The University Club of Orlando Past Presidents’ Round Table oral history event on March 15, 2016 honoring the Presidents of the University Club.
Listen as Orlando’s distinguished leaders share highlights from their years of service as University Club President and delight the audience with the stories, history, and traditions of an Orlando institution.
LISTEN Part I (18:43) (Text highlights from audio recording.)
Jay Ballard: As we go from the current facility to a new facility over the next two years we came up with this idea. I look here and I’m just really, really excited about everyone coming tonight. I’m just going to make a couple introductory comments. I’m going to introduce Ted Eidson who’s going to give us a little bit of a story about kind of where we are…. As we go into the new facility, we want to try to incorporate as much written history. We have file boxes of pictures and photos and membership applications. Jane shared with us a ten year anniversary from the 1936 function honoring the ten year history of the club. It’s just amazing to see that. So here we are tonight honoring our past presidents…. I’d like to introduce Ted Eidson who is known to most everybody here. Ted’s going to give us a little bit of a history about where we’ve been. He can only remember as far back as the Angebilt… But we’ll have him talk a little bit about where we’ve been and then a little bit about what we’re going to be doing going forward. And then I’m going to have him turn it over to Jane Tracy with the Library. Thanks very much.
Ted Eidson: Jay asked me to do this a couple weeks ago. He said, “I would like you to speak about 1958; about what was going on in the club and be brief.” I said, “Be brief, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast…” But anyway, we have a lot of past presidents here which speaks well for the club because they dedicated a lot of time to make this club what it is. But my brevity will be about the clubhouse and the Angebilt. It was on the tenth floor. You walked in there was a green room which was probably about the size of this room or a little larger. And to the right was the dining hall and the kitchen. And I remember about the dining hall we had a wonderful noontime deal that we all got involved with. Dad and I would walk up from the office on north Orange that we closed at noon on Saturday, and meet my brother who would walk over from Akerman, Senterfitt and Akerman and have oyster stew for lunch and a little bread pudding to top it off. It was a wonderful time.
On the west side of the room there were two doors, one on the southwest corner and one on the northwest corner. The southwest was the office that went up several steps to the office. And on the southwest corner it was the card room and that had a lot of activity back in those days. We had a lot of GI’s coming back to play cards. Then on the east side of the building was a balcony that housed the pool table and the balcony was open to the floor below that was terrazzo. And it was an old pool table and every now and then the pool table would let us jump the ball over the rail and it would go down below and we’d say, “Incoming Mail!” And everybody laughed! One day it went over the rail and hit a whole stack of bar room glasses. It sounded like an IUD going off. Next time it wasn’t quite so funny. They took it seriously.
At any rate, that was our facility. From there the membership was comprised of a lot of the senior officers of the banks, the major banks. We only had about three in town then, a total of three. We had a lot of senior partners of the law firms. We had some real estate people. We had business people like “Boss Wolfe”, his son, Claude Wolfe Jr., and his son in law, Leon Handley which I’m sure will correct me if I make a mistake about anything because he was there long before I was.
But I was in membership. They called the first meeting I attended, I had just joined the club, I sweated bullets to raise a hundred dollars for the stock, a hundred dollars for the initiation fee, and we sat down and they said, “The first order of business, we started The Wall Street Holding Company, and we want all you all to vote for it.” They wanted to start that and they said, “The assessment will be $250.00.” I’d already just paid $200.00 and I almost fell out of my chair, but it came about. And they said, “We’d like to have 250 members.” We had a hundred at the time. And somebody said, “Well, there’s no way. 50 members and an assessment of $250.00? We’ll have everybody quitting. It won’t happen. It will never happen. We’ll never get a new clubhouse.”
Well, as the meeting went on, and, I think, Carl Dann, Jr., Sandy’s dad, got up and he said, “I don’t know 250 people in Orlando that I like.” So that kind of set the tone and there were a lot of naysayers that said it was going to be a disaster to the club and what have you, but it happened. We built this club with the facilities we have today which was miles from what we had back then. I mean it was unbelievable.
I played poker a lot and my father in law, who was the second president of this club, came to my brother one day and said, “Do you think Ted should be playing with these older men who have a lot of money like Mayor Beardall and county commissioners and what have you?” He said, “Don’t worry about Ted he’s still got the first dollar he ever made.” So it worked out well. I played with Ricky Fletcher’s father for many years… we had a lot of good times.
