Ringling College Receives Landmark Gift, Endowment for VR Department Head

Education

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY JAN 30, 2018

“Transformation and change” marked the day, said Ringling College President Dr. Larry Thompson to the crowd gathered at the Keating Center yesterday morning. “Too often we move from one thing to the next and we don’t take time to appreciate,” he says, and this will be that moment for reflection. Thompson will have been president of Ringling College for 19 years come June 2018, and he’s seen perhaps more than his fair share of changes in that time—to the campus, the curriculum and the community at large—but yesterday marked a milestone all its own with a momentous gift of $15 million from local philanthropists Drs. Joel and Gail Morganroth—the single largest the institution has ever received.

“We look at this as an investment not just in higher education,” says Joel, who has also served on the Ringling Board of Trustees for three years now, “but also in art, design, technology, creativity and community.” An academic cardiologist and academic nephrologist, respectively, this is the Morganroth’s first major gift to the Sarasota community. Speaking to the crowd, Joel described the pair as “careful givers,” but completely sold on Ringling College as a worthwhile investment with an inspiring vision for a quality product, fiscal strength, ethical awareness and an excellent team. “And I don’t know anyone who can top Larry,” he says.

Impact from the sizable donation will be felt throughout the school as it furthers programming, scholarships and projects such as the Sarasota Museum of Art, but most keenly in Ringling’s budding virtual reality department, where the gift will create the first endowed department head at the college. Ringling College is already ahead of the curve with its own virtual reality development department, but Morganroth wants to see even more. “Virtual reality is going to be the way that our children and grandchildren are going to learn in all fields,” he says, and, echoing Thompson’s refrain, will be necessary for any preeminent school of art and design.

But looking back on the great transformations that have rocked the Ringling campus since its inception in 1931, the Morganroths recognize that no single actor, and no single gift, no matter how large, can do it alone. “We hope we’re not the only ones,” they say.

Pictured: Drs. Gail and Joel Morganroth celebrate at the Ringling College Keating Center. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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