With his recent $75 million pledge, Al Warrington’s philanthropy to the Warrington College of Business Administration has exceeded more than $100 million. His loyalty and dedication, however, are priceless.
It takes a love so profound of one’s alma mater to make a commitment so extraordinary. For almost half a century, Warrington’s generosity has strengthened and transformed the College that bears his name into one of the nation’s elite public business schools.
Warrington has dedicated his life to paying it forward. Let us take a moment to look back. To honor the humble beginnings, the inspiring determination, the hunger for success and the kindness of heart that makes Alfred C. Warrington, IV a Gator, Always.
Born in 1935 in Upper Darby, Penn., Warrington was instilled with a determined work ethic from a young age. At age 8, he was delivering editions of The Philadelphia Bulletin, and eventually became the Bulletin’s District Manager. That work ethic became invaluable when Warrington enrolled at the University of Florida…because he had little else. When Warrington decided to major in business—shunning vocations his father admired like medicine and dentistry—Warrington’s father refused to pay his tuition. So Warrington survived on his own. He relied on loans from UF, friends and students, and worked odd jobs to make ends meet. The worst of these odd jobs: Cleaning fraternity bathrooms.
Warrington did not let his early financial struggles affect his affinity for UF. He fell in love with the school. He flourished academically and immersed himself in the UF culture. He became Treasurer of Chi Phi—which had a huge impact on his life—and became a member of Beta Alpha Psi and Delta Sigma Pi, both professional organizations for business students. Warrington graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Accounting in 1958, and joined the Marine Corps where he successfully completed the 23rd Officer Candidate Course. A knee injury, however, kept Warrington from a longer stint in the Marines. He served six months in the Marine Reserves before embarking on what would become a memorable business career.
Warrington’s impressive ascent to business success began when he joined Arthur Andersen & Co., one of the nation’s largest accounting firms. He served in leadership roles for Arthur Andersen in Atlanta, Miami and Houston before retiring in 1990 after more than 30 years of exemplary service. Instead of slowing down after retirement, Warrington’s entrepreneurial spirit intensified. He became the founding Chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer of Sanifill, Inc., a Houston-based waste management company, which has since merged with USA Waste, Inc., to become the third-largest waste management company in the world. In addition, he founded the Atlanta-based House of Cheatham, Inc., a health and beauty aids venture, Houston Plating and Coatings, an oilfield service company, and Gulf Coast Mechanical in Tyler, Texas, which specializes in coating coils for air conditioners and generators.
Warrington was a driving force behind the founding of the UF School of Accounting (later to be known as the Fisher School of Accounting), one of the nation’s few free-standing accounting schools. The accounting profession was emerging in the 1970s, and the industry made clear that the conventional four-year degree was insufficient to handle the rigors of public accounting. In 1977, the College responded with the establishment of the School of Accounting. Warrington rallied favor for the new school at UF, and petitioned the Florida Legislature to approve its existence. The state approved the establishment of the School, but would not provide funding for the School’s initial six-year “experimental” period. Undeterred, Warrington personally visited local and national firms and successfully raised the necessary funds.
In 1996, the College of Business Administration was forever changed by Warrington’s momentous $11 million endowment. As a tribute to his incredible dedication and generosity, the College was renamed in Warrington’s honor. The endowment was the largest cash gift ever received by the College at the time, and it provided much-needed support for faculty and curriculum development. The gift also gave the College an identity, forever associating itself with a visionary businessman whose passion for business education and commitment to providing UF students the best learning environment possible is unrivaled.
Warrington’s generosity did not end with his initial endowment. When it became evident that an increase in faculty was desperately needed to address an unfavorable student/faculty ratio, Warrington again provided a remedy. In 2009, Warrington committed $16 million to establish an endowment to privately fund faculty positions. The timing of the gift was just as important as the financial resources it brought. With the state of Florida just beginning to feel the disastrous effects of the financial crisis, state funding decreased and limited the College’s ability to create new faculty positions on its own. Warrington has always had a deep appreciation for the importance of faculty, and providing this endowment was a testament to that belief.
Warrington has made UF and the College a priority in his life, and has served in vital roles to advance both passions. He was an inaugural member of the College’s Business Advisory Council, offering sage advice for more than four decades. As a UF Trustee, Warrington helped enhance UF’s high-quality education programs and advance its mission while practicing fiscal responsibility. He galvanized UF’s alumni base serving as President of the UF Alumni Association and Gator Boosters. As a member of the UF Foundation Board of Directors, Warrington played an integral role in increasing private giving. Lastly, as a member of the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida, Warrington was a respected representative in Tallahassee, and expertly balanced UF’s needs with the interests of the entire university system.
It’s not an exaggeration to state that Al Warrington’s $75 million gift will touch thousands of lives. Generation after generation of students that set foot on the business campus will feel the impact of Warrington’s generosity. Perhaps they’ll be inspired by a professor who came to the College because this gift will provide resources to conduct groundbreaking research they could not have performed at their previous institution. Perhaps students will be challenged by an enhanced curriculum that offers stimulating classes not available at peer schools. Perhaps these young scholars will participate in experiential learning opportunities that have them travel the globe to visit the industry capitals of the world or give them the resources and knowhow to start their own startups right here in Gainesville. This progress is unattainable without the altruism of our valued alumni, donors and friends. We are forever grateful to Al Warrington, whose leadership, enthusiasm and generosity will never be forgotten.