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New book chronicles UCF's colorful history
By Jen Glantz   - 11/24/2009

Orlando Sentinel

More Info on This Book: University of Central Florida

Tradition means a lot to Nathan Holic, a UCF alumnus and visiting instructor in the English department. A 2002 grad, he remembers his first Spirit Splash, his days on the Orientation Team, and the close ties he made through his fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi.

Put an English teacher and tradition together and some stories are going to come out. After the University of Central Florida celebrated its 40th year of classes in 2008, Holic decided to tell the story of the university by writing a book.

"UCF: A Campus History'' was released in stores last month. Holic teamed up with the UCF Alumni Association to write the book, which maps the history of the university from when it was started as an idea -- Florida Technological University in 1963 -- to when the campus opened in 1968 until now.

"This school is very forward-thinking," Holic said. "From the start, the motto was 'reach for the stars.' UCF is concerned with what we are going to be over what we are."

After conversations with others about some of the unique things about UCF, Holic wondered if anyone had recorded the history of the university. He only found an outline recorded in 1974 that covered the first 11 years of the university.

Holic then partnered with the UCF Alumni Association to set up interviews with key alumni and to collect photographs for the book.

Judy Creel, editor of Pegasus, the UCF alumni magazine, helped Holic proofread his book and said that a project like this helps alumni see the progress of the campus since they graduated.

"Some colleges take 100 years to change in ways we have changed in 10," Creel said.

After collecting initial information, Holic set up a group on Facebook that allowed UCF alumni to answer questions that he posted on the page. Members could also leave wall posts with their own stories about how traditions were started when they attended UCF.

"I noticed through Facebook that cool stories come out from disagreement," Holic said. "I posted a status asking if anyone knew when Spirit Splash began and I got conflicting stories. History is not always neat."

Holic started the Facebook group in December of last year. The group has 646 members that include UCF alumni who served in Student Government, the Orientation Team and other student organizations as well as current students of the university.

Holic also started a blog where he posted interesting facts about UCF accompanied by historic photographs. Holic utilized the blog as a way to get in contact with more alumni so they could share their stories with him and he could keep them interested in the school's history.

To verify the information, Holic worked with the UCF Libraries Special Collections and University Archives department to get recorded facts and information to help tell the story of UCF.

Senior archivist April Anderson said that the department has memorabilia stored from the past 40 years.

"We are very big on ephemera and memorabilia," Anderson said. "But we also have a full run of the Central Florida Future, an audio and video collection, a very, very large photographs collection, various books including yearbooks and various collections dealing with the history of the university, our presidents, clubs and organizations, colleges on campus, etc."

The book, which retails for $21.99 and is published by Arcadia Publishing, give readers a real "flesh and blood'' look into the university that they won't find in brochures, Holic said.

The book is full of interesting photos and anecdotes from UCF's past. There's a picture of a dark-haired Joe Biden, 30 years before he became vice president, speaking at commencement in 1978. A photo of traffic backed up three miles on what was then two-laned FTU Boulevard -- now University Boulevard -- in 1968 is a reminder that some things never change. Then there's the story of Rita Reuter, the 58-year-old homecoming queen who put the university on the map in 1977 when she was featured on "The Tonight Show'' with Johnny Carson.

Warren Jackson, a student employee at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on campus where the book is available, said that many customers preordered the book before it was released. Since the book has been out, Jackson has seen a lot of customers buy it on impulse.

"I see lots of alumni pick up the book probably to use as a resource to relive their past days as a student and the memories they want to cherish forever," Jackson said.

Holic says that UCF has a unique history that not many people fully know and hopes that the book will open the eyes of those, old and young, who call UCF their home.

"People will realize this is a school that things have not come easy for," Holic said. "But we have worked hard and that is the story of our school."

Holic will hold a book signing Dec. 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. at UrbanThink! bookstore, 625 E Central Blvd., in downtown Orlando.

Buy It Now: University of Central Florida $21.99




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