The club became very successful. We didn’t have 250 members, in a few years we had 700 with a waiting list. And this is going to happen with what you all are deciding now to build this new club house. There’s going to be a city club that will satisfy the new metropolitan Orlando area as the place to be and to have fun with your fellow members. And we’re looking forward to it, so support it!
Jay Ballard: Ted is a treasure. Ted is always open to conversation. If you come to lunch or sit in the Peppermill he likes a good story. He still likes to play cards a little bit…. But I want to also recognize that this is a committee effort, so we have a really great committee at the club and also Petrea and Justin on our staff have helped with this whole process… But we’ve been down to First Presbyterian and looked at their Legacy Room. Troy Finnegan, our current president, who is now general counsel at Dr. Phillips, invited us down to see the new Dr. Phillips offices to look at what they’ve done and their preservation of all their history. So we have what will be, Ted, correct me if I’m wrong, this will be our sixth facility. Yes.
So we have three houses that are up here on the wall behind you all. Many of you all probably have connections or can remember some stories about those. And we went to the Angebilt and then we came over here so we’re hoping that we’ll have some good news here in the very near future about our new facility. We think that once the club closes we’re going to be in an interim facility for about 18 months to 22 months. And we’re going to rebuild a brand new facility on the ground floor of the high rise apartment property that’s going to be here on Central.
So with that what I’d like to do is I’d just like to thank all our presidents. When I look at the list of names here I’m pleasantly surprised I know quite a few of you all. But I want to really thank everybody that offered to come and did come… This club has always been about fraternity, the connections, the camaraderie. So with that what I’d like to do now is introduce Jane Tracy with the Orlando Public Library who’s been working tirelessly with our organization and doing the live interviews, oral histories of many of our members and will continue to work with us on that….
Jane Tracy: I’m Jane Tracy with the Orange County Library System and we are here at The University Club of Orlando speaking with The University Club Presidents about the contribution the club has made to our community. It is March 15, 2016. We will begin chronologically with Kim Barley. Would you please tell us your name, your term, and some of the highlights, please?
Charles McKim Barley: I’m Kim Barley and I had 1974. And I don’t even know why I’m here. (Laughter.) But, that time we were fully enrolled, we had a lot of nice people here and Tuesday nights was a big affair. We’d all kind of sit in chairs around and lie and then we’d lie some more. But it was the best camaraderie I ever remember in my life. And then we’d go in and eat dinner and try to find our way home… Anyways, those times were good times. The economy was decent. It was just fun! I look forward to Tuesday nights! What happened to them? I’d love to see that back where we all got together, we had a great time and we told the biggest lies you ever seen.
We were lucky when I had it in the fact that the roof was leaking and then the other roof was leaking and so we had to fix it all. But, I think, the best thing I was able to get done was we bought the lot next door. And everybody argued with me about the price, you know. And I said, “What difference is it going to make to this kind of an institution in ten years?” And so, they finally conceded that we buy it and I think it was a great accomplishment and I’m glad that we did. But it was the good times. Thank you.
Rick Fletcher: I am Rick Fletcher and my team, I had to look and see, in 1990. I suppose I should say to Ted, whose wife is my cousin, that I have the pool table. And my father, Dick Fletcher, bought the table. It was put up for a bid, sealed envelope. He bid a $100.00 and that table was made in 1898, called a Brunswick. Brunswick Balke-Collender Championship Table. It was with my dad. We grew up on Lake Fairview and it was in our garage where we played pool and then my dad moved it to Alba. And then a few years ago I bought it from my dad and it’s been at my house and my grandchildren today are playing on it. My dad when I was in the fifth and sixth grade at Princeton School took me to the Angebilt and I was there one day when the ball went over the railing and I’ve never forgotten that.
I suppose we have a lot of people to talk so I’ll keep it short. But during my term a couple of things happened. You know sometimes you miss it. There’s a real quick story about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. They’re camping out one night and as they’re lying there in the middle of the night, Sherlock Holmes elbows Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson says, “What is it?” He says, “Look up.” He says, “Okay.” “What do you see?” He says, “Well, I see stars.” He says, “Well, what else do you see?” He says, “Well, I see my smallness in the universe.” He says, “Well, what else do you see?” He says, “Well, I see Orion!” And he went to two or three and finally he got tired of the question and he says, “Sherlock, what is it you see?” He says, “I see somebody stole our tent.” (Laughter.)
