TALLAHASSEE — Ben Hill was well known in Southwest Florida and across the state for his leadership in agriculture and his philanthropy efforts. He was a generous supporter of higher education, donating to 10 separate institutions throughout the state, as well as several high schools.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Ben Hill,” said Marshall M. Criser, III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. “Ben Hill has been a champion of higher education in Florida and a long-time supporter of Florida Gulf Coast University in many ways throughout the years. His loss is a blow, but his legacy will remain in the lives of the countless number of students he has benefited along the way.”
In the 1990s, under his direction as president and chairman of the board of Alico, Inc, the company donated 760 prime acres in Lee County near Fort Myers for the creation of Florida’s 10th public university, Florida Gulf Coast University. In appreciation, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners renamed Tree Line Blvd. to Ben Hill Griffin Parkway in his honor. Additionally, Florida Gulf Coast’s main academic building is named Griffin Hall.
Alico also created a 215-acre land endowment for the university and donated money for road construction and academic chairs. The gift, valued at over $50 million, at the time was the largest single contribution in the history of Florida’s State University System.” His last significant contribution to Florida was nearly 50 percent of funding for the recently rebuilt athletic training facility on campus.
Ben Hill hails from a family with a long history of supporting higher education in Florida. His father, Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., donated more than $20 million to the University of Florida and the Gators athletic program before his passing. In 1989, UF renamed its football stadium Ben Hill Griffin Stadium because of his generous contributions. Four years later, due to donations that led to the restoration of a historic building on campus, Floyd Hall was named Griffin-Floyd Hall.
Facts about the State University System of Florida and the Board of Governors
The State University System of Florida is a constitutional body led by the 17-member Board of Governors. The System has 12 universities and more than 420,000 students, making it the second-largest public university system in the nation. Responsibilities include defining the distinctive mission of each institution and managing the System’s coordination and operation. The Board appoints a Chancellor who serves as the System’s chief executive. For more, visit flbog.edu or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.