The University of Florida recently sparked an unofficial nationwide claim to fame contest with the airing of the commercial that brags about their popular sports drink invention, Gatorade.
Although FAMU may not have a sports drink, students and faculty still believe the University has not one but several claims to fame.
Many students will immediately say it is no contest that the Marching 100 and the pharmacy program are the University’s claim to fame. “Wherever I go, as soon as I say I go to FAMU, people either say they have a great pharmacy program or they mention the band,” said freshman psychology student Catrina Mercer, 19, from Pensacola.
“Other than the band, to me, pharmacy is FAMU’s claim to fame,” said freshman music education student Aireus Thomas, 20, from Deland. “I feel that way because I heard that they have a 95 percent graduating percentile.”
Some say the University’s fame goes beyond its educational programs and extends to its athletes.
“We are at what I feel to be the No. 1 University in the country, but it’s more than the band and pharmacy,” said Shelby Chipman, associate director of bands. “We have a great business school, journalism school and sports program. After all, the men’s basketball team made it into the NCAA basketball finals.”
The University has had many students go on to be professional athletes, playing for teams like the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and the Saint Louis Cardinals.There have also been some FAMU athletes who made major marks in history, like Althea Gibson, the first black woman to play tennis at Forrest Hill in New York. In 1957 she became the first black to win the Wimbledon women’s single tournament.
Also, there is Robert “Bob” Hayes, who, while a FAMU student, was a member of the 1964 USA track and field team. He won two gold medals and set a world record time of 9.1 seconds for the 100-yard dash, making him the world’s fastest man.
Some faculty said the University’s fame lies within its history and with its perseverance.
“I believe FAMU’s claim to fame is its history because without this University many African-American students wouldn’t have a future,” said E. Murell Dawson, archivist and curator at the FAMU Black Archives Research Center and museum. Students agree the roots of the University and the students have made the University what it is today.
“I think it’s the student that gives this University its fame,” said senior political science student Joseph C. Carrion, 22, from Miami. “In my opinion, FAMU produces top notch students because without students there is no University.”
Despite negative press and recent issues at the University, students and faculty say there are more positive features that prove the worth of the University.
The University’s ability to survive in spite of the obstacles that have come its way is what many students and faculty agree that all who attend and work at the University should hold as the University’s key claim to fame.
“Most students will stand by the University instead of listening to what people are saying,” Mercer said. “And there is proof in the records to show that people do graduate from here and have success. FAMU has the highest number of African-American graduates.”
“It takes people with a little and makes them into people with a lot,” he said. “The history of FAMU is student activism with student protest. Our ancestors never gave up.”