High education

Miami exec becomes UF’s first $100 million donor

 

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

Like lots of other college students, Al Warrington IV found an unexpected career path while in school, thanks to the encouraging nudge of a professor.

Intending to work in newspapers, Warrington was told by one of his University of Florida professors to try accounting instead — a choice he loved and that launched him into a successful business career.

On Friday evening, Warrington, 78, who lives in the Bay Point neighborhood of Miami with his wife Judy, paid back his alma mater in a very big way — pledging a gift of $75 million.

Combined with past donations to the school, the gift makes Warrington the university’s first $100 million donor.

In a statement, John Kraft, dean of the UF business school — already named after Warrington for his previous generosity — said “it’s no stretch to say UF’s business college is one of the most respected in the world today because of Al Warrington.’’

After graduating from UF in 1958, Warrington spent more than three decades helping the Miami office of Arthur Andersen & Co. become one of South Florida’s largest accounting firms in the 1980s, with a big-name list of clients that included Blockbuster Entertainment, AutoNation, and the Wackenhut Corp. Warrington, who grew up in New Jersey, also went on to found a number of companies, including Sanfill Inc., an environmental company that later became Waste Management Inc..

Warrington’s latest $75 million gift is meant as a challenge to other alumni. The goal is to coax other deep-pocketed donors to kick in an additional $75 million.

The university plans to use the resulting $150 million to boost the business school’s endowment for professors. In an age of shrinking state investment in higher education, Warrington said the strengthened endowment will help make the business college financially self-sufficient.

“We’re going to use this as the first step, and hopefully, now it’s going to lead to the other $75 million being raised,” he said.

Aside from his donations, Warrington has been involved at UF in plenty of other ways. He was a founding member of the UF Board of Trustees, president of the UF Alumni Association, and a member of the UF Foundation board of directors. He is also credited with reinvigorating a UF alumni club in Miami.

Warrington credits his UF professors with giving him the broad financial expertise to succeed — particularly when he left accounting to venture out on his own.

“That background really helped me a great deal and allowed me to really start putting deals together, companies together,” Warrington said. “That kind of academic excellence continues up there today.”

Though wealthy today, Warrington said he struggled to get by as a student, working as many as five jobs at the same time before becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. One of those jobs included cleaning fraternity houses.

Warrington said he “always kind of dreamed about” giving back to the school if he became successful.

Dream fulfilled.

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