So what I seemed to see and feel during my term was it was time for us to look at the makeup of our club. We had a lot of young members and a lot of them were telling me, “You know we don’t have any African American members; we need to invite some in…” So what I did is kind of an old methodology, I hired a focus group/consultant to come in and we sat down and with independent groups… but these focus groups came up with it. It turned out that 97% of the club was in favor of us having minority members. And while there wasn’t a lot out there asking to come in, it did open the doors for that. So that was an accomplishment that had to be carried on by both John Cox and Kaye Don for the next couple years to make that really happen.
The other thing was I was counsel for Mayor Frederick for the twelve years of his mayor ship and the city had a parking lot here and we had that lot over on the other side. But the city, I went to Bill and said, “We really like to have that to square this off. And then we’ll trade that lot over there off and we’ll have the whole rectangle.” And we were able to accomplish that during my term. And I’m really proud of that as well. It’s a good thing we had the other lot to trade off and now it’s got a city parking lot. That’s what they did, of course. I’ll leave it at that. Thank you. (Applause.)
Jay Ballard: I will say to answer your question about why you’re here; it is to honor the Past Presidents…
LISTEN Part II (21:00)
Jane Tracy: So we have Nancy Lewis who is speaking in honor of her husband, Kaye Don Lewis, who was President in 1992, is when his term began.
Nancy Lewis: First of all thank you for allowing me to come speak on behalf of my husband. They’ve all covered almost my whole spiel. I mean, I remember the Angebilt Hotel, Christmas parties there were wonderful. It was a really special place to go. And then, Kaye Don loved The University Club… as much as he loved Orlando, he loved The University Club. And so, as Rick said when he became president the club was having a little bit of a problem and he worked on it. He went to New York. He went to Texas to look at other clubs to see how they were handling it; their situation in opening doors so to speak. And it was the Gordon Bill that we had to adhere to… And anyway, Kaye Don said, “Things have to change…” And so, he really pushed for this. And it eventually came about. And it was a momentous occasion if you remember when the doors opened. And several people like Buz Ausley who’s here tonight supported him. Joe Stine did.
But he got a letter and I don’t know whether you all knew Bob Blackford? Wonderful, wonderful man. The doors were open and several friends, us, Buz and Joe, and several friends supported him. But a dear friend, Bob Blackford, wrote to Kay Don and said, and I’m sort of paraphrasing this. Kaye was the perfect person to bring about the new direction for the club. He was an Orlando native not someone who just moved here recently. As such the decision meant a great deal more. He closed by saying, “Thank you” and I do the same. (Applause.)
Paul Reich: Well, I joined the club in 1964 and was president following Kaye Don in 1993… Our annual meeting in December 2002 Kaye Don chaired and proposed that we open our door to women, blacks, etc… We took a vote and the vote carried that we would open our doors…. So I took over in 2003. We actually set about recruiting women, blacks, and Jews…. We offered Joe Kittinger an honorary membership after his balloon flight around the world and he accepted and he has been a good member ever since.
Jane Tracy: Wasn’t the foundation established as a 501(c) 3 during your period?
Paul Reich: The foundation had been established years before that actually.
Jane Tracy: But it became a 501(c) 3 during your time?
Richard McCree: Yeah, that’s right… I’m Richard McCree, I think, I’m 1994. I joined the club in 1973. And before that as a youngster I used to come down here with my dad who built this building. And an interesting story about that was in the process of building this, our superintendent, they had to have a big pour on the second floor and our superintendent was going through cleaning up at the end of the day and he noticed the columns were bowing. And he called my dad, my dad came back down here and we shored up the floor… And I will say this that the fix probably means that they’re twice as heavy as they need to be now. I would not want to be the person that tears down this building.
But in my presidency, I followed Paul and really started while he was still president in that he called me up, Pete McNear was our general manager, and he called me up and he said, “Richard,” I said, “Yes, Paul.” He said, “Pete’s resigned. You are now the general manager of the club.” And that’s true. And I was general manager, temporary general manager of the club for about six months. Very interesting time. And my presidency, I don’t really remember too much about. But I remember a lot about the day to day operations of the club. I would come down here everyday and spend a couple hours dealing with the staff…
But the things that I remember about when I was president was just the wonderful people here, the great times we had, the Tuesday nights.The pain in the rear end board meetings that we had that was terrible. Later on another thing that I remember was there was a fire in the club and I came down immediately after the fire and there was water everywhere from the Fire Department wetting everything down. And I told the insurance adjuster that we needed to completely replace the floor because it was going to buckle. It did buckle and we did get the insurance company to pay for that. And that’s all I remember. (Applause.)
