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Dedication Ceremony for Ustler Hall

Kay Ustler in front of the new Ustler Hall
Benefactor and namesake Kay Ustler celebrated the historic day with more than 100 family members, lifelong friends and members of the campus community. The 1961 sociology alumna has been involved in numerous restoration projects and is an active member of the Orlando community.

The dedication ceremony for the newly restored Kathryn Chicone Ustler Hall was held September 29. Formerly known as the Women’s Gym, the building was the first permanent structure at the University of Florida intended for campus-wide use. It reopened for classes this fall after sitting vacant for nearly 27 years and is the new home to Women’s Studies.

The 87-year-old facility has been transformed into a state-of-the-art, three-level academic structure. Built in 1919, the building fell into disuse in 1979 but was saved from demolition in 1988 when it was granted protection under the National Register of Historic Places. A generous donation from alumna Kathryn Chicone Ustler in 2000 allowed for the vacant gym to be transformed into a 14,700 square-foot academic treasure. The restoration process began in 2004, and Women’s Studies moved into the facility in July 2006.

“There is a symmetry about Kathryn Chicone Ustler Hall that is striking,” UF President Bernie Machen said during the dedication. “It is the former Women’s Gym. Its restoration is sponsored by a woman. It is UF’s first academic center to be named exclusively after a woman. And, of course, Kathryn Chicone Ustler Hall will serve as home to the university’s women’s studies programs. In that capacity, this building so vital to our history will also remain central to this university’s future.”

Milagros Peña (left) and Virginia Hamner
Director of Women’s Studies Milagros Peña (left) and Virginia Hamner, who received an MA in Women’s Studies and law degree from UF in 2006, formerly accept the building on behalf of the faculty, students and alumni of the University of Florida.

The building’s benefactor and namesake, Kathryn Chicone Ustler, graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1961. Ties between her family and UF go back several generations. Her father, Jerry J. Chicone, Sr., was instrumental in establishing the Gator Boosters program in the 1950s and the North End Zone Gator Booster Offices are named in his honor. Her brother, Jerry Chicone, Jr.— a 1956 UF alumnus—is a former president of the organization. And her son, Craig Ustler, earned a bachelor’s in economics from UF in 1991 and a master’s in real estate and urban analysis in 1995.

Kay’s passion for historic preservation, her belief in the liberal arts educational experience, and her love for the University of Florida all played a part in her decision to get involved with the restoration. In gratitude of her generous support, the building has been renamed in her honor and what was once a “Gym” is now a true campus “Gem.”



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