Nathan M. Bisk (1940–2017) worked in finance, became an attorney and pioneered distance learning to help struggling students—from cassette tapes to online education. Bisk Education grew into the leading online program management company in the country. Nathan served on the board of trustees at Florida Tech, as well as on the board of overseers of Florida Tech’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business, which was named in his honor, and was significantly involved in several philanthropic organizations around Florida. The Bisk family has contributed over $7 million to Florida Tech since 2006.
Charles and Ruth Clemente Voyager
Charles and Ruth Clemente
Charles Clemente (1935–2021) was formerly the CEO of America Online (AOL). After retiring, Charles became a consultant to many Fortune 100 companies and several leading international corporations, and he served on the board of trustees for Florida Tech, gifting the university $5 million in total. The Charles and Ruth Clemente Center for Sports and Recreation, also known as the Clemente Center, was opened in 2001.
Community Foundation for Brevard Voyager
Community Foundation for Brevard
The Community Foundation for Brevard was established in 1981. It has provided significant help in the areas of the arts and culture, health, education, animal welfare, community and social services and the environment—including over $6 million to Florida Tech since 1981, both directly and through donor funds, such as the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund, based at the Community Foundation. These include several medical research grants to find the cause of—and a cure for—Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other pervasive diseases.
In June 1997, the F.W. Olin Foundation announced its decision to award Florida Tech a $50 million grant, describing Florida Tech as a “diamond in the rough” and “a center of academic excellence.” It was the largest gift the foundation had ever bestowed. Florida Tech’s missions and goals align so well with the foundation’s that partnership makes sense. As a result of this incredibly generous grant, the justly renowned F.W. Olin Engineering Complex and F.W. Olin Life Sciences Building were opened in 1999, and the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Center was opened in 2005.
Gordon L. Nelson Voyager
Gordon L. Nelson
Gordon L. Nelson is a chemistry professor and longtime dean at Florida Tech. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Yale University. Gordon’s background is in physical organic chemistry, and much of his research (he has over 200 publications) has been in the flammability of polymers, particularly engineering plastics. As a result of his extensive experience, Gordon has participated extensively in the creation of standards for fire safety. In 2015, he was elected a fellow of the American Chemical Society. In 2021, Gordon pledged $5.1 million—the largest individual donation to Florida Tech in its history—to support the university’s strategic investment in biomedical and health research and education. Most of his gift will establish an endowment to sustain innovative research conducted in the building and to ensure that it remains at the forefront among facilities of its kind at top universities in the country.
Jerry Keuper Voyager
Honorary Voyager. While the direct financial contributions of Jerome “Jerry” Keuper (1921–2002) made to Florida Tech are significant, it is his lasting impact that makes him worthy of inclusion as an honorary Voyager member of the Ad Astra Society. Jerry was the founder and first president of Florida Tech, which was then known as Brevard Engineering College. Under Jerry’s guidance, Florida Tech grew from 225 students in 1958 to more than 7,500 in 1983, and his spirit is in every part of the Florida Tech campus. His vision, his drive to succeed and his unparalleled optimism made Florida Tech possible. The Jerome P. Keuper Administration Building is named in his honor.
John (Jack) Hartley Voyager
John (Jack) Hartley
John Thomas “Jack” Hartley (1930–2018) was chairperson and CEO of Harris Corp., today L3Harris Technologies Inc., until his retirement in 1995. He continued to be part of the Harris board of directors until 2002. Jack received an honorary Ph.D. from Florida Tech in 1994, was named to the Florida Tech board of trustees and worked relentlessly to make Florida Tech one of the nation’s outstanding private universities. Jack contributed nearly $10 million to Florida Tech. His generosity was responsible for the John and Martha Hartley Room in the student union building; Hartley Hall, a residential facility; and the John Thomas and Martha Hartley Scholarship, which continues to benefit students at Florida Tech.
Julius Montgomery Voyager
Honorary Voyager. Before the Civil Rights Act made equal employment opportunity the law, Julius Montgomery (1926–2020) was making history in 1956 as the first Black professional in the U.S. space program. It seems only natural that he would go on to integrate Florida Tech just a few years later. The school, still in its early days as Brevard Engineering College, rented classrooms from the Brevard County School District. When officials learned that an African American was enrolled, they issued an ultimatum: if African American students were allowed to attend classes, the school could no longer use the classrooms. Julius agreed to withdraw to keep the fledgling university functioning for the other students, and once the school found a permanent home, Julius was welcomed with great joy. He later became the first Black city council member of Melbourne, Florida. Florida Tech acknowledged the profound sacrifice that Julius made by awarding him an honorary doctorate before his death in 2020, and the Alumni Association presents the annual Julius Montgomery Pioneer Award to a deserving candidate.
L3 Harris Corporation Voyager
L3 Harris Corporation
L3Harris Technologies Inc. has its roots in both the entrepreneurial spirit of the Industrial Revolution and the earliest days of the space program. L3Harris’ heritage is drawn from two companies—one with a proud history of more than a century of technology and communications leadership (Harris Corp.), the other a younger company (L3 Technologies) composed of some of the most successful aerospace and defense contractors in history—and is one of Florida Tech’s most treasured partners. Their generosity has built the L3Harris Commons, the L3Harris Student Design Center and the L3Harris Center for Science and Engineering, as well as L3Harris Village student housing.
Phillip W. Farmer (1938–2018) was chair, president and CEO of Harris Corp., now L3Harris Technologies Inc., from 1995 to 2003. In 1994, he joined the board of trustees at Florida Tech, where a residence hall (Farmer Hall) was built and named in his honor. Additionally, he funded a $1.5 million endowment to create the Farmer Scholars Program, which awards a full, four-year scholarship annually to a Florida resident who demonstrates outstanding academic performance and personal character. Over his lifetime, Phillip contributed over $12 million to Florida Tech.
Rob L. Phebus, Jr. and Deborah Phebus Voyager
Rob L. Phebus, Jr. and Deborah Phebus
Robert L. Phebus Jr. graduated from Florida Tech in 1974, going on to become Ford Motor Co.’s financial director in Venezuela, Brazil and Taiwan and CFO of Ford Motors in South Africa. He chairs the Florida Tech board of trustees, and was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award, in 2013. Rob and Deborah established the Phebus Family Endowed Scholarship Fund to support students based on outstanding academic achievements and service to the community through involvement with campus life and student activities. In 2015 the Phebuses committed $5 million to Florida Tech, the largest individual donation to date in the university’s history. With the F.W. Olin Foundation matching gifts to Florida Tech, and thanks to the matching gift programs at both Ford and American Express, where Deborah worked, they realized that their gift could effectively triple in value.