By Kimi Wilcoxon
In 2011, as a master’s student in Florida State University’s College of Business, Cassandra Rayne Gross reached a turning point. Her position in food service was coming to an unexpected end. Devastated, she was torn between continuing to work in a field that had been the focus of her education or moving in a new direction. Cassandra needed career advice, and Jane Morgan was just the person to give it.
Jane (B.S. ’82) and her husband, George, have been helping Florida State students for years. In 2005, Jane established the Jane Zuknick Morgan Scholarship at the Dedman School of Hospitality. In 2009, Cassandra received that scholarship. But it was more than the financial help that made a lasting impression on Cassandra; it was Jane’s mentorship that changed her life.
“Jane spent time talking with me and shared her own experience about accepting opportunities outside of what she expected for her career,” explained Cassandra (B.S. ’10, M.B.A. ’12). “Jane taught me that it wasn’t a failure to transition into a new career track, but rather an achievement to identify what is meaningful and to propel oneself in the needed direction.” Cassandra added, “I don’t know if she realizes just how powerful that one conversation was in my life. But I suspect it is not only me who she’s helped.
”Jane worked to put herself through college, including at a restaurant. It was that job where she was encouraged to consider FSU’s hospitality program (now the Dedman School). After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration, she spent years building her career in the Tampa Bay area as a hospitality industry consultant for a national accounting firm. Through the years, the Morgans have moved several times due to George’s career in the health care industry, but they always considered Florida home. Jane has never been too far removed from FSU either, as a supporter of Women for Florida State University, part of the Dedman School’s alumni organization, The Society of Hosts, and an FSU Foundation Board trustee. The hospitality that Jane experienced at Florida State is a big part of her reason to give back to help current students. George, a USF graduate, has also given his time to FSU, serving on the College of Medicine Sarasota Regional Campus Community Advisory Board. Both recognize that their education has been a pivotal element of their success.
In 2007, Jane and George began to consider how they could further support the university through their estate plans. “Leaving a bequest to FSU allows donors to provide a future benefit to their alma mater while meeting current personal and financial goals,” George explained. As a result, they made a charitable bequest to establish The Jane E. and George D. Morgan Endowment for the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University.
Since her graduation from the College of Business in 1982, Florida State has held a special place in Jane Morgan’s heart.
Last year, the couple decided to revalue their estate and update their bequest to FSU. That process resulted in an additional $3 million they could donate to the university.
“It was really quite a pleasant situation, being able to make an additional gift to FSU,” George said. “It’s rooted in love for the university and what it has contributed to our lives. We see giving as our responsibility.”
The substantial increase in the value of their gift allowed the Morgans to seriously consider the impact they could have on FSU programs, faculty and future students. One third of the new commitment will establish The Jane and George Morgan Endowment for Faculty Development to support College of Business efforts to recruit, retain and reward the best faculty. This commitment follows years of active support inspired by the visible impact their previous contributions had on the college, including on students like Cassandra.
“One of the college’s strengths is the dedication and passion of its faculty and staff to see its students succeed,” said Jane. “This gift was really a continuation of our friendship with the college.”
The remainder of their bequest is split between the College of Medicine’s Sarasota Regional Campus and the College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance in support of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, also in Sarasota. For the Morgans, these programs were natural choices. “We spent 20 years living outside of Florida, moving frequently with George’s career,” said Jane. “When we finally moved back to Sarasota, we were surprised to find the university’s presence in our backyard. We are fortunate that Sarasota is like ‘Tally South.’”
For the College of Medicine’s Sarasota campus, the Morgans’ gift will create The Jane and George Morgan Endowment for Excellence. George’s background in the health care industry helped him to appreciate the medical school’s innovations. “FSU’s students get trained in the community physician environment, which is where most of them will practice one day,” he explained. But the Morgans knew that, as a newer program, it would be years before program graduates could offer their support. Through their gift they wanted to inspire others in the area to appreciate and support this community asset.
Their decision to establish The Jane and George Morgan Endowment for Excellence in the College of Visual Arts, Theatre & Dance at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory is likewise built on their relationship with the school, where the Morgans are student sponsors and Jane is an advisory board member.
“It’s rewarding to be a part of such an elite program,” said Jane. “Out of the thousands who audition, there are no more than 12 students chosen to study each year, and it feels great as a supporter to develop these relationships with the students and watch their training.”
Jane and George recognize that their bequest puts them in a unique position to highlight the power of giving. “It’s important to share gifts to inspire others,” said George.
For Cassandra, the Morgans’ personal and financial support left a lasting, immeasurable impact. “It gave me the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and take a smart risk to further my own personal and professional development.”
If you would like to consider leaving a legacy gift, or for more information on revaluing your existing bequest, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 850.644.0753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.