Tres Stephenson, Foundation Board of Directors president; Hill Grififn; and Jamie Bateman, SFSC executive director of institutional advancement

Hill Griffin (center), son of the late Ben Hill Griffin III, accepted the SFSC Foundation Legacy Award on behalf of his father. Pictured from left, Tres Stephenson, SFSC Foundation Board of Directors president; Hill Griffin; and Jamie Bateman, executive director of institutional advancement.

AVON PARK, Fla. – May 9, 2022 – During the South Florida State College (SFSC) Foundation Legacy Showcase and Fundraiser on Saturday, May 7, Ben Hill Griffin III was posthumously inducted into the 2022 Legacy Society for his service to the Foundation and to the College. Jamie Bateman, SFSC executive director of institutional advancement made the presentation.

“The Foundation Board chose to honor Ben Hill Griffin III, because he and his family have had a long history of support for SFSC,” Bateman said. “Since the mid-1980s, what started with Mr. Griffin Jr., Ben Hill Griffin III continued the family’s legacy of giving to colleges in support of higher education. Mr. Griffin believed in helping young people and knew the importance of having a college degree and how it could impact a young person’s life for the better. Because of their history of support, the Foundation Board felt that this year’s Legacy Award should go to someone who has made a difference in the lives of so many.”

This is the fourth year that such an honor has taken place. Bill and Lisa Jarrett were inducted into The Legacy Society in 2021, Joan Hartt was inducted in 2020, and Joe Jr. and Gloria Davis were inducted in 2019.

“Congratulations to the Griffin family on Ben Hill Griffin III’s induction into the SFSC Foundation’s Legacy Society,” said John Barben of Robert J. Barben, Inc. and Barben Fruit Company. “The Griffin family has a legacy of giving to postsecondary education in Florida. Ben Hill Griffin Jr. gave to the University of Florida, mainly through athletics. We all know that the stadium is named after him. Ben Hill Griffin III, as CEO of Alico, gave the land where Florida Gulf Coast University now sits.

“Right here, with South Florida State College, he has endowed over 30 scholarships in the last five years. Just recently, I was at a scholarship recognition reception where students talked about what those scholarships meant to them. Some of those students were first time, young college students. Others were returning parents who wanted to make a difference for their families.”

Marlene Gonsales, who plans to graduate from the SFSC Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM) in spring 2023, was awarded a $1,000 Ben Hill Griffin Jr. General Endowed Scholarship last fall through the SFSC Foundation. Gonsales earned her Associate in Arts from SFSC in May 2021. She is from Lake Placid and works part-time at Publix supermarket.

Upon earning her BAS, Gonsales would like to work at the Publix Corporate Office in Lakeland. “Receiving the Ben Hill Griffin Jr. Endowed Scholarship has definitely relieved the financial stress that comes with attending college,” she said. “Before the scholarship, my main concern was having to hold off on getting my degree, but now I’m one step closer to achieving my goal of getting my bachelor’s degree.”

The Ben Hill Griffin Jr. General Endowed Scholarship gives preference to students who are enrolled full time in any of these bachelor’s degree programs at SFSC: Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It is awarded to students from Highlands, Hardee, or DeSoto Counties.

“Supporting higher education was important to my dad,” said Hill Griffin, Ben Hill Griffin III’s son. “He realized how fortunate that he was. He grew up in a family that could afford to go to college. It was rewarding for him to give back and support young people who were pursuing a career and a better life for themselves and their families.

“My Dad would say that a lot of people are deserving of this award. I don’t think that it ever crossed his mind that he would receive an award for giving. It was something that he was taught and came natural to him. I know that he would appreciate it. It was a part of who he was.”