The Public Ethics Academy at FAU just received some major news, to the tune of a nearly $500,000 endowment from the former Collins Center for Public Policy in Miami. FAU was invited to make a formal proposal of how it would apply the disbursed funds, along with three other Florida entities – which included the Florida Humanities Council, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College. Ultimately, the Collins Center Board unanimously awarded their generous financial gift to FAU to name the LeRoy Collins Public Ethics Academy, in honor of former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, who governed from 1955 to 1960.
“Our objective was very clear: to preserve the legacy of Governor Collins, who was really a man ahead of his time and a shining example of ethics, integrity, and courage,” said Merrett Stierheim, former Collins Center board chairman. “Each proposing organization made a very genuine and sincere effort to respond to the criteria that we set forth, but at the end of the day, the vote was unanimously in favor of FAU because of the quality of their submission.”
Applying the Funds
In addition to naming the Public Ethics Academy, which lives within the College for Design and Social Inquiry under the School of Public Administration, the annual interest from the endowment corpus will be used to fund student scholarships, awarded as a result of essay submissions that cover the life and leadership of Governor Collins.
“The student essays will be permanent representatives of what the Governor stood for and believed in; but more importantly, that kind of [scholarly] competition will expose a lot of young people to his work,” said Joe Oglesby, Collins Center board member. “The research that they do will illuminate his achievements in a very special way that will be around for generations after generations.”
Remembering Governor Collins
Oglesby recalls being a young boy in the 1950s and hearing his mother, aunt, and uncle discussing Governor Collins. While he was too young to understand the specifics of their conversation, he remembers that their tone was always hopeful when referring to the Governor, who was the first leader of a Southern state to voice support for de-segregation and civil rights.
“As I grew older, I learned more about the Governor and what he actually did, and it was so special and separate from the main thought of the day,” Oglesby said. “He was a very courageous man, and he went out on the plank for his beliefs. We would be fortunate if others would adopt that frame of mind and just say ‘I’m going to do what’s best for the state and the nation, and to hell with political labels’. When you compare that kind of integrity with what we see too often today where it’s all about self and ideology, you can appreciate how special he was.”
A lifetime public servant himself, Stierheim says that associating the Collins name with ethical values carries special meaning, and that the student essays will only perpetuate his great name and establish a living legacy – all under the guidance of the Academy’s Director and Palm Beach County Ethics Commissioner, Peter Cruise.
“It was my grandfather’s steadfast conviction with respect for others and a moral courage guided by the truth and by his conscience that helped define his leadership,” said LeRoy Collins III, Governor Collins’s grandson and Collins Center board member.
“He once said, ‘Government cannot live by taxes alone, or by jobs alone, or even by roads alone… Government must have qualities of the spirit. Without these qualities, there is no worthwhile leadership, and we grapple and grope in a moral wilderness.’ That is never more appropriate than today, and can only be accomplished by supporting, inspiring, and training our youth. FAU is a worthy partner for that endeavor, and I’m excited for all they will accomplish,” Collins said.
All voting members of the Collins board are confident that Cruise and his team have built a plan that will work well into the future. Stierheim, Oglesby, and Collins will serve as Advisory Board members for the academy, beginning in Fall 2018.
“My grandfather was very focused on training future leaders with a strength of character,” Collins said. “Doing what was right was more important than doing what was popular. We need leaders with a vision and sense of purpose to tackle the problems we, as Floridians, face in today’s modern world. He would be pleased that his legacy is being perpetuated at FAU.”
The Academy is honored to have also received a $10,000 donation from The Eric Friedheim Foundation and a $50,000 pledge from an anonymous donor.
“Long after I am gone, the LeRoy Collins Public Ethics Academy will still be going strong, and Governor Collins would be very pleased,” Stierheim said. “It’s a beautiful legacy to have – honesty, integrity, and ethical conduct. You couldn’t ask for more.”