University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee has received the largest gift in its history, as a local businessman is donating $3.5 million to his alma mater.
Bill Mariotti, 56, will leave much of his estate to the university when he dies.
Mariotti received a Bachelor of Science degree in general business with a concentration in management and marketing in 2015, more than 30 years after he originally enrolled at USF's Tampa campus.
When he was about five classes shy of graduating, his father fell through a skylight at a demolition site. His father's injuries - both feet and ankles were broken - led the then 22-year-old Mariotti to drop out of school and work for the family's site development company.
Now, he and his sister co-own the company named after their father, Bill Mariotti Site Development.
Urged on by friends, Mariotti re-enrolled at USFSM in 2014. He took 18 months to complete the final five courses, one night class per semester because of the demands of running the company.
The Sarasota native had remained involved at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, including chairing its fundraising committee and serving on the National Alumni Board.
His gift will go to nine different programs at the Sarasota-Manatee and Tampa campuses.
Forty percent will go toward the support of buildings and facilities on the USFSM campus, and 30 percent will go towards the Bill Mariotti Endowed Chair of USFSM's College of Business.
The rest will go to student scholarships, including funds for visiting scholars at USFSM, visiting scholars at the College of The Arts at USF in Tampa, and business students at both schools.
“Providing the atmosphere and tools for learning is very important for our future,” Mariotti said. “Providing scholarships gives opportunities to those whom might not be able to attend college by traditional methods.”
“Bill’s personal story of perseverance and commitment is a remarkable one,” said USF Foundation CEO Joel Momberg. “And it’s matched by his incredible generosity, which is helping us reach our billion-dollar Unstoppable campaign goal. We’re deeply grateful for everything Bill has done to make such a meaningful impact across the USF System.”