2023 Year in Review: Top Rankings, Record Fundraising, Historic Anniversary and More

Scenic Palm Court and Holler Fountain
Scenic landscape of Palm Court on Stetson's DeLand campus.

Stetson’s calendar year 2023 was marked by top-shelf national rankings, record-setting success in fundraising and a 140th anniversary celebration for the ages. 

Those three sets of achievements highlighted 12 months of continual academic advancements, program growth and key administrative moves, including the selection of a new Provost in DeLand and new Dean at the College of Law in Gulfport. 

Rankings? In February, Stetson’s Master of Accountancy and Master of Business Administration programs were ranked among the Best Online Programs in the country for 2023, according to U.S. News & World Report, which assessed such programs at more than 1,800 colleges and universities.

Scenic exterior of the College of Law
Stetson’s College of Law, located in Gulfport, ranked tops in Advocacy.

In May, U.S. News & World Report ranked Stetson’s College of Law as the No. 1 law school in the nation for Trial Advocacy and the No. 3 destination for Legal Writing. That made Stetson the only law school to consistently rank among the top schools in the nation in both Advocacy and Legal Writing year after year. 

In September, Stetson again ranked in the Top 5 for Best Regional Universities (South) and moved up in three categories, including Best Value Schools, in the 2024 rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Stetson ranked No. 4 on the overall list of 135 Best Regional Universities (South), the same spot as last year.

With such rankings as a backdrop, Stetson shattered its fundraising record for a second consecutive year during the 2023 fiscal year, ending June 30. A total of $65 million was raised for student scholarships, renovations and other areas across the university.

John B. Stetson
John B. Stetson statue on campus.

Also, throughout the year Stetson honored its rich past by celebrating its founding in 1883 and the decades to follow. It’s a story that began when Henry A. DeLand and Dr. John H. Griffith inaugurated DeLand Academy, which later became Stetson, thanks to the contributions of university namesake John B. Stetson.


As part of a $5.3 million grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Stetson received almost $2 million to help lead national research centered on mental health. Jesse Fox, PhD, associate professor of Stetson’s Counselor Education, was named a project leader for the collaborative work with colleagues at the University of California San Diego and the University of South Alabama. The funding was intended to explore, expand and train religious and spiritual competencies in mental health practice.

Word arrived on campus that the Eagle Battalion, representing Stetson’s ROTC program and programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (the host school), Daytona State College and Bethune-Cookman University, had won a 2021-2022 Douglas MacArthur Award as one of the top ROTC programs in the nation. Only eight of 274 ROTC programs nationally were awarded. The Eagle Battalion, consisting of more than 250 cadets, ranked tops in the Southeast region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Puerto Rico). 

Stetson’s upstart Centurion Sales Program, established in 2017, continued to flex new muscle with the expansion of its sales labs. The sales labs provide an ideal setting for real-world training. In addition, the sales program moved up the international school rankings, advancing from No. 33 to No. 10. 

Similarly, Stetson’s fledgling Moot Court Team, started during the Fall 2022 semester, was preparing for its first national tournament. To earn a berth, the team had competed well at the American Moot Court Association’s Atlantic Regionals Tournament against top-rated teams from across the country.


On a broad scale, the university unveiled its new Be Seen branding campaign — to promote the best Stetson has to offer students while highlighting the lasting impacts of attending a small university. In essence, aside from a highly regarded degree, the campaign was designed to leverage the benefits of Stetson in the classroom and beyond.


Elizabeth Skomp, PhD, was named Stetson’s new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Skomp joined Stetson in 2019 and had served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of World Languages and Cultures (Russian). Skomp was selected following a comprehensive internal search. 

Jeffery Gates, LPD, was named the university’s new Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, following a nationwide search. Gates had been Senior Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success at Utica University in New York.

For the second year in a row, The Princeton Review named Stetson as one of the Top 50 Undergraduate Schools for Game Design in the nation. The selection was based on a survey of administrators at 150 institutions across the United States, Canada and abroad.


The Stetson Showcase celebrated students’ academic achievement across the campus.

At the 2023 Stetson Showcase, more than 160 projects were displayed and/or presented to fellow students, faculty, staff and other, as part of a campus-wide celebration of student research excellence. The daylong event was established in 1999 to highlight the work of students throughout the campus.

Roberto Garcia joined Stetson as the new Campus Catholic Minister. In the part-time, donor-funded role — a partnership with the Archdiocese of Orlando — Garcia became a member of Stetson’s Religious and Spiritual Life team.


As part of the U.S. News & World Report ranking of Stetson’s College of Law, the area of Dispute Resolution continued its upward trajectory, rising from No. 72 in 2021 to No. 18 in 2024.

At its Spring 2023 Commencement, the university awarded 859 bachelor’s and master’s degrees at three outdoor ceremonies held in DeLand. And in Gulfport, 302 students celebrated their successful completion of Stetson’s College of Law.



Rev. Todd F. Campbell Jr. was named University Chaplain and director of Religious and Spiritual Life. The University Chaplain/director of Religious and Spiritual Life was created as a new position to lead a reorganized and reinvigorated area on campus.


Steven Alexander

Alumnus Steven Alexander ’85, a member of Stetson’s Board of Trustees since 2012, became chair of the Board. A month later, he revealed his plan to “put students first.”

The university announced a fall semester celebration for its 140th anniversary — its founding in 1883 to 2023 — to culminate Oct. 25 with a campus-wide party for students, faculty and staff.


