LeRoy Collins remembered for role in USF’s creation

Tampa, Fla.–Gov. LeRoy Collins signed the bill in 1955 that allowed the University of South Florida to begin its development.

“He believed very strongly in access of a wide variety of people, regardless of income, to education,” Dr. Susan MacManus said.

But Collins was reluctant at first to build USF.

“He was a little leery, I think, to start a new institution from the beginning,” Andrew Huse said.  “But at the same time, we had such a large population explosion here in Florida after World War II.  It was just a matter of, are you going to put more money into the universities that already exist or are you going to start something new where the people actually live?”

Despite his initial reluctance to building the new university, Collins was involved in the early developmental stages of USF, including naming the school.

“When it was called the University of South Florida, it was called that because this was pretty far south for Florida,” Huse said.

Collins dug the first golden shovel into USF grounds in a short ceremony.  He spoke at the opening convocation in 1960.  He also gave a silver replica of the USF seal to John Allen, USF’s first president.

“So he laid the foundation for a lot of educational improvements in the state,” MacManus said.

USF named LeRoy Collins Blvd. after the former governor. Now a permanent fixture at USF, Collins is remembered for his vision and leadership.

Brandon woman beats cancer


Brandon, Fla.—Two years ago, Eva Johnson was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer at age 30.

Johnson said it was important for her to remain positive while she was fighting the disease.

“I didn’t let it control me,” Johnson said.  “I was in charge of that cancer, so taking it day by day was first and foremost for me.”

Johnson underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.

“Going through all of that, it’s nothing you want anybody to have to go through,” Johnson said.  “It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever been through.”

Johnson said her family helped her through the process.

“I tried to be her strength when she was weak,” Nichole McDonald, Johnson’s sister, said.  “I just tried to be positive, encourage her through her rough days, and remind her that brighter days are ahead of her and she could get through it.”

Johnson’s positivity also came from her son, Mason.

“He needs his mommy, and I planned on staying around for him for a long time,” Johnson said.

A year after her first surgery, Johnson learned she was cancer-free.

“When I found out, I was at the car dealership getting my oil changed, and I had to wait a whole week,” Johnson said. “Those five days were the worst. I was stressed, I was on edge, I cried every day about it.  And then when I found out, I screamed, I was out in the parking lot. I said, ‘I got the news’.”



Local charity puts wheels in motion for brighter futures

Wheels of Success gets people who cannot afford transportation into cars that help them improve their lives.

Susan Jacobs is the founder of Wheels of Success.  The goal of the organization, she said, is to help people overcome problems in their lives and become self-sufficient.

Clients are referred to Wheels of Success by agencies or employers.

“I didn’t want to it just be agency-driven,” said Jacobs. “I also wanted to help people who were working and were doing OK, and then something happened, they lost their job, if they didn’t have a car. ”

Jacobs started Wheels of Success 14 years ago after the staffing company she worked for filed for bankruptcy.  She worked the night shift at Thompson Cigar Company in order to build her organization during the day.

Jacobs is a domestic violence survivor.  She was inspired to start Wheels of Success because a stranger helped her by giving her a car.

“I wasn’t necessarily going to start a car thing,” Jacobs said. “That just kind of happened.  But I always knew I wanted to do something to give back.”

Now Jacobs is working full time to give cars to people who need them.  Alexis Dombrowski received a 2005 Ford Focus from Wheels of Success after she aged out of the foster care system.  Before she got a car, she was using the bus to get to Amalie Arena, where she works.

“I was stranded downtown after work because the bus stopped running early,” Dombrowski said.

But now her car has changed her life, she said.

“Instead of spending two hours on a bus, I’ve been able to go to work at a decent time and get home at a decent time,” Dombrowski said.



Feed-A-Bull food pantry makes a big hit among students


Tampa, Fla.—The Feed-A-Bull food pantry gives emergency aid to students who are struggling to afford food.

Feed-A-Bull is a food pantry started by the Office of Student Outreach and Support (SOS), Wellness Education, and Feeding America USF. It is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“We really want our students to use the pantry more than once if they need to,” the senior case manager for SOS, Callie Nettles, said.  “It is on an emergency need basis, and we hope that’s honored, but we don’t want any reason for the students not to come back if they need to.”

Students who need to use the food pantry must have their USF ID or a valid U-number.  They must also be enrolled in classes.

Students who use the food pantry receive prepared bags of food that are made by volunteers. Students with dietary restrictions or allergies may have food items substituted in their bags.

Feeding America USF Vice President Neesha Hira said that a lot of students have already used the food pantry.

“A lot of people come – boys and girls of different ethnicities,” Hira said.  “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nettles said that Feed-A-Bull has received a positive response from students; some have even wanted to give back to the food pantry by volunteering.

“I’m really impacted by USF and how supportive it has been,” Nettles said. “It really seems to be a community that has got each other’s backs. Between the students that have been utilizing it and have wanted to give back, the students who want to donate or do food drives, and the faculty and staff who want to support the initiative, it has just been overwhelming.”