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Act of kindness from UF president’s wife—a half-century ago—spurs couple’s scholarship gift

It was a simple act of kindness by the University of Florida president’s wife in 1956 that helped persuade Jess and Sharon Elliott of Amelia Island to “pay it back” more than a half-century later with a donation creating a student scholarship at UF’s College of Education.
Jess was a freshman living in the Talbot Hall dormitory when Frances Huston Millikan Reitz, the wife of then-President J. Wayne Reitz, visited while he was sick in bed in the UF student infirmary.
“Mrs. Reitz sent my mother a note letting her know I was all right and not to worry,” Jess Elliott said. “That really pleased my parents, and Sharon and I both appreciate the interest that the University of Florida showed in us and the opportunities the university provided for us.”
The couple has expressed their gratitude with a $30,000 gift, creating an scholarship in their name to help undergraduate or graduate students cover the cost of working toward their education degrees.
Jess Elliott, born and raised in Pahokee, Fla., received three degrees from the College of Education—a B.A.E. degree in 1962, his M.Ed. a year later (concentrating in modern European history), and a doctorate (Ed.D.) in 1970 specializing in educational psychology with a research focus.  He says he was the first graduate of the research program in that specialty.
Elliott singles out two College of Education professors—Wilson Guertin and Douglas Scates—“who were instrumental in building my coherent approach to evaluating school effectiveness.”
Sharon Elliott was born in Tampa, spent two years living in UF’s Flavet (Florida Veterans) Villages while her father pursued his second UF degree), and spent the rest of her childhood in Thomasville, Ga. She attended UF for two years and later received her bachelor’s degree in from Agnes Scott College. She managed a travel agency in Atlanta for many years before she retired.
The Elliotts have one grandson son, Micah Mathis, who is a senior in electrical engineering at UF. Jess and Sharon both have many relatives who also graduated from UF.
The Elliotts moved to Amelia Island in 2013 after spending most of their adult years in Atlanta, where Jess worked as an administrator  for the Georgia Department of Education, using his statistics expertise to help evaluate the state’s student-testing and school and teacher accountability programs. He retired in 1995 and worked as an education research consultant until closing the books on his business last fall.
“Jess and Sharon Elliott may describe their gift as payback to the University of Florida, but they are really paying it forward by helping future students of our college realize their dreams of becoming educators,” said UF education dean Glenn Good. “New scholarship donations like the Elliotts’ are gifts that keeps on giving, year after year.”

MEDIA CONTACT / WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;