GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Entrepreneur Anita Zucker, a 1972 education graduate of the University of Florida, last year challenged fellow alumni who had never contributed to make an annual donation to the College of Education. Zucker, a 2010 recipient of UF’s Distinguished Alumni Award, sweetened the deal by matching such gifts dollar-for-dollar.
Today, Zucker is leading by example by pledging $1 million to create an endowed professorship in early childhood studies at the college. Her contribution will generate an additional $120,000 in funds from the Faculty Now incentive program established by UF President Bernie Machen to generate more faculty endowments. Zucker’s is the first gift made to the College of Education through the program.
The post’s formal name will be the Anita Zucker Endowed Professorship in Early Childhood Studies. College officials say they will fill the professorship with a top scholar in that academic specialty. Yearly interest earned on the gift will fund groundbreaking research, teaching and clinical programs conducted by the appointed scholar.
Zucker’s gift follows the creation of a new interdisciplinary Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies in December. The campuswide center is a model training, demonstration and research site where UF scholars—in fields as diverse as education, medicine, law, public health and the life sciences—work with local, state and national partners to advance the science and practice of early childhood development and early learning.
The Zucker professorship becomes the second endowed position in the College of Education’s early childhood studies program. World-class scholar Patricia Snyder occupies the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, created in 2007.
“Establishing this new interdisciplinary professorship, alongside the existing Lawrence chair, ensures that early childhood studies will remain a strong focus at the University of Florida, and a resource for the state and nation, for years to come,” said Snyder, who was instrumental in mobilizing the university’s top specialists in childhood education, health and well-being to create the new center for excellence.
Zucker is a former teacher, a lifetime education advocate, a history-making businesswoman, and one of Charleston, South Carolina’s leading citizens. She and her late husband, Jerry, received bachelor’s degrees from UF in 1972 — Anita in education and Jerry with a triple major in math, chemistry and physics. Anita taught elementary school for 10 years and also has a master’s in educational administration and supervision.
When Jerry Zucker died in 2008, Anita succeeded him as chief executive officer of the Hudson Bay Company, North America’s oldest company. She is the company’s first woman CEO. She also heads the family’s InterTech Group company, the North Charleston-based global conglomerate.
“The early childhood years are the most critical time for learning in a young person. That’s when they build their foundation and learn their vocabulary needs for life,” Zucker said. “Creating this professorship ensures the University of Florida will always have a top scholar who can prepare our future educators to teach our youngest children so they can succeed in school and life.”
She raised almost $100,000 last year in her Anita Zucker Alumni Challenge, including her dollar-for-dollar match of nearly $50,000. She says she hopes her latest gift inspires other large contributions to the College of Education.
“Education unlocks all doors for the future and we need to provide it to our young people to increase their chances for success,” Zucker said.