Alan Jay Wildstein

South Florida State College announced a major gift on Oct. 1 that marks a key milestone in the college’s recently launched $10 million capital campaign, the Partnership Project.

The gift comes from Alan Jay Wildstein, the president of the Sebring, Fla.-based Alan Jay Automotive Network, the region’s largest auto dealership.

“With Alan Jay Wildstein, we have a great friend of SFSC who shares the bold vision we have mapped out for the college and the district it serves,” said Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC’s president.

The gift comes in the first year of a five-year capital campaign and brings the Partnership Project near the midpoint of its fundraising goal of $10 million.

“To meet the goals of our new vision, SFSC must identify alternative funding sources,” Dr. Leitzel said. “State support from the legislature and student fees are enough only to maintain the status quo.”

Stagnant funding from traditional sources and a future-focused vision prodded SFSC to embark on the capital campaign, which is designed to fund initiatives for the college’s four campuses.

“Meeting tomorrow’s challenges requires a fresh approach, and today’s gift demonstrates that we have the backing of one of the region’s most successful business executives,” Dr. Leitzel said.

On Oct. 1, Wildstein joined Dr. Leitzel and members of the college’s district board of trustees on the stage of SFSC’s Theatre for the Performing Arts to announce the gift. In return, Dr. Leitzel announced that SFSC will recognize Wildstein’s substantial gift by renaming the theater the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at SFSC.

Although the center will bear Wildstein’s name, his donation goes directly to the Partnership Project and will be used to meet emerging college-wide initiatives that are not funded through traditional means.

“I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to support SFSC,” Wildstein said. “My family and I have been part of this community for more than two decades, and SFSC has always figured prominently in the lives of the people we know and care about.”

The new Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at SFSC will be revealed on Thursday, Nov. 19, and features an evening with comedian Jay Leno. Donny Most, from the Happy Days television show, will perform as the opening act. Tickets go on sale online at sfscarts.org, Monday, Oct. 12. Box Office walk up and telephone orders begin Monday, Oct. 19. Ticket prices range from $55 to $145.

SFSC quietly launched the Partnership Project in February 2105. This capital campaign is the largest fundraising initiative in the history of the college, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

SFSC recently finished the first phase of internal review that will guide it through the next 50 years, said Dr. Leitzel. As part of the process, SFSC crafted a new vision statement: “A globally aware academic destination driving regional transformation through innovative collaboration.”

“This new vision statement has become SFSC’s rallying cry,” Dr. Leitzel said. “This is a vision that will advance the college for the next 50 years, and the Partnership Project plays an integral part in the journey.”

The Partnership Project is an initiative of the SFSC Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for the college and manages all gifts made to its existing endowment of nearly $14 million.

“The Partnership Project aims to garner support for the college’s new vision and to ensure a bright, bold future for today’s students and those to come,” said Jamie Bateman, executive director for institutional advancement, and head of the SFSC Foundation.

In 1978, the 1,460-seat center opened as the SFSC Auditorium. A $12.5 million renovation in 2010 completely transformed the facility, adding a balcony and box seats, a revamped stage, a tri-level lobby, and a more sophisticated sound system. Adjacent to the center is the SFSC Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) and art classrooms.

With an enrollment of 2,780, SFSC serves the district of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties as one of 28 state and community colleges in the Florida College System. SFSC has campuses in Arcadia, Avon Park, Bowling Green, and Lake Placid.

Considered a comprehensive state college, SFSC offers two-year associate degrees, college credit certificates, occupational certificates, and three bachelor’s degrees–in business supervision and management, elementary education, and nursing. The college also provides corporate training, community education, GED preparation, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and Adult Basic Education.