The Stavros Center, formerly called the Center for Economic Education, was established in 1975. It was due in large part to the vigorous lobbying by Mr. Jack Eckerd of Eckerd Drugs and Mr. Jimmie Sikes of Florida Tile. Mr. Tom Gallagher, in his role as a state legislator, introduced a bill that would require school districts in Florida to teach free enterprise and consumer economics. The Free Enterprise and Consumer Education Law mandated that each of the 67 school districts in Florida were required to develop a K-12 free enterprise and consumer education curricula. As a result of the legislation, teachers of social studies, math, science, and art were required to develop strategies to implement free enterprise and consumer economics concepts into school curricula.
The Center for Economic Education was established as a resource in support of school district efforts to meet the legislative mandate. As part of a state network, the Florida Council on Economic Education, and a national network, the National Council on Economic Education, the center would access resources in support of K-12. This effort was designed to involve K-12 educators in teacher training programs, curricula development efforts and other strategies to ensure that free enterprise and consumer economics concepts were reaching the students.
When the Center for Economic Education was established at USF in 1975, its organizational home was in the College of Business Administration. This was consistent with the model established at the state and national levels with regard to the organizational homes of centers throughout the state and nation. The model that was adopted at USF was that the primary organizational home would be the College of Business Administration with support from the College of Education. Therefore, the director of the center was an economics professor with an assignment as a part-time College of Education professor.
In 1980, after approximately four years of operation, the Center for Economic Education at USF encountered serious difficulties with its school district clients and with their business supporters. For a variety of reasons, the center had not been effective in delivering programs to the schools and was quickly losing support from the schools and business groups. This loss of support resulted in USF’s administrative leaders contemplating abolishing the center. Vice President of Academic Affairs Carl Riggs consulted with Dean Robert Cox (College of Business Administration) and Dean Bill Katzenmeyer (College of Education) about the future of the center. Dean Katzenmeyer proposed that rather than abolishing the center due to the complaints by school districts and business supporters, USF should change the model by placing the center in the College of Education with support from the College of Business Administration. Dean Cox and Vice President Riggs agreed with Dean Katzenmeyer’s proposal and steps were taken to accomplish this objective.
At that time, Dean Katzenmeyer invited Dr. Dick J. Puglisi, a member of the Secondary Education Department faculty in the College of Education, to assume the leadership of the Center for Economic Education.
As the center grew in recognition and outreach to school districts and business supporters, it gained significant support. Because of the center’s long time commitment to involving business leaders in the education of K-12 educators about free enterprise and consumer economics, the center began a long history of building successful relationships with business leaders. One of those leaders was Gus A. Stavros, a successful entrepreneur who had distinguished himself as an international leader in the printing industry. Dr. Stavros, who holds an honorary doctorate from USF and from FSU, devoted considerable personal time, talent, and funds in support of economic education in Florida. In addition to his volunteer leadership role as the chairman of the Florida Council on Economic Education, he became very involved in supporting the mission of the USF center.
In 1989, Dr. Stavros suggested to Dr. Puglisi that he and his wife, Frances, would be willing to contribute $150,000 toward the construction of a building on the USF campus for the Center for Economic Education. With the Stavros’ contribution, additional funds were obtained, matched with state funds and a one-story building was constructed to house the center. Approximately four years later, additional funds were raised through a capital campaign, which was named “Raise the Roof,” to construct a second floor. At the same time, the College of Education was building its new facility and plans were made to connect the center with the new College of Education building. As a consequence of the two capital campaigns, the center is housed in a beautiful, state of the art facility integrated with the College of Education complex.
Also in 1989, USF approached the Florida Legislature and requested that the center be named in honor of Dr. Stavros. The bill successfully passed the legislature and was signed by Governor Bob Martinez. Therefore, the center is known as the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education. In subsequent years, the Stavros family has been responsible for two $1 million endowments, one that established the Gus Stavros Endowed Chair in Free Enterprise and Economic Education; the other to establish the Stavros Challenge Gift Endowment. Additionally, the center routinely receives private support from a myriad of corporate and individual donors.
In addition to private support, the Stavros Center receives financial support from the College of Education and from its state organization, the Florida Council on Economic Education.
Through the years, the Stavros Center has enjoyed the services of a talented but limited staff. Currently, Dr. Dick J. Puglisi serves as the center’s director; Dr. Stephanie Wood Karran, serves as the instructor and chief creative officer; and Jodi Northway serves as the office manager. These positions are supported by the College of Education. In addition, the center, through grants and private funds, employs the services of a part-time consultant, Mr. Fred Dorsett. Other consultants, such as Ms. Sally Day, are employed on an as needed basis.
The Stavros Center had its best year in 2006. In addition to reaching more than 1,000 K-12 educators through its courses, workshops, institutes, and audio/visual resources, it also had a successful year in private giving. In fact, the Stavros Center was selected for the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence award recipient in 2005-06. In addition to community recognition, the award provides the center with a $200,000 gift in support of its operation.
Throughout its 26 year history, the Stavros Center has been recognized for excellence in economic education at the local, state, and national levels. It has received numerous awards by the Florida Council on Economic Education for best programming in statewide competition. The Stavros Center also has the distinction of being awarded the coveted national Leavey Excellence in Private Enterprise Award on three separate occasions. No other center in the national network of approximately 300 centers has had a similar accomplishment. The Leavey Award is presented by the Freedoms Foundation for the economic education program deemed exceptional in the nationally competitive program. During its history, more K-12 educators from USF have received state awards in the FCEE Governor’s Awards program than in any other region in the state.
The future is very bright for the Stavros Center at USF. With sustained support from the school districts and business community, the continued expansion of programs at the Stavros Center is anticipated.