A Chemical Bond
UF alum Joseph Hernandez shows $10 million worth of appreciation.
By David Finnerty
A son of Cuban immigrants with three University of Florida degrees has invested $10 million in his alma mater to enhance UF’s chemistry department so future chemists and other alumni will be better positioned to explore solutions to society’s greatest challenges.
New York entrepreneur Joseph Hernandez’s gift creates an endowment that will forever provide funds for classroom, research, and student support. Hernandez, 43, is the youngest donor in UF’s history to make a gift this large. A new campus chemistry building is under construction and will be named Joseph Hernandez Hall in recognition of his generosity. The 110,000-square-foot building is expected to open within the next year.
“The University of Florida changed my life. I’m grateful for the knowledge I obtained there and for the great memories that have shaped my life,” Hernandez said. “I’m forever indebted to this great institution and hope my minor gesture helps future students and the faculty who will change those students’ lives.”
UF’s chemistry department is one of the nation’s leaders in granting doctoral and bachelor’s degrees. The new chemistry building, along with Hernandez’s gift, will further enable the university to provide students with a world-class educational experience so they are better prepared for careers in health, the sciences, and other fields.
“Joe’s investment in UF’s chemistry department will touch the lives of thousands of students each year,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “It will also enable faculty to be more effective educators while achieving even greater excellence in research.”
David Richardson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is home to UF’s chemistry department, said Hernandez’s gift is transformational.
“Joe's gift will seed innovation and accelerate the entrepreneurial spirit within the Department of Chemistry,” Richardson said. “Joe is a model for the application of broad scientific knowledge in business, and he is the kind of UF graduate students can emulate as they look to their futures. This endowment will vastly increase the department’s momentum as it seeks to build national leadership in research and teaching. Joe’s generous support will be pivotal in helping UF achieve its aspiration and its goals.”
Hernandez earned a UF bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in 1996 and a pair of master’s degrees two years later, one in business administration and the other in medical sciences. He is a serial biotech entrepreneur whose life’s work is improving medical care. His expertise is in diagnostic and therapeutic industries, and he is founder of numerous health-related companies, among them Microlin Bio and Sydys Corp. to treat cancer, Ember Therapeutics for regenerative medicines and Prolias Technologies for genetic cytology.
UF’s Department of Chemistry grants bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees with specialization in biochemistry, nanochemistry, analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, polymer, synthetic, and theoretical chemistry. The department generates more than $10 million each year in external funding and produces a stream of patents and startup companies. There are nearly 50 faculty members and more than 330 graduate students, postdoctoral and other scientific associates in the department.
The University of Florida is one of the nation’s most comprehensive universities. It has a long history of established programs in international education, research and service, and is one of only 17 public, land-grant universities that belong to the prestigious Association of American Universities.