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2018 Scholarship Luncheon: A Mix of Donors and Recipients, Joy and Tears

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (Aug. 24, 2018) -- At the annual Muma College of Business Scholarship Luncheon, at which $600,000 was awarded to 300 deserving, high-achieving students, the keynote speaker – a student herself – is both a recipient and a donor of scholarship money.

Sarah Gimbel's moving story about the strong bonds with her father, a Tampa Police officer who was killed in a motorcycle wreck two years ago and the establishment of the Howard Gimbel Foundation to help others find ways to pay for college, left much of the room in or near tears.

"While I could certainly use the money to go to college myself," she said, "It makes my heart smile each time we have presented a small check that will, hopefully, allow someone else the chance to go to school.

"A gift that will make sure his memory lives on and his strong belief in higher education can be shared even though he is not here," she said, tears welling up in her eyes, "just like so many of you have done with your memorial funds."

Scholarship Luncheon

While attending Riverview High School, she decided to attend USF, she said. Her father took time off work to attend some events on campus to gear her up for her approaching college career, she said.

"He even called the USF Police Department to let them know that his daughter was coming to school here," she said, "and to look out for her."

Then, she said, life changed.

Her mom and dad were riding on his personal motorcycle when it happened. The wreck left Sarah's mother severely injured and killed her father. And just like that, Sarah's plans for college were interrupted. Her dad had planned to work five years beyond retirement to pay for college, now that was gone.

Through community and family support, Sarah was able to start classes, though she did not know whether she would be able to finish because of financial hardships. Her mom was laid up with major medical issues and required Sarah's care. Sarah said she had signed up to live in a dorm on campus, but she was torn between that and caring for her mother.

"I lived in a dorm for one day," she said.

The accounting sophomore is now the treasurer for the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, administering a $250,000 budget, and a member of the Women in Business Society. Her long-term goal is to become a CPA. Her short-term goal is to finish college and raise money for the foundation that bears he father's name.

Girl wiping tears

"I am looking forward to the day where I walk across the stage at commencement with my dad's badge around my neck, like now," she said, touching the necklace. "When I do, I will be sure to remember each of you who helped make that day happen."

The event is one of the Muma College of Business's signature events, marking the college's commitment to student success. More than 400 attended. Students who received scholarships sat with donors who made those donations. To view a photo gallery of the event, click here.To view a video, click here.

Dean Moez Limayem welcomed everyone, saying a big part of his job is to secure financial support to support programs and help students achieve success through education.

But, he said, this day was different.

"Here," he said, "I don't have to ask for anything. You – all you donors – already have given. And seated with you today right next to you, are the bright minds who will benefit from your generosity.

"Your investment is earning a great return," he said. "You are helping us change the lives of our students in very real ways."

An example: Nandini Agarwal, who, at just 18 years old, delivered the opening speech. She's an international student who has made her mark both in her native India, where she has worked to better the lives of women, and here, where she is involved with Project Prosper, a local organization that helps immigrants assimilate into the American experience and culture. At Project Prosper, she is working on creating an app to help educate newcomers in financial matters.

Nandini, who came to USF with 60 college credits she earned while still attending high school, spoke from personal experience. Her mother and father moved here three years ago to provide a better life their daughter.

"We didn't know that America runs on credit and that even if you have great credit scores in another nation, it doesn't count here," she said. Renting a house, buying a car, all had obstacles. But eventually, the family began "crawling through the legal, social and banking systems, establishing credit and building a life."

She chose USF over several other colleges, she said, but still the road was not easy.

"There were months when I traveled for hours on HART buses and had to choose between an additional sandwich or an additional notebook," she said. "But it was all worth it because I have found everything I wanted here.

"I wanted a place where I fit in, where I could find a family, where I could get respected education and where I could really get involved.

"And, I have found that at USF."

The event closed with members of the USF Choir, one by one standing from tables amid the audience to sing John Lennon's "Imagine."