Community involvement part of couple’s everyday conversation
How fitting – and an interesting coincidence – that the University of North Florida named one building for a family inspired by a man for which another building is named.
David and Ann Hicks made Jacksonville news in October 2015 when UNF announced a $7 million gift by the longtime community leaders, philanthropists and UNF supporters, to establish the Hicks Honors College – the University’s sixth academic college – formerly known as the UNF Honors Program. Before receiving that generous gift, however, in 2012 the University dedicated UNF Hall, Building 53, as Hicks Hall to honor Ann and David for their dynamic leadership and unselfish support to Northeast Florida. The seeds for David’s involvement with community were planted by his father in his hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, then fertilized in Jacksonville in the 1960s by a man whose name can be found on the UNF Campus.
“By coincidence, David’s first job was working for Jack Daniel at Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co. Jack mentored him and encouraged him to become involved in the United Way and its’ agencies,” Ann said. Jack Daniel is Jaquelin James Daniel, for whom UNF named its administration building J.J. Daniel Hall in 1991.
“We have both been involved in the community since we were very young,” said Ann. “It is simply what we both love to do and it has always been a part of our everyday conversation.”
Later in life, the couple pooled their passions and focused on three areas: the Cummer Museum, where they both served on the Board, housing and education.
“I was a new member on the HabiJax board when Mayor Ed Austin tapped David to head the Jacksonville Housing Authority,” Ann said. “At one point, I invited David to join me at a HabiJax board meeting. He immediately shared my enthusiasm over HabiJax and saw what could be done in collaboration. The result was a turned around Housing Authority and the number one Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the country.”
After her children were grown and married, Ann decided to pursue a second degree at UNF. “The more time spent there, the more we realized what an enormous asset UNF is to this community. We decided many years ago to establish scholarships for students from HabiJax and the Housing Authority.
“David made it a habit to visit all the applicants in their homes. The program has grown too large now and he misses that aspect,” she said about the Pathways to Success Scholarship program, initiated in 1996 with a $10 million endowment to fund scholarships. With David’s leadership, it succeeded in securing more than $15 million in donations from over 30 donors in Florida.
Now, the Hicks Honors College will fund studyabroad scholarships, sending around 60 students a year on study-abroad opportunities for longer transformational experiences (summer, semester or year) and will fund Hicks Fellows, selected junior and senior honors students who will participate in undergraduate research, travel to conferences, special projects, academic competitions or performance opportunities.
“We are very excited about the creation of the Honors College and look forward to watching it develop,” said Ann. “We have been very fortunate and have had a great deal of fun in the process.”