With a little help from Baby Juan

John DasburgJohn Dasburg (JD 73) earned degrees from the University of Florida in business, engineering and law. Now a successful businessman as chairman and CEO of ASTAR Air Cargo based in Miami, Dasburg is backing each of these colleges and has become one of the driving forces behind the University of Florida’s rise to preeminence.

The university calls faculty endowments “the cornerstone of UF pre-eminence” and part of an $800 million fundraising initiative to reinforce its standing as a premier university. The goal is to create 100 new faculty endowments over five years for a total of 500.

Dasburg is out front on this effort. With his most recent $1.5 million donation, he became the only person to endow chairs in three different colleges, including the John H. & Mary Lou Dasburg Professor of Law. The latest gift went to the College of Engineering, which completes gifts to the three academic disciplines in which he earned degrees. The gift came following Gov. Rick Scott’s approval of law granting state funds to promote UF’s “academic and research pre-eminence.”

“I’m a believer that a university is, at its very heart, the faculty,” Dasburg said. “I’m a strong believer in supporting the faculty.”

In April, Dasburg, a former member of the UF board of trustees who has served as CEO of numerous national corporations, received an honorary doctorate from the Warrington College of Business Administration. Meanwhile, the house under construction for the next university president will have Dasburg’s name on it thanks to his $3.5 million lead gift. The house is slated for construction along Village Drive across the street from the UF Law campus.

Dasburg’s gifts are unusually generous. But giving to causes and units throughout the university is actually typical of UF Law alumni. Since the University of Florida Foundation has kept records, UF law alumni have given almost $52 million to the law school. During the same period, those alumni have given almost $158 million to the university as a whole.

Dasburg’s gift for the president’s house had something to do with the current university president.

Dasburg said he was celebrating the birth of his first grandson, Juan, with his family. On the way home from the hospital after visiting the newborn, they stopped by an ice cream shop on West University Avenue in Gainesville. The shop was empty except for one small group: Dasburg’s longtime friend, UF President Bernie Machen and his granddaughters.

They were all happy and excited, Dasburg said. That’s when Machen, who is leaving the president’s job in December, sprung a question.

“President Machen knew I was vulnerable, and he got me in a moment of vulnerability,” Dasburg said, chuckling. “President Machen said, ‘Now wouldn’t it be nice, now that you have a grandson, if the new president’s house had your name on it?’ I said, ‘Well, that would be nice.’

“You might say that the president’s house is in celebration of my grandson.”