State Rep. Seth McKeel on Saturday received one of the University of Florida’s highest awards, the Presidential Medallion, in recognition of his strong support of UF and higher education in Florida.
The award is given for outstanding service or contribution to the university. McKeel graduated from UF in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and was chairman from 2008 to 2011 of the Gator Caucus – state legislators who attended, graduated from or support the university.
“You couldn’t have a better friend than Seth, and when he’s behind you the wind is at your back,” UF President Bernie Machen said as he presented the award to a surprised McKeel.
Machen cited McKeel’s leadership in the restoration of higher-education funding after years of budget cuts, as well as his key role in the Legislature’s approval this year of the preeminence bill, which designated UF a preeminent university and laid out 12 standards universities must meet to receive the designation. Those metrics include research spending, graduation rates and number of doctoral degrees awarded. UF meets all 12.
The award presentation took place during a groundbreaking ceremony for the $75 million renovation and expansion of UF’s Reitz Student Union. Speaking before the presentation, McKeel, 38, addressed the need for continued support of Florida’ s State University System.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be a member of a Legislature that understands the importance of Higher Education,” he said. “What it is important is a State University System that is robust … well-funded … well-respected … and can compete internationally. The leader of the State University System is the University of Florida.”