Over the summer break, the university completed several renovation projects and made improvements throughout the campus in preparation of Move-In Day. The efforts centered on “creating an inspiring learning environment.” Among the highlights were major renovations to Chaudoin Hall, built in 1892.

Stetson’s 2023 Convocation set the stage for the upcoming academic year. The topline message from President Christopher Roellke, PhD: “Today, Stetson is better than ever and our future is bright.” 

Christopher F. Roellke, PhD, led the 2023 Convocation to start the new academic year.

Classes were canceled for Hurricane Idalia, with the decision made by Stetson’s Emergency Management Team and Policy Team.

Jeff Altier, who began his association with Stetson as a student-athlete in 1980, announced his retirement as Director of Athletics after 27 years in that position, effective March 31, 2024. 


Stetson’s School Of Music began a partnership with Orlando Opera on an apprenticeship pilot program that provided selected students (through audition) professional, onstage experiences that also count as class credit. Initially, two students were selected.

The university announced it had raised $65 million in fiscal year 2023 — a record total for the second consecutive year — with approximately 75% of the donations going toward student scholarships. During fiscal-year 2022, $52.2 million was raised, then the largest amount on record.

Not long afterward, one example of the impressive giving was announced, a $15.4 million gift for scholarships to aid local students and funding for Stetson’s School of Music. 

Campus relocation of the Cross-Cultural Center, affectionately known as the Tri-C and home to the Multicultural Student Council, became official with a ribbon-cutting, as the university continued advancing cultural, social and intellectual engagement.

As part of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings (South), Stetson also climbed to No. 10 for Best Value Schools, up from No. 12 last year. The university rose eight spots to No. 4 for Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs and moved up three spots to No. 26 in Top Performers on Social Mobility.

The university was named one of the best undergraduate institutions in the nation and in the Southeast for the ninth consecutive year by The Princeton Review in the 2024 edition of “The Best 389 Colleges.” Schools selected for the Princeton Review comprise only 15% of America’s four-year colleges and universities. 

Stetson received a STARS Silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for its accomplishments in campus sustainability. STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. 


The first public showing of the Remembering Innsbruck documentary was held during Homecoming. In 1979, 40 Stetson students traveled on a European study abroad trip, where three of the students lost their lives in an avalanche. In summer 2023, a documentary team followed some of the 1979 alumni as they returned to Innsbruck to visit the mountain and remember their friends. 

Grant recipient, Professor Jean Smith, PhD, works with a student (right) on lab research.

Assistant Biology Professor Jean Smith, PhD, was awarded a $502,998 grant from the National Science Foundation. Only 62 grants were awarded, and Smith was the only recipient in the state of Florida. It was the largest single-investigator grant from NSF awarded to a pre-tenured faculty member at Stetson.

Stetson’s Center for Public Opinion Research, established in 2022, received a significant boost. The center partnered with the Orlando Economic Partnership to generate more comprehensive economic reporting in Central Florida. The partnership recognized the center’s seasoned researchers and cutting-edge methodologies. 

The Stetson campus — faculty, staff, and students — celebrated the university’s 140-year history during a fun-filled day.

Stetson men’s rowing won for the first time ever at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. It occurred in the 4+ race, a three-mile sprint upstream. The Charles Regatta is the largest rowing event in the world.

Stetson Athletics inducted four former student-athletes into its Stetson Athletics Hall of Fame. The inductees were Kristin Lind, Brooks Wilson, Jessie TenBroeck and Logan Gilbert.


The Princeton Review named Stetson to its list of Green Colleges for 2024, based on surveys of administrators at 683 colleges and analyses of more than 25 survey data points. For Stetson’s Green rating, the university scored points for such practices as offering a sustainability-focused degree and having a public greenhouse gas inventory plan to monitor and work to reduce the university’s emissions over time.

The Stetson Room ribbon-cutting was a philanthropic triumph decades in the making.

In an example of impressive philanthropy, Warren Carr ’59 and his wife, Barbara, officially put their names on the Warren and Barbara Carr Stetson Room. The giving stemmed from a friendship among classmates that had begun 68 years ago. The Stetson Room was built in 1957 as part of the popular Carlton Union Building on campus.

Stetson received the 2023-2024 “Voter-Friendly Campus” designation from ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a nonpartisan recognition program for higher education.  The designation joined a bevy of other similar honors Stetson and its students had received in recent years.

Stetson’s College of Law opened a new home for advocacy on its Gulfport campus, the 16,000-square-foot Advocacy Institute — with the promise of building on Stetson Law’s reputation as a national leader in advocacy education. 

Stetson, through its Institute of Water and Environmental Resilience, became part of a $25 million federal grant in support of regional lake-conservation program. The award came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The Centurion Sales team won its first national championship, the “World Cup of Sales.”

Stetson’s Centurion Sales team captured its first-ever national championship title at the 2023 International Collegiate Sales Competition, the “World Cup of Sales.” Stetson students competed against 80 universities from the United States, Netherlands and Canada, totaling more than 300 students. The accomplishments were especially impressive, considering Stetson’s Centurion Sales Program was established only seven years ago.

Stetson won the 2023 INSIGHT Into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Stetson’s College of Law won for the fourth consecutive year; the DeLand campus received the award for the first time.

The men’s basketball team made program history by winning the Sunshine Slam Championship. It was the first national tournament that the program has won since the university became Division 1 in 1971. 


The Atlantic Sun Conference announced the induction of former Stetson baseball coach Pete Dunn into the ASUN Hall of Fame as part of the Class IX, joining 36 others who comprise the conference’s first eight classes. Under Dunn’s guidance, the Stetson baseball team won 1,312 games.