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The University of Alabama

Culverhouse Scholarship Donation Designed to Give UA Students Options

By Chris Bryant

Eyeing an opportunity to provide options to University of Alabama students, Hugh Culverhouse and his wife, Eliza, have donated $2 million to The University of Alabama for scholarships.

Eliza and Hugh Culverhouse Jr.

Eliza and Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr.

UA announced the establishment of the Eliza and Hugh F. Culverhouse Student Assistance Scholarship with the couple’s $1 million donation in August 2013, and now the Culverhouses have donated an additional $1 million.

Six students in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce were selected last fall as the 2013-2014 Culverhouse Scholars, and additional scholarships will be made available, also in perpetuity, with the addition of the latest million-dollar gift. The UA business college is named for Culverhouse’s late father, Hugh Culverhouse Sr., a UA alumnus.

The son said although he takes a different approach to giving than did his dad, who, along with his widow, Joy McCann Culverhouse, was also a generous benefactor to UA, he learned about both the responsibility and the personal gratification from philanthropy by observing his dad.

He said he hopes the gifts he and Eliza have made will motivate others.“I’m trying to get other people to realize that having their names on a building and bringing in an endowed professor impacts the kids in a different way than does providing direct scholarship support.

“I know a lot of parents’ only options – especially after this recession – are student loans for their kids. We are doing this to help. It’s a good feeling. If you can’t give $50,000, lower it,” Culverhouse said. “Maybe you can give $500. There is nothing too small. Every dollar helps.”

Jennifer Park, a UA senior accounting major from Auburn and one of the Culverhouse Scholars, said the scholarship positively impacted her daily life.

“This year has been the most rewarding year possible, and I think it all started with Mr. and Mrs. Culverhouse’s generosity,” said Park of her senior year. “I had three (part-time) jobs, at the same time while I was a full-time student,” she said. “I went down to two jobs. I could definitely focus a lot more on school, which is so nice.”

Park said the scholarship also provided her with the gift of time, enabling her to pursue an optional internship experience during the spring 2014 semester in Warren Averett’s Birmingham office. Without the scholarship, she said she would have felt pressured to pack in enough credits to graduate the previous December, rather than obtain the experience made possible from the internship with the accounting, tax and advisory firm.

Randi Arrington, a native of Silas in Choctaw County, remembered when she received the phone call telling her of her scholarship selection following her application and interview.

“I was really excited … beyond words,” said Arrington, a senior double majoring in finance and accounting.  “When your name gets drawn out of 30,000 kids,” she said modestly, “it was a big shock. I am so thankful. It was such a big help.”

Hugh’s father, Hugh Culverhouse Sr., eventually became a wealthy man. Also an attorney, the elder Culverhouse became a real estate developer and business executive, owning an NFL franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, those were not the family’s circumstances when it came time for Junior to apply to colleges.

“He borrowed the money to send me to school,” Culverhouse recalled of his dad. “He made his wealth later in life. At that point, he was in private practice.”

The son earned his MBA from NYU in 1972, returning to the University of Florida, where he had earned his undergraduate degree, earning his law degree in 1974.

Today, Culverhouse is chief executive officer and owner of Palmer Ranch Holdings, a planned community encompassing some 10,000 acres in Sarasota County. He is also the principal in Culverhouse Limited Partnerships and invests in real estate, securities and hedge funds. He and his wife are known for their philanthropic efforts.

“Nothing has felt as good as this,” he said of helping The University of Alabama students.

“Any dollar you can give, you can have that same feeling,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a certain amount to generate the feeling. If you put a hundred bucks toward a scholarship, that’s $100 toward a kid who doesn’t have to take out a loan for that amount.”