The recently established Rist Family Foundation continued making an impact in Southwest Florida as it donated $1 million to Florida Gulf Coast University.
Rist Family Foundation President and Storm Smart Executive Chairman Brian Rist officially presented the check to FGCU President Dr. Michael Martin and other school officials on March 3.
$750,000 of the donation will go to the FGCU Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation for construction of an on-campus building the institute will call home.
The center focuses on providing FGCU students the resources and skills to develop their ideas of innovative services and products, creating the next generation of entrepreneurs. The center currently offers 34 courses in entrepreneurship and has seen 400+ businesses started by FGCU students since August 2016.
Since 2017, FGCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation has increased its enrollment by 30%, bringing the total number of students enrolled in the program to 522 at the end of 2019. Also, the center has gained national recognition and ranking. According to the Princeton Review, FGCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation ranks 30th in the nation and has the highest ranking in Florida.
Rist has been involved with the institute over the past few years and has seen first-hand the growth and impact it has on the students. That was a driving force in why he felt compelled to donate to the program, “It is amazing how this program has grown. To see these talented students turn their dreams into reality has been a fantastic experience for me.”
Thanks to the Rist Family Foundation, the funding is now in place to relocate the center from its current location off Alico Road nearly five miles from FGCU to a new on-campus building, which they hope will plant the seeds of future growth and success of the Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, “This has really put us over the top for a major investment in one of the fasting growing programs on our campus,” said FGCU President Dr. Michael Martin. “Brian and Kim’s generosity and investment in FGCU will be meaningful for years to come.”
In addition to the Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation donation, the Rist Family Foundation is donating $250,000 to FGCU’s Newton Ethical Leadership Initiative (NELI).
NELI was established to provide FGCU an opportunity to offer a leading think tank on ethics, leadership, and related subjects to FGCU students. NELI includes an “Organizational Ethics & Values” course required for all Management majors at the university.
NELI also hosts its annual Distinguished Speaker in Ethics series, “Celebrating Ethical Leadership in Southwest Florida” luncheon, and annual High School Ethics Case Competition for area high school students.
In honor of the Rist Family Foundation’s donation, the High School Ethics Case Competition will now bear the foundation’s name.
“Much like the Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the Newton Ethical Leadership Initiative teaches FGCU students crucial skills for success in the business world. Many times, ethics are a forgotten aspect of being in business. These programs and courses bring ethics to the forefront and ensures these students understand the value of ethics in business,” explained Rist.
Rist concluded by sharing his hopes the foundation’s donation will play a role in creating the next generation of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, “I am fortunate to be in a position which I can give back. It is so crucial for all of us to provide these young men and women the resources and skills needed to make them successful, upstanding members of our community as they begin the next phase of their lives. I am just happy I can play a part in that process.”