Rufus Holloway: Rufus Holloway, I was president in 1995 and I was talking to Rick many years ago when we were talking about the new building, and he was reminding me that even back in the early late 80’s and early 90’s, the idea of becoming a newer club had already begun and people were very interested in it. Congratulations to the folks that are now putting this together because like Ted said, the future is before us and we’re hoping that this meeting will lead to more and more interest and more and more camaraderie and make the club more like it was… I’m going to relinquish the rest of my time by introducing somebody that is really The University Club. Not only is he The University Club, but he’s The City of Orlando. He’s a dear friend for many years. Arnold Howell moved eight years ago to North Carolina… he’s just moved back to Orlando and he lives now at Lutheran Towers. And at one point he taught the Dale Carnegie course. He is Dale Carnegie. And I would like very much to turn the microphone over to Arnold for a few comments and God bless you.
Arnold Howell: Thank you. Thank you very much. Dick and I just met last week and we’ve got many friends here and I appreciate the reception, but I don’t know why you want me to talk, Dick. I made a talk up at the little Methodist Church up in Waynesville, NC and when I got through a lady came down the aisle dragging this little boy. She said, “Oh, Mr. Howell I’m just filled with your message. Just filled with it.” I said, “Oh, that’s so nice.” And I said to her son, “What did you think of it?” He said, “I had a bellyful, too.” Thank you very much. I joined the club in 1958. I was a member for 50 years. I still got my plaque in my room over at the towers…
Paul Halyard: I’m Paul Halyard. I was president in 1996. I joined the club in 1972. And I really had a great, great experience here at The University Club as primarily I learned how to play handball here. Before I played handball on a three wall court up at the University of Florida and Bill Denson had invited me down here before I became a member to play handball. And boy I tell you, I’ve never seen an air conditioned, indoor four wall court. This was great! And so, we got a group of us we played three days a week. It was Bill Mateer and Ben Smathers, Bill Jones, Paul Halyard, Jesse Sparks once and a while, but we’d play three days a week. It was really, really great.
One thing I remember in the 70’s after I started Peninsula Engineering in 1977, Disney started reducing the amount of construction that they were doing with their in house people. And there was a vice president out there Stan Graves that happened to see in the Sunday paper where they were going to build a large high rise bank at Shine and Colonial and the man in charge was Ben Smathers. So Stan Garves called me up and I’ve been doing a lot of work over the years with the Contemporary, Polynesian, G E Theater, Pirates Space Mountain, so forth. I’d been doing a lot of work out there and doing very well. He said, “Paul, there’s somebody in town that I’d like to talk to about construction project.” He says, “Let me come over and buy you lunch.” I said, “We’ll go to The University Club.” “Fine.” We went to The University Club met with Stan. He told me about it. I said, “Well, who is it?” I said, “Well, it’s Ben Smathers.” I said, “No, problem.” He said, “But he’s with this bank out there. How would you ever get to meet him?” I said, “I play handball with him three days a week.” So that was no problem.
Talking about fires. I remember when I was president we had a reception line for the Christmas Party and as I walked inside The University Club I could smell something burning. I walked over to where the line was for the food and sure enough here was the ice carving and the big shrimp bowl and the candle. And the gentleman who owned the Ford dealership out there on 436 had bent over and his toupee caught on fire. And that’s what I smelled.
The thing that I’m really, really proud of is that I work with Richard and I work with Rufus and our new manager Miles, we just had a great relationship with him. And then to carry it on to the next generation, John Elsea also became President of The University Club. (Applause.)
Dick Adams: I’m Dick Adams and served in 1998. I actually was not elected. David Wilson and I tied 13 to 13. And we agreed that I could serve the first year and he would serve the second. And the board agreed, but neither one of us were actually elected. I joined The University Club in 1971. I came to Orlando in 1969. And it was one of the great experiences of my life. I met people that were lifelong friends and I just have to name a few: Ben Smathers, Bob Lilly, David Weeks, Lee Smith all of which are gone. Leon Handley still hanging on and Ted Eidson is one, too. But it was a great experience for me. A young man trying to get started with a law practice in town. It was a great help. I met people who were my friends forever. It was wonderful. My year was kind of tumultuous. We were remodeling the club that year. Although Dave did the hard work, he was the House Chairman.
