By Brandon Breslow
As the University of Florida's Homecoming events came to a close, Craig Thompson (3L), Whitney Smith (2L), and Wesley Maul (2L) looked back at the hard work and long hours each of them put in to make sure Florida Blue Key's (FBK) biggest projects went on without a hitch.
Maul handled the budgets and the purchase orders, Smith rallied the organization's 130 members and Thompson was the leader of leaders and tasked with making the tough decisions.
The three top officers of FBK, in its 88th year, continue a strong UF Law tradition of service and excellence. As law students, Thompson, president, Smith, vice president of membership, and Maul, treasurer, know the importance of responsibility, time management and practicality in achieving their goals.
"It makes for a stronger executive board when it includes law students because we can understand the big picture from what we were taught during our first year of law school," Maul said.
FBK is responsible for organizing such University of Florida traditions as Gator Growl, the Homecoming Pageant, the Homecoming Parade, and the Florida Blue Key Speech and Debate Tournament, as well as year-round alumni events. Members are tapped for initiation based on their leadership roles in other student organizations and their dedication to UF.
"We work with a lot of great people that may get overwhelmed with the details," Thompson said, "so we teach them to take a step back and look at the big picture."
Thompson holds a position once held by Stephen N. Zack (JD 71), immediate past-president of the American Bar Association, and former UF presidents Marshall M. Criser (JD 51) and Stephen C. O'Connell (LLB 40). More than 85 percent of FBK's presidents were students at UF Law during or after their election.
"An FBK event like Gator Growl comes with a lot of issues over contracts and liabilities," Thompson said, "and being able to recognize and analyze those issues before they arise has proven very valuable."
Thompson is in his eighth year at UF, where he has earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, president of the Interfraternity Council, a Reitz Scholar, and a member of the UF Hall of Fame. He was tapped for membership in FBK during his third year at UF and is currently in his second term as the organization's president.
Thompson enjoys the alumni events that FBK holds in Florida and the traditions of the organization. As the 45th member of his family to attend UF, he is able to trade stories with alumni about the university's history.
"A lot of what I heard about the university growing up is being shaped by what I hear from alumni that I'll meet on the road," he said.
Thompson previously interned with the UF Office of the Vice President and General Counsel and will begin working at the Miami office of law firm Berger Singerman after graduating in 2012. He hopes to remain dedicated to UF after he graduates.
"The reason you have so many buildings on campus named after FBK alumni is because they loved this university and continued to give back after they graduate," Thompson said.
Smith attended her first Gator Growl when she was 8 years old. Her father was an FBK member when he attended UF and has remained active in the organization as an alumni.
When she transferred to UF from Wake Forest University in the third year of her undergraduate courses, she wrote a 112-page coffee table book on the history of FBK.
"It's hard not to love the university because one of the major tenants for membership is service to the university," Smith said. "I think the selfless membership comes early and continues the rest of our lives."
As vice president of membership, Smith manages initiation banquets and the admittance of new members. She also assists Thompson in his responsibilities as president.
"I want to be a person that others look at and say 'she did everything in her power to do good for the university,'" Smith said, "and that's what FBK is supposed to do."
Maul was tapped for FBK membership during his junior year as an undergraduate. He previously held leadership positions in his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, the Interfraternity Council and ACCENT Speakers Bureau.
As treasurer, Maul is required to evaluate budgets, file corporate paperwork and handle tax issues. He finds one of the biggest benefits to his position is the relationships he's developed with his fellow FBK officers and members and FBK alumni.
"As much as it may be a second job," he said, "it's a lot of fun. It's a lighter atmosphere where you get to be with your friends."
Thompson, Smith and Maul agree that the level of understanding they have for each other's responsibilities in and out of the classroom helped them become a stronger executive board.
"I think our main goal is to leave things better off than when we took office," Maul said, "and for the past years we have been doing that."