SUMPthing: The Story of The Sump

Oct 6, 2019

by Bob Black, ‘51
Adjunct Communication Professor and member of the National Alumni Board of Directors

Outside some of the buildings—led by Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, of course—The Sump is the oldest consistent memory of everyone who attended Florida Southern during the past 71 years, with plans for the site going as far back as the early 1940s.

A few years back, FSC’s esteemed Shari Szabo ‘83 (daughter of the even more esteemed Dean Frank Szabo ‘53, and now a Florida Southern Dean in her own right) was Florida Southern’s Director of Alumni Relations after serving as the College’s Public Relations Director.

Shari started an email called “Southern SUMPthing” as a way of communicating College news and other items of interest with alumni. It was a fun read. When she transferred to Student Development (does anyone see a connection with Frank here?), the alumni office asked me to pick up the thread and I wrote it for a while—until I retired and moved away from Lakeland.

Now I’ve unretired and returned to FSC, this time to teach sports journalism in the Communications Department. And, lo and behold, I have been recruited again to write the SUMPthing—now in the form of a blog. Thus, after a lifetime of newspapers, magazines and running a public relations agency, as well as a few college teaching stints, I’m back in the harness and pleased to be here.

But first, The Sump.

Outside of some of the buildings—led by Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, of course—The Sump is the oldest consistent memory of everyone who attended Florida Southern during the past 71 years.

Casting about in a book called A Child of the Sun, Lawrence Kinsley’s ever-so-detailed history of Frank Lloyd Wright’s West Campus Project, one finds reference to plans for the site of The Sump going as far back as the early 1940s. In conversations between Wright and Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, long-time president of Florida Southern College and the visionary who brought Wright to campus, their shared dream called for a semi-circular amphitheater around a swimming pool which would allow the student body to watch water skiing and other aquatic sports. Florida Southern had an eight-man crew team in those days and it was more than a little successful in intercollegiate racing around the country. (I remember trying out for cox on the crew but didn't have the rhythm needed to get the rear seat and maintain the important role of setting the timing for the oarsmen!)

Tara's '01 senior photo.
Photo by Yatin Chachad

For those of us at FSC in the late 40s and early 60s, times were good.

The economy was booming, particularly the college economy, with all those World War II veterans on the GI Bill of Rights, Dr. Spivey had the funds available for Wright to finish the waterfront plans. Spivey hired dredges and soon an open half-moon of sand extending out into Lake Hollingsworth appeared. It was like going to the beach without driving 50-60 miles. Cars parked on the grass or on the sand spits in the evenings for a romantic view of lakeside sunsets and moon rises.

However, in August of 1950, construction came to a sudden halt as it was determined that the State of Florida owned all the lake bottoms. In the years that followed, Florida's natural habitat took over. The City of Lakeland built some boardwalks and bridges in the area built out into the water, and to this day maintains them while Florida Southern maintains the land side. Somewhere in The Sump history, a huge navy anchor chain was purchased or gifted to the College and the recreational area became known, for a time, as Anchor Park. (If anyone knows how it came to be and from whom, that would be another great story to tell.)

The story of Shari Szabo and Frank Szabo and their contributions to student life at FSC is one of the highlights of Florida Southern College that spans 70 years in total (if you include Frank's college years when he drove the athletic team bus). To tell that story in full, we’d love for you, our alumni, to contribute some of your own Frank Szabo anecdotes, anonymity will of course be respected when requested. So send your stories, your tales, your midnight rescues to

Bob Black graduated from Florida Southern College in 1951 with a degree in Journalism and went on to earn his master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His career has included work as a reporter, freelance writer, radio announcer, public relations director, and adjunct professor in FSC’s Communications Department. Bob is a founding member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Florida Southern, a recipient of the 2006 Communication Department Alumnus of the Year Award, the 2009 Service to Florida Southern College Alumni Award, and the 2017 Department of Communication Hall of Fame Alumni Award. Now, 68 years following his graduation from FSC, Bob has returned to the College as an adjunct professor and currently serves on the National Alumni Board of Directors.