We had a tremendous Christmas dinner that year. Everybody was gathered for drinks, dressed up and some had on tuxedoes. It was just wonderful until the laundry upstairs caught on fire and the fire department moved us all out in the street. And some of the ladies who were dressed up in their really special clothes were not happy standing out on Central Boulevard. But it all worked out. We gave free drinks to everybody.
One of the things that I remember back then, I don’t know how it works now, but after you served as president you were head of the Foundation. And Dick had been ahead of me and he had done a terrific job. My year we calculated for the first time we had donated over a million dollars to local colleges.
LISTEN Part III (21:47)
Dave Wilson: I’m Dave Wilson. I was president in the last year of the past one before we got there. And as Dick mentioned, both of us were involved in one of the last major renovations of this building. I guess it will be the last major renovation ever because it’s not going to be here any more.
One of the things that I’m happy about is when I was president we hired the very first female manager of any private club in Central Florida: Gina Jones. And I know most of you all remember Gina. She’s currently assistant manager at The Yacht Club over at New Symrna Beach and living on the beach.
Bill Frangus, you guys remember Bill? He was responsible for my becoming a member of this club in 1971… I met him through doing advertising for Florida Gas Company and he had a radio show.
Someday asked for a funny story. I remember one day University of Florida hired a new basketball coach. His name was Billy Donovan. I didn’t think much about it. And I came down here and we had a Tuesday night dinner and he was going to be a speaker. Well, somebody brings in, I didn’t know Billy Donovan or whatever his name is. Somebody brings in this little short guy over and says, “This is Billy Donovan from the University of Florida basketball.” And I said, “Billy, what position do you play?” (Laughter.)
Anyway, one of the things that I’m proud of that didn’t happen during my presidential term was I had the opportunity, I teach at the University of Florida’s campaign class, advertising campaigns. And we had the University of Florida, had The University Club as a campaign class – client for one semester about a year ago. And I was very pleased with that. Other than the fact that, that the greatest asset of this club is sitting here inside this club, I have nothing else to say. (Applause.)
Buz Ausley: My name’s Buz Ausley. My term was in the year 2000. I really had an easy term. We had some financial difficulties, Bob Stine and Andy Garcia helped me work through that. But I’d had an opportunity since 1972 as a member to get the tutorial from the excellent presidents ahead of me. I learned how to manage my time from Richard McCree working with him, how he managed, ran a company, and also was the manager of The University Club. Paul Halyard was a tremendous help to me. I thoroughly enjoyed being president because I had such great support.
The thing I remember most and this was as a member. When I joined in 1972, coming from a much less friendly environment, everyone was so gracious to me. There were very, very notable people here and I was not one of them and I was welcomed with just completely open arms and made to feel at home. And I realized that this was a very unusual organization. It’s not like many other organizations. And you all will all recall when you have guests out of town who are members of the city club somewhere they leave almost universally saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” It is a different organization.
Paul Halyard taught me a lot about handball, but Leon taught me more. He cheats. (Laughter.) You know all these memories come back. You know probably the one that is unforgettable is when Rufus Halloway, who plays handball, called me over to the side one day and he said, “Buz, you have got to come see this. I have been fed an unreturnable handball serve.” “Oh gosh, okay, let me see it. We may have to outlaw it.” So Rufus went on the court and I stood there beside him and he delivered one of the hardest hit serves I have ever seen and it hit him right between the eyes. So we have seen the unreturnable serve. (Laughter.)
Hardy Vaughn: Hi, my name is Hardy Vaughn and I was president of the Club in 2006. I joined the Club in 1974 and a couple of highlights just for me personally. I was a young kid in Orlando at that time. I was sponsored by Robby Robertson who was a partner of Dick Adamson at the time and Eddie Tripplett. And I remember I got in the club and I thought boy this is really amazing some of the folks who are members here. And what was really amazing was that I could come over and have lunch at the big table and I got to meet people like Arnold Howell. I met people like Paul Mears and I met other folks I couldn’t have possibly met had I not been a member at The University Club. And so, that really struck me.
