Reflecting the essence of Florida Southern: The Sharon and Jim France Admissions Center

Sep 24, 2018

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor
Originally appeared in Southern News Magazine

Just three days before Christmas, the newest architectural gem on the Florida Southern campus, the stunning Sharon and Jim France Admissions Center, was dedicated.

The Center houses the College’s division of Enrollment  Management, providing a welcoming space for prospective students and their families. The 19,000-square-foot structure includes 28 offices for staff; a conference room; interview rooms; a presentation room featuring a semicircular digital projection system; and a spacious lobby with an expansive view of Lake Hollingsworth.

The building is named for motor sports executive Jim France ’68, chairman of the board and chief executive officer at NASCAR and chairman of the International Speedway Corporation, and his wife, Sharon.

At the dedication, FSC President Anne Kerr thanked Mr. and Mrs. France for their generous support of the College through the years.

“In the history of every private college and university, there are families that make a profound difference and set the course for the success of those institutions. We are blessed to have the France family, who have supported us and made a significant investment in the College and the students who study here,” she said.

President Kerr also called attention to the building’s dramatic design and said the College’s architectural legacy, including its collection of Frank Lloyd Wright structures, is articulated in a powerful new way in the France Admissions Center.

“Our architecture is reflective of the essence of Florida Southern, because we are in the business of making dreams come true. For a college, the dream begins in admissions,” she said.

Mr. France called the building “absolutely spectacular.” After noting the lobby is named for the late Frank Szabo ’52, the legendary dean of men at FSC for many years, France credited Dean Szabo for keeping him in school after he got into a bit of mischief.

“He made some phone calls,” he said, “and I stayed and went on to graduate. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

Designed by eminent architect and Frank Lloyd Wright scholar Jeffrey Baker, of the firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker of Albany, N.Y., the building shows Wright’s influence. Mr. Baker has been the lead architect for the College’s efforts to restore Wright’s historic structures on campus, including the Water Dome and the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.

John Grundig, vice president for enrollment management, joked that the Center was “my Christmas gift.”

“They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and I can assure you that every family that walks through this building is in awe,” he said. “The field of student recruitment is very tough. We’re competing against about 4,000 other colleges and universities in the United States. Having this facility gives us major advantages, distinguishing FSC in a profound way.”