonight.
It is why we are not resting, even after our ninth consecutive year being named a Tier 1 National University by U.S. News & World Report.
It is why we are not content with our research, even as we are discovering new species of sharks, developing ways to better understand and remedy what ails the Indian River Lagoon, helping to answer the biggest questions about the cosmos, dark matter and more.
This approach is why we have nearly 400 alumni at Boeing, nearly 350 at NASA, 264 at IBM, more than 100 at JP Morgan Chase.
And our innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is pushing us ever forward, with the creation of a powerful program centered on women in STEM, with plans for an honors college and a living/learning community, with the doubling in size of our Harris Student Design Center, and with a new biomedical laboratory in the works.
These are the goals, the plans, the decisions of a university that knows greatness is earned, not given; a university that yes, takes a moment to recognize its excellence and its achievements as it celebrates 60 years, but that is inspired to seek more, not to rest.
A university that is…relentless.