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Bethune-Cookman gifted $1.4M to update campus

Bethune Cookman University photo by: Talia Blake/WMFE
Talia Blake
BCU has been gifted $1.4 million.

Bethune-Cookman University has received an over $1 million dollar grant to renovate buildings on campus.

The $1.4 million will be used to renovate an academic building and football complex on campus.

In a press release, BCU said these buildings will be used to provide “academic support, meeting and office space, recruiting, athletic locker rooms and other similar purposes to support student athletes.”

The news follows student protests in 2023 that called on the university to update student housing and campus spaces including athletic facilities.

The campus was hard-hit by Hurricane Ian in 2022, among other structural challenges.

The protests were sparked by a leaked Instagram video, showing then-football head coach Ed Reed complaining about conditions on campus.

BCU pledged $10 million dollars toward campus upgrades following the protests and Reed’s departure.

In a press release, then-interim BCU president Dr. Lawrence Drake said, “Over the last year, Bethune-Cookman University has begun a complete assessment of all its facilities for fitness, renovation, and teardown, as well as the construction of new facilities to enhance our campus. We’ve enlisted the assistance of CTG Construction, an Orlando-based firm with extensive HBCU campus experience, our facilities partner Sodexo, and several environmental and architectural engineering firms to continue the assessment of over 100 buildings.”

An analysis released by the U.S. Department of Education later that year found sixteen states including Florida had chronically underfunded historically black colleges and universities to the tune of $12 billion.

The report specifically highlighted that Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University had been underfunded by about $2 billion over the last 30 years.

In an excerpt from the letter sent to Governor Ron DeSantis, detailing the report, the Department of Education wrote, “These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University has been able to make remarkable strides and would be much stronger and better positioned to serve its students, your state, and the nation if made whole with respect to this funding gap.”

The newly updated facilities on the BCU campus will be known as the L. Gale Lemerand Academic Multiplex and the L. Gale Lemerand Football Complex after the benefactor of the grant.

“Mr. Lemerand’s generosity and commitment to furthering education in the state of Florida can’t be overstated,” said Dr. William Berry, provost and acting president of BCU. “He has been a friend of the university for many years now, and we are incredibly thankful for his kindness and investment in ensuring our students have access to the best facilities possible.”

Read more about the history of BCU here.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.
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