Celebrating 140 Years: 1993-2002, Decade of Fundraising and a Rising Campus Profile
By 1993, H. Douglas Lee was well established as Stetson’s leader both on campus and in the community. He came to the university in 1978 as the vice president for Development and succeeded Pope Duncan as president in 1987. Under his leadership, several buildings were added to the campus, including Griffith Hall, the Hollis Center, the Wilson Athletic Center, the Lynn Business Center, new dormitories, the Hand Art Center, McMahan Hall and the Rinker Environmental Learning Center.
Lee’s fundraising prowess was especially impressive. Highlights of his administration include a $200 million campaign, the opening of the Stetson Celebration Center, the construction of Melching Field at Conrad Park, the expansion and renovation of the duPont-Ball Library and Sage Hall, the inauguration of the Institute for Christian Ethics and the Howard Thurman Program (established to integrate the works of scholars and community leaders to seek solutions to social, religious and ethnic problems), and the creation of the University Values Council.
Students often asked him what the H in H. Douglas Lee stood for — and the answer was Howard. Just as easily, the H could have stood for honorable.
As far as star-crossed years go in high-profile divorces, 1995 was a doozy in Hollywood. That year, Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett parted ways, as did Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere. Of course, five years earlier Roberts and Gere had paired up on screen in the classic romance movie “Pretty Woman.” Also, model Christie Brinkley and singer Billy Joel divorced in 1995, with both, notably, thriving in careers still today.
And that same year in DeLand, Stetson’s affiliation with the Florida Baptist Convention came to an end. It was a 112-year relationship whereby the university had been founded by Baptists, largely influenced by Baptists and generously supported by Baptists.
Indeed, the roots of the relationship ran deep. One example: Rev. W. N. Chaudoin, for whom Chaudoin Hall was named, was an early Trustee (1885-1886 and 1902-1903), as well as secretary of the Florida Baptist Convention and the first person to receive a Stetson honorary degree. Yet, times had changed, and with Stetson and the convention having drifted in different directions for years, the marriage ended. Their division was sealed when Stetson’s Trustees passed a policy that allowed students who were of legal drinking age to drink alcohol on campus.
Today, the university’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life works to empower students to lead lives of meaning — connecting them to an array of religious student organizations, while also providing support to those organizations.
The Hollis Center opened in 1997, named to honor the Hollis family and built to serve as a student athletic and recreation center. The center featured — and still does today — a fitness gym, field house for intramural sports and a recreation room. The center was built to also incorporate the pre-existing swimming pool as a feature of the facility.
In addition to funding the Hollis Center, Trustee Emeritus Mark Hollis and his wife, Lynn, also established student scholarships and endowed chairs for health and wellness.
In 2013, the Hollis Center underwent major renovations, and today the Rinker Field House includes a bell tower that features the Hollis Victory Bell, which tolls to celebrate university successes and special events.
To help mark the turn of the century, Stetson became the first educational institution to receive a Year 2000 Sustainable Florida Award. The honor came in recognition of university’s implementation efforts and community involvement with recycling and energy conservation.
As it has turned out, the award, presented by the Council for Sustainable Florida, was a preview of honors to come for Stetson. In 2023, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recognized Stetson with a STARS Silver rating for its accomplishments in campus sustainability. STARS stands for Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System — a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.
In addition, The Princeton Review selected Stetson for its 2023 Guide to Green Colleges, which recognized the university for the seventh time as one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible institutions. Most recently, Southern Living magazine selected Stetson as one of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in the South, calling the DeLand campus “a sight to behold.”
Learn more about Stetson’s 140-year anniversary and join in on the celebration throughout the fall.
-Michael Candelaria and Stetson University Archives