Eckerd College is a private four-year coeducational liberal arts college at the southernmost tip of St. Petersburg, Florida, in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Eckerd College has a suburban 188-acre (0.76 km2) campus on Frenchman's Creek and Boca Ciega Bay, about 3 miles (4.8 km) from Gulf of Mexico beaches. The campus is near, but separate from, residential and commercial neighborhoods of St. Petersburg. The college is committed to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable campus, supported by such initiatives as its Yellow Bike program.
The college has several architectural styles, but a common feature is the use of glass and external views to emphasize a connection with the environment. Recent campus additions include the Peter H. Armacost Library, Iota residential housing complex, sports facilities, a renovated student center and the renovated Miller Auditorium. Other campus buildings include those designed and used for classrooms, laboratories, offices, conferences, theatrical productions, musical instruction, art exhibits, athletic events, and student services. The just-finished Iota housing complex was constructed to be ecologically friendly. The James Center For Molecular and Life Sciences, a 51,000-square-foot (4,700 m2), US$25 million laboratory facility, opened in February 2013. In Summer 2015, the college was to break ground on a $15 million arts building, bringing together visual and digital arts disciplines currently found across several buildings. The construction of the Sailing Cove is underway on the Western end of the campus beach. Both projects incorporate green initiatives and feature natural landscaping to accent the facilities.
Eckerd College awards both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. While known for programs in Marine Science, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, International Business, and Creative Writing, among other subjects, Eckerd offers majors covering the entire spectrum of the liberal arts. Degree programs in 39 fields are available, along with opportunities for student-designed majors.
From its founding, the college has encouraged responsible innovation in all of its academic programs. For example, Eckerd College originated the 4-1-4 academic calendar, with the "1" representing the Winter Term during the month of January, in which each student concentrates on a single class. Before graduation, students in nearly all majors are required to either pass a senior-year comprehensive examination or to complete a senior thesis project. All students must complete a senior seminar course in their final year.
Since Eckerd faculty are encouraged to be, and many are, active scholars, numerous undergraduate research opportunities are available to students. One such long-running research effort is D.A.R.W.I.N., a computer science project (partnered closely with marine science) to automate dolphin dorsal fin recognition. Another is the Eckerd College Dolphin Project, the longest running undergraduate-centered dolphin research program in the world. A United States Geological Survey center in St. Petersburg provides further research opportunities.
Eckerd College graduates have received prestigious awards for advanced study through the Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall, NOAA Hollings, Fulbright, Rotary, and National Science Foundation programs. Eckerd students have won more NOAA Hollings Scholarships than students at any other school (66 recipients as of 2016). Phi Beta Kappa (Eckerd is one of the youngest colleges in the country to be awarded a chapter) and Sigma Xi are among the nationally recognized academic societies at Eckerd College. Eckerd's Ethics Bowl teams have consistently captured awards in intercollegiate competition, winning the competition for seven straight years (2004-2011).
Supporting the academic program is the Peter H. Armacost library, a $15 million state-of-the-art facility opened in January 2005. The 55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2) two-story library is conveniently located near the college's student center and dormitories. It houses book and periodical collections and features seating for about 400, including seventeen group-study rooms and fifty-eight computer stations. Both high-speed cable and wireless connectivity are available throughout the library.
Opportunities for study-abroad are available at Eckerd College, with students having traveled to all seven continents for academic work. For over 30 years the college has maintained the Eckerd College Study Centre on London's Gower Street. Eckerd hosts a significant international student population in its traditional program, and short-term English-immersion courses are held in a dedicated on-campus facility.
Since 1980, Eckerd College has also been the home of the Leadership Development Institute that provides managers and executives with the time, tools, and setting needed to explore and strengthen their leadership skills.
Eckerd College is also one of only forty liberal arts schools profiled in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives, and was ranked #127 of 180 among all national liberal arts colleges in the United States by US News and World Report. Eckerd was also named one of thirteen "Institutions of Excellence in The First College Year" by the Policy Center on the First Year of College.
Eckerd College is a member of the Sunshine State Conference (NCAA Division II) fielding 13 athletic teams in coed and women's sailing, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, baseball, volleyball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's tennis, and softball. The Eckerd varsity sailing team competes nationally as a member of the SAISA (the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association) and is a member of the ICSA (Intercollegiate Sailing Association). The college's basketball and volleyball teams play in the McArthur Physical Education Center's gymnasium. A swimming pool, adjacent to the gymnasium, is open to all students. Eckerd's mascot is the Triton, and the school's colors, teal, navy and black were adopted by the athletic programs in 2005; previously the school's colors had been black, red, and white.
In 2006, for the first time in the 24-year history of the Eckerd College Women's Volleyball program, the Tritons qualified for the NCAA South Region tournament.
