CLASnotes

Alex Grass Endowment


Alex GrassAs the founder of the Rite Aid drugstore chain, Alex Grass knows what it takes to succeed. A prosperous businessman who graduated from UF's Law School in 1949, Grass believes a quality education is crucial. "When it comes to people who have been successful in the world, a large percentage of them come from schools like the University of Florida. The quality of the education that is offered at UF is more than sufficient to produce outstanding successes," says Grass.

To help ensure UF's continuing success in providing top-quality education to its students, Grass recently gave UF's Center for Jewish Studies $1 million to establish an eminent chair position. "It will make the program stronger by enabling them to have professors that are known in the field," he says.

Center Director Kenneth D. Wald agrees, noting that the endowment will help attract scholars and researchers "of great national and international repute" in the field of Jewish studies to UF. "The Grass endowment will allow the center to enhance its three-pronged mission of attracting more students and scholars to the its programs, increasing the university's ability to serve the educational demands of Florida's growing Jewish population--already the third largest in the nation--and to conduct research on wide-ranging topics such as the Holocaust and the Middle East peace process," Wald says.

The Center for Jewish Studies was established in 1973 by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and provides an undergraduate, interdepartmental curriculum that covers various aspects of Jewish culture, religion and civilization. Through the center, students can prepare for graduate work in Jewish studies and the rabbinate, a career in Jewish education or simply enrich their undergraduate experience by focusing on an area of special interest. The center has offered an undergraduate major since 1987, and more than 100 students have earned a BA in Jewish studies.

Grass' gift will help the center move to the next level by offering graduate programs. "UF already has an outstanding undergraduate program in Jewish studies that offers more than 40 courses a year in cooperation with departments around the university," Wald says. "In combination with approximately $750,000 in state matching funds, the Grass endowment will further the center's endeavor to initiate a graduate program."

Wald says the mission of the Center for Jewish Studies is to promote study and research on all facets of Jewish civilization. The center is proud to have a religiously and ethnically diverse group of faculty and students. Grass values this diversity and says he hopes his gift will increase the number of Jewish studies students at UF. "Hopefully it will induce those both Jewish and non-Jewish to become more interested in the program," he says.

Whatever the ethnicity of students involved in Jewish studies, Wald is pleased to anticipate the new addition to the center. "We have more than twenty faculty with interests in Jewish studies and a superb resource in the Price Library of Judaica," he says. "The deepest roots of the Jewish tradition are found in scholarship. With this generous gift, Alex Grass has ensured the solidity of those roots here, at the University of Florida and throughout the state."

--Patrick Hughes

Photo:
Courtesy Alex Grass

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