On Top of the World

Bruce and Laura Gross wanted to do something special to support the construction of Heavener Hall, the Warrington College of Business Administration’s new undergraduate building.

Not only will their unique gift catch the attention of Warrington students, but it will also draw eyes from curious drivers on University Avenue. The Grosses’ gift is an impressive bronze sculpture that now resides on the west side of the building adjacent to Bryan and Matherly Halls.

Alumni support was integral in making Heavener Hall a reality. Warrington alumni supported numerous spaces inside the building such as classrooms and study rooms, and also to the building’s general fund.

The Grosses, however, thought a contribution outside of Heavener Hall could be just as impactful.

“UF is a special place,” said Bruce (BSBA ’84). “Laura (BSBA ’84) and I met there, we graduated from there, our daughter is graduating from there. We wanted to do something unique on campus.”

The Grosses, who financed the entire project including commissioning the artist, transportation and installation of the piece, were inspired by UF’s classic tagline, “The Gator Nation is Everywhere.” They wanted a work of art to convey that Warrington alumni are doing amazing things all around the world. After brainstorming sessions with the College; Howie Ferguson, Assistant Director at UF Planning, Design & Construction; Chris Williams, the Boston-based artist commissioned for the piece; and Amy Vigilante, University Galleries Director and Chief Curator; their concept was realized: A Gator on top of the world.

The work—which took five months for Williams to complete—is 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, weighs approximately 1,500 pounds, and is entirely bronze. The globe is hollow, inspired by images of globes seen at World’s Fairs. On top of the globe is a gator that is composed of more than a thousand pieces of bronze welded together, an intricate technique that Williams utilizes and Bruce believed would be perfect for a gator’s scales.

“It looks significantly better than I imagined,” Bruce said. “It came out unbelievable.”

The work, which arrived July 6, is entitled, “Gator Ubiquity.” Merriam-Webster defines ubiquity as “presence everywhere or in many places especially simultaneously.” Bruce believes that definition accurately characterizes the College’s and The Gator Nation’s worldwide presence.

Bruce, the Executive Vice President at Dominion Federal Corporation in Washington D.C., said the process of getting the sculpture approved was lengthy as it needed to be approved by numerous committees. And the process was a bit more complicated considering the College resides on a historical part of campus. However, the Grosses’ dedication to supporting the College and the coordination among the project’s stakeholders, made the nearly two-year process worth it.

Bruce hopes Gator Ubiquity becomes a popular campus attraction. He also hopes students come away inspired to join other Warrington alumni making their presence felt around the world.

“We’d love it to be a place where people would stop to take a picture,” Bruce said. “But I think there’s an underlying factor there about hard work and determination. That if you put your mind to it and stay focused, you can be successful.”