In addition to Division II teams, Eckerd students also participate in club sports such as rugby union, lacrosse, and field hockey. The Eckerd College Men's Lacrosse Team finished the 2006 season ranked #3 in the National Collegiate Club Lacrosse Poll, with a 13-1 record. Since its founding in 2003 the team has captured two state championships, a regional championship, and a third-place national finish. In 2000, the Eckerd's Men's club Volleyball Team won the NIRSA Division II Sports Club Volleyball Championships in Reno, Nevada.
Eckerd College maintains a regular series of on-campus events for the benefit and enjoyment of campus and community. The music, theatre, and art programs are active in staging concerts, dramatic productions, and artistic shows, respectively, throughout the academic year. On-campus speakers have included the late nobel laureate in economics, Milton Friedman, the late Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, Jimmy Carter, Michael Collins, Anderson Cooper, Jared Diamond, Gerald Ford, Stephen Jay Gould, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Stephen King, Henry Kissinger, Richard Leakey, Dennis Lehane, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, William Proxmire, Paul Rusesabagina, Helmut Schmidt, Peter Singer, James Van Allen, Elie Wiesel, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
A total of 114 different clubs and organized activities are available for Eckerd College students (2014-2015 academic year), funded and authorized by Eckerd's student government, the Eckerd College Organization of Students (ECOS). ECOS has an operating budget of more than a half-million dollars that it distributes to student-run clubs and organizations. Among these clubs and organizations are Eckerd's student newspaper, "The Current," which can be found online at theonlinecurrent.com, a radio station (WECX), a student programming board, Palmetto Productions, sports clubs, cultural clubs, and various academic-related clubs, such as those for anthropology, art, biology, chemistry, philosophy, law, and foreign languages.
Among the service clubs are campus chapters of Amnesty International, Circle K, and Habitat for Humanity. Eckerd College also hosts the EC Coalition for Community Justice, a group seeking to raise campus housekeepers' wages.
Eckerd's Waterfront Program is a center of watersport activities, such as sailing team, skiing, kayaking, and fishing. An award-winning student group, Eckerd College Search and Rescue (EC-SAR), assists the U.S. Coast Guard in rescue operations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
In 2008, Eckerd was ranked as #7 on a list of "Top 20 Wired Colleges", according to the Princeton Review and PC Magazine. In 2006, Eckerd was ranked #18. The 2008 and 2006 rankings are to be contrasted with Eckerd's performance in 2003, when it made it no further than #350.
About 80% of Eckerd students live in on-campus residence halls that are either co-educational or all-female; there are no all-male dorms. Eckerd College has eleven residence hall complexes, each with a name from the Greek alphabet. Among these, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Kappa, and Iota complexes offer traditional dorm-style housing. Omega and Nu complexes house upperclassmen, and are organized around suites on each floor. An on-campus hotel facility was recently converted for student use, and is now called Sigma complex. The newest dorm complex, Iota, opened on September 30, 2006.
Since 1973, Eckerd College has set aside four pet-friendly housing for students wishing to bring small animals to campus. Every spring, a separate graduation ceremony is held for outgoing pets, complete with "diplomas" presented by the president. Other special housing includes a "Health and Wellness House" and "Community Service" house and an "Environmental House". Smoking is not permitted inside Eckerd College residence halls.
Eckerd was founded as Florida Presbyterian College after World War II as part of national growth in post-secondary education driven by returning GIs entering college and the anticipated baby boom of children. The United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church (US) worked together to start the college, receiving a charter from the Florida legislature in 1958 and opening in 1960. In 1971, Jack Eckerd donated $12.5 million to the college, the largest single gift it had received to that date. The following year the institution's name was changed to Eckerd College to recognize Mr. Eckerd's support. A covenant relationship is still maintained with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The past presidents of the college are William Kadel (1958–1968), Billy Wireman (1968–1977), Jack Eckerd (1977, Interim President), Peter Armacost (1977–2000), and Eugene Hotchkiss (2000–2001, Interim President). Dr. Donald R. Eastman III has served as president since July 1, 2001.
In the 1980s, during the tenure of President Armacost, the college embarked on an extensive development program for land owned adjacent to its main campus. This development included the construction of waterfront homes and a retirement center. Financial irregularities related to these projects were discovered by the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2000, resulting in President Armacost's retirement, the loss of a significant fraction of Eckerd's endowment, and, eventually, loss of the partially developed land adjacent to the campus. The Board of Trustees pledged to bring the endowment back to its original level and, according to the college's website, has done so.
In May, 2006, Miles Collier, the Chairman of Eckerd's Board of Trustees, and his wife, Parker Collier, announced a $25-million challenge gift to the college. The "Collier Challenge" will be a dollar-for-dollar match to donations of $25,000 and higher. In November, 2008, alumnus Grover Wrenn, a member of the founding class in 1960, gave the college a $1-million gift, the largest from an alumnus. Mr. Wrenn's gift will rise to $2-million when matched with the Collier Challenge. Also in November, 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Collier added $15-million to their earlier donation.