Just to mention something that Buz just said about the hospitality. One thing I remember that really amazed me, I joined, I was kind of a new member. I was kind of getting acquainted with it. I get this call at my office and it was from Buz Ausley. And he said, “Hardy, I was wondering if we could have lunch one day?” And what it was, was he was reaching out to me as a new member at the club to invite me over to have lunch with him and we chatted and we’ve been friends ever since. And that was in probably maybe late ’74 or early ’75. And so, those are the kind of friendships that I’ve been able to make here. And there’s a lot of people I wouldn’t want to slight anybody. Ted, I’ve known this club for as long as I’ve been a member. Steve Forman and a number of folks here.
I want to give you a little background about what happened because the people who preceded me who are not here tonight, Terry Young and Gavin Watson who served two different years and Brian Phillips… What actually occurred and it was before I really got involved with being the president, we had entered into a deal for Tradition Towers… Well, the positives of it were that we got a million dollars. And those million dollars got our club totally out of debt and we had a surplus…. I’m going to turn it over to Joe and he can tell you the rest.
Joe Territo: This black eyed guy here is Joe Territo. I was the president in 2007 and I inherited the Tradition Towers project from my predecessors. First of all though, I’m a relatively new member, I joined in 2000… I got a call from Richard McCree, I own an electrical business and I’ve done work for Richard for some time, and I got a call from Richard McCree who told me I was joining The University Club. He would have a package delivered to me. It was all set, don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of the details. I’d been here a couple of other times… My accountant sent the check. I did whatever I had to do. And I have to say, it’s been one of the best things that ever happened. So I have to thank Richard for that. Joe Robertson’s my sponsor here. Everything was arranged. It was all done…
You know, where do you get to meet the Who’s Who of Florida other than at The University Club? I own an electrical business and I come to this club, like I said, I wasn’t a club guy… And I came down here and it’s kind of an intimidating sight. Kaye Don was there, Leon Handley, but at the end of the table was the most intimidating guy in the world, Cutis Stanton. I’m an electrical guy and I had no idea that that was Curtis Stanton. I mean that’s an icon. That’s my hero. Everybody leaves from lunch. I’m eating my lunch and he looked up over his glass, he said, “I don’t know you.” He said, “Curt Stanton.” I said, “Mr. Stanton, it’s good to meet you.” And we started to talk. It ends up that I’m in the same fraternity that Curt Stanton is in. We got to talk. I would never miss a lunch with Curt Stanton. It was, you know, how do you describe things like that? Everybody here has those stories. You look around here and the names of the people that you can list are tremendous.
During my time as a president, I just want to be on record as saying, “I inherited the money and when I left as president this club was making money.” Because I was negotiating a tumultuous contract extension that came up in the middle of my term… Steve Bozarth is our counsel. How can you go wrong with that? He negotiates the best deal. We were getting ungodly payments for this contract extension. A lot of turmoil, but at the time we all decided it was the best thing for the club…
But a couple of things I remember, the Tradition Towers, you know, there were people that loved it and people that hated it. One of the biggest complaints about the whole project was the ground floor accessibility our club now has is tremendous for all the members. And there was an argument about how difficult it was going to be… You know the ground element… I bring that up because our current president, Troy [Troy Finnegan] when they were talking about the new development comes up with a plan for a new club on the first floor. And George and your team put together a plan that has us instead of being on the top on the bottom. Simple thing, but what a genius that’s going to be. I congratulated him… I think our new venue, the new project is going to be terrific…. (Applause.)
LISTEN Part IV (20:31)
John Elsea: I’m John Elsea and I became president in 2008 and it’s not a joke. We were there at the annual meeting and all of a sudden Hardy says, “Well, you’re president, you’re vice president, and you’re chairman of the House Committee. I said, “Joe, I’m not doing it unless you do it.” So here we are all of a sudden… we were appointed.
