Wet and mild: During orientation at the University of Central Florida, you were probably told about the “Spirit Splash” that takes place every fall semester at homecoming, when students are allowed to wade around in the school’s iconic, knee-deep reflection pond. You can thank President Richard Nixon for making these, ahem, water sports possible. In 1973, he was scheduled to speak at UCF’s commencement ceremony, and Secret Service agents needed a good vantage point from which to survey the crowd. The pond’s basin seemed like the perfect spot. The pond was drained of its water and tested to make sure it could support the weight of the entire graduating class and faculty. Commencement was held in the pond that year, and ever since, school officials knew the basin could support the weight of students splashing around in the water.
What’s in a name: When UCF was founded in 1966, it was a technical school that helped churn out a reliable supply of engineers to work on the then-burgeoning NASA space program. Hence the school’s original name: Florida Technological University. But there were at least 10 other names considered before FTU was chosen, including our favorite, the Florida Institute of Science and Technology, which was ditched, probably because the advisory board tasked with naming the school recognized the public relations challenge posed by “FIST U” apparel.
Busted ass: Before you complain about the uncomfortable, retro-looking cement-blob-seats bordering the reflection pond, keep in mind that they were never intended to be benches. In the school’s infancy, they were barricades alongside what was then a road, and were designed to protect the administration building (now the library) from errant vehicles – or, some claim, terrorist attacks.
Winning: In March, UCF became one of only 10 schools nationwide whose men’s baseball, football and basketball teams had all ranked in the Top 25 at some point in their respective seasons.
Hot for teacher: UCF has 828 chili-pepper rated professors listed on ratemyprofessors.com.
Where the girls are: Rollins College is listed in the Top 10 schools with the “hottest girls” on collegeprowler.com.
Fox Day: One day each academic year, all classes at Rollins are cancelled. Only the president of the college knows the date in advance, so students routinely make bets on when “Fox Day” will occur. The holiday gets its name from a bizarre 300-pound statue depicting a bearded fox standing on its hind legs with its arms crossed. When the statue appears on the school’s Mills Lawn in the wee hours of the morning, many students light out for the beach, knowing that Fox Day has arrived.
Radio days: The school’s radio station, 91.5 WPRK, was Winter Park’s first FM station. It launched on December 10, 1952, and the first voice heard on-air was that of President-elect Dwight Eisenhower. Also, Weekly staffer Dave Plotkin, a former DJ for the station, set a Guinness world record for longest continuous broadcast by a single DJ – 110 hours – on WPRK in 2005.
Neighborly: Fred Rogers, creator of the classic kids’ show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was a Rollins graduate. In 1991, he donated one of his signature cardigan sweaters to the school’s Olin Library. Also, actor Buddy Ebsen, better known as Jed Clampett of the The Beverly Hillbillies, is an alumnus.
Puritan roots: In the school’s Mayflower Hall is a 15-inch piece from the original Mayflower ship, which brought some of England’s first pilgrims to America in 1620. Also in the Hall is a woven quilt recovered from the ship, and a piece of Plymouth Rock, the location in Massachusetts where the pilgrims first disembarked. Puzzlingly, this building of rare artifacts is currently used as a sorority hall.
Upward mobility: Full Sail was actually founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1979, with a satellite branch in Orlando. The school moved to Orlando in 1980. During its inaugural year here, the school had no permanent campus, so classes were held at rented recording studios.
Light bright: On Jan. 27, 2010, Full Sail set the world record for “Largest Torchlit (Flashlight) Logo/Image Formed by People.” To accomplish that goal, 528 people holding lit flashlights above their heads were corralled and choreographed into the shape of the Full Sail logo. The school’s public relations department took full advantage of Full Sail’s foray into fame, pointing out that the flashlights were all outfitted with brand new batteries and sent to the earthquake-ravaged country of Haiti after the record-breaking event.
Sing it: All five nominees for Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards were mixed or engineered by Full Sail graduates.
Flighty: One of the owners of Full Sail, John Phelps, owns a Douglas DC-3 propeller-driven plane, which is why the school has an airplane in its logo.
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