But, my first night at the club, I’ll never forget, I had just come to work for Paul Halyard… Anyway, it was in May and he brought me here for the first time ever – and I’m a small town boy from Alabama – “Dipping’ Corn Night.” And I mean it was standing room only and he had a long table full of his friends and wives, it must been 30 people at that table. He said, “Sit here and have some chicken, corn, boy.” I couldn’t even eat I was so damned nervous. But everybody was just going at it. Paul Halyard brought me here for the first time in 1986, the year he hired me. And that was a fond memory. I have to thank Paul again for doing the same thing as Joe said. He said, “You’re joining the club and here’s the application.” All of the sponsors were past presidents: Buz Ausley, and Richard McCree, Paul Halyard… Anyway, we had a lot of fun…
One thing I’m really proud of, other than my personal relationship and friendship with some folks, I was able to convince Jennifer Kennedy to join The University Club. And I’ve known her for a long time, we have a working relationship, we have a great friendship and everything. I was able to invite her to the club and she got very active. She was very much involved in a lot of the Tradition Towers work, but also our temporary facilities. We had temporary facilities all designed… She was fully involved and immersed in that. Rose in the chairs very quickly due to her involvement and became the first female president of this club. And I’m very proud of my friend here. I’m also proud of my long time friend Karen Connors. She joined the club and is now on the board. So we’re trying to diversify the group. Bottom line is I really appreciate being part of this club and what a great place! (Applause!)
Greg McNeill: My name is Greg McNeill I joined in 2010. I joined in 1993 when I was 10 years old. I became president in 2010 because Steve Bozarth refused to do it when they asked him to do it so I was the next choice after Bozarth. But for me, it really became a situation where, where else was I going to meet guys like Becky Allen and Leon Handley and Claude Wolfe and some of the folks who have been old Orlando for a long, long time. I grew up in North Carolina, I came here in 1995, so I didn’t have any family here. I didn’t have any ties. To meet some of the folks that represent old Orlando and have been around for generations was a real thrill for me and I learned a whole lot from those guys….
When I was president starting with Dave Walker’s presidency in 2009 running through mine in 2010 and then into Jennifer’s in 2011, I got a glimpse of what I think this club can be; particularly when we get into a new facility. We signed up over a hundred new members during that time and it was a very diverse group. It was a lot of young people. A lot of folks who would never have previously thought of being a member of The University Club. I know we’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern the last couple of years, particularly as folks like Marc Levine and Troy Finnegan have guided us through this whole process with the developer. But to me, what we first got a glimpse of in 2009, 2010, 2011 and just the influx of new and diverse members suggested to me that what we have is a bright future. We just need a new place to house folks and, I think, we’ll get them. And, I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to the future and I appreciate you guys being here tonight. (Applause!)
David Walker: I’m going to talk a lot here, actually because I was president twice so I get to talk twice as long, right? I’m going to keep it short… I’m David Walker, president 2009 and 2012. When I thought about doing this I had a lot of stories I could tell. I wanted to tell the story about how I could have been the president who closed down The University Club… Jennifer and Greg were there, Don was there. It was a very tumultuous time. But, I’m not going to tell the story because we didn’t close the club down and we’re here today.
But, we’ve got a new thing coming up. We’ve got a new adventure if you will. We’re going to embark on a new place. We’re going to go dark here in a little bit and in 18 to 24 months there’s going to be a new place. But, when I took over, actually in chronology, I would be where Greg is now. John was the president. He got us basically, using a boat term, he got us off the rocks… John Elsea got us off the rocks, but we were riding low in the water and we didn’t have a whole lot of steam… and we were trying to get this thing right again. So I wrote a letter to The University Club and the responsibility that a member has to do this club. And I talk about being an owner of this club… This letter was written in 2009 and it hasn’t changed….
Let me relate a story told to me by our resident historian and longtime member Leon Handley. If I get any details wrong Leon will correct me, but as Leon would say, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Leon told me about one of our longtime members, Dr. Trumbo, who has since gone to his reward. It seems that the good doctor’s wife had suffered a stroke and required constant care and support for the rest of her life which Dr. Trumbo unfailingly provided. For years, he not only had to attend his hospital rounds, long office hours, patient consultations, and raising his own family, but the constant care of his wife was always on his mind. The one place he found refuge from all this was The University Club. In fact, he told Leon how important the time he spent at the club had become to him. How it was the one place he could take a break and relax. How it had actually become his living room.
That statement got me to thinking, for each and every member of The University Club there’s something that they find very special and personally satisfying, something they hold on to as part of the club. For me it’s always been the work out area and the bar, of course. For others, it’s definitely the bar or maybe the racquetball / handball courts. Some may prefer the dining room, the back patio, or cards or snooker. I hope all of us feel the camaraderie that comes with being a University Club member. The point is, for each of us there’s something or some things that make this our club. Something that we take ownership of. Ownership. That’s right, ownership. As a member of The University Club, we are all owners of the club and as owners we are all responsible for its success. Its future growth… That was the preface to my letter. Big deal. But as we go into this new thing, remember we’re owners of this club. It’s up to us to make this thing successful. That’s all I have to say. (Applause!)
Jennifer Kennedy: I joined in 2005. I’d like to say thank you to Paul Halyard and the lineage of you invited John [Elsea]; John invited me. But I want to say this is not a foregone conclusion. I sweated my posting. It is not like I had everybody signed up for me. Now I didn’t know that they really wanted members or needed members. So, anyway, thank you.
This is no particular order, but Arnie Howell, thank you so much for being here tonight. I met you at the House Committee the second year I was a member on House Committee and you were so nice to me. And you were actually, I just found out you joined the year I was born. I also wanted to say thank you to Paul Reich. Despite the tumultuous times, you’re the courageous. And also to Mr. Kaye Don Lewis who I knew briefly before his demise. Your courageous actions opened the door for the future of this beloved club…
A favorite moment, for those of you who were around in 2009 I happen to be pregnant with my third child. And low and behold, at a board meeting there was a big presentation, and oh, this has never happened before in the history of the club, we’re presenting an award to the first board member to ever give birth… (Laughter.) There was some stock given to being the first woman president and I didn’t look at it that way. Although I appreciate the diversity the club had begun to undertake, to me, it was just a continuation of the service and dedicated efforts everyone at this table had done previously. (Applause!)
David McCleod: My name is David McCleod and I was president in 2014, not that long ago. I want to start by also recognizing Nancy Lewis. Nancy, I think it’s great that you represented Kaye Don’s legacy in this club. He was a great president. You’ve been here for annual meetings.
When I joined in 1985, I was a young executive at Sun Bank before it was Sun Trust. And when my name got called it was the greatest honor I could have had at the time I think. Sun Bank members at the time were the Billy Dial’s and the Don Senterfitt’s and when you got your name called it was really quite an honor. I wish we had more of those big banks that were represented now and I hope we will in the future. We’ll work on that.
My grandfather, Dr. Charles Collins, was a founding member of this club in 1926, so I’m proud to be part of his legacy. I have other family members, my wife, the Beardalls have other family members that have been very involved here as well. So this club means a lot to me and I think we’re on the right track on where we’re going.
As far as memories of my time here, for some reason one of my fondest memories is the Snuffy Smith Poker Tournament. Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about, but back in the day we had a poker tournament, a Snuffy Smith Poker Tournament. We had a prize, we had a trophy as big as a young child. It was sponsored by Champ Williams as I recall and we had great food. We played round robin poker. How many you guys remember the Snuffy Smith Poker Tournament? It is one of my random fond memories that we had back then.
During the term of my presidency, I think, the things that were most memorable for me were we did engage The University of Florida marketing students with Dave Wilson’s help. We had some great programs that were developed by the marketing students. We were a case study for the marketing students. We got six case studies that are in the office back there that we’ll utilize as we open the new club. It was a really great experience. And Dave, I thank you for helping me put that together.
I was the guy that signed the contract to sell this facility. We’ll see how that works out. I think it worked out well. And then finally I’m the guy responsible for closing The Nap Room. So we’re going onward and forward. Thank you guys for being here. (Applause!)
Marc Levine: I’m Marc Levine, I was the president up until three months ago. I’m also the only one standing between you and dinner, so I apologize. I will be brief. I joined in 2009. Like Greg I didn’t grow up in Orlando, I grew up in Virginia. And so, I moved to Orlando in ’06 to join the law firm GrayRobinson. Fred Lambhart recruited me to join the club in 2009. It’s been a privilege to be a member here. It was a privilege to be president here last year and to serve with the people to my right. Joining this club as Greg and others have said has kind of exposed me to people I wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to. I’ve heard a lot of stories about old Orlando. Probably half of them are true. I’ll pretend 100% of them are true to humor Leon and Sandy Dann and some others. (Laughter.) But this is a great club. I’m proud of what happened last year when I was president to keep the ball rolling that David and so many others had started before us. And Troy’s continuing. The future of this club is bright. We have a great new facility waiting for us in a few years and I look forward to being there.
Jay Ballard: I’d just like to take this time to thank everybody. I know we ran a little longer than probably expected. This is an inaugural event so we worked out a lot of kinks. But I just wanted to thank all of our past presidents for all their contributions to the club, to the survival of the club. Everybody had an instrumental part. So everybody join me in a warm, warm round of applause!