With a generous $500,000 gift, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation has become one of the founding donors for the new UCF College of Nursing building at Lake Nona’s Medical City. This investment in UCF will help unleash the potential of more Knight nurses while bolstering the nursing workforce in Central Florida, which is in critical need of more highly qualified professionals.

“Hugh and Jeannette McKean made a deep impact in Central Florida, and their legacy will continue with this gift to build the College of Nursing for the future,” says Mary Lou Sole, dean of the UCF College of Nursing. “We are thankful to the Genius Foundation for their continued support, which will provide more educational opportunities to future Knight nurses whose clinical excellence and compassion will positively impact many lives in our community.”

Both the region and state are facing a critical nursing shortage. According to the Florida Hospital Association, an additional 2,300 registered nurses (RNs) are needed to enter the workforce each year to address Florida’s projected shortage of 37,400 RNs by 2035.

UCF is already the largest educator of newly licensed registered nurses in the State University System of Florida. With double the classroom space and three times the simulation and lab space, the new 90,000-square-foot nursing building will facilitate increased enrollment across degree programs to graduate an additional 150 new nurses annually — as well as more nursing faculty who are needed to educate future generations.

Growing the number of UCF nursing graduates will have a direct impact throughout the state and especially in Central Florida. Of the more than 14,000 Knight nurse alumni, more than 85% live and work in Florida and nearly 60% remain in Central Florida, according to a recent alumni survey.

“Both the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation and our UCF Knight nurse graduates have a shared commitment to improving lives in Central Florida and making it a better place to live for everyone,” Sole says.

In addition, with an optimal location at UCF’s Academic Health Sciences Campus, already home to the UCF College of Medicine and the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, the new building will foster greater collaboration in research and innovation.

A longstanding supporter of UCF, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation — established by Jeannette Genius McKean in honor of her mother — seeks to promote the welfare of humannkind through scientific discoveries, educational support and more. The foundation is a founding donor of the College of Medicine and has supported an endowed chair in the College of Nursing, nursing scholarships and interdisciplinary healthcare research.

“The McKeans were dedicated to improving the quality of life in Central Florida, and increasing access to quality education and healthcare in our community are critical to supporting that,” says Randy Rush, the foundation’s president, on behalf of the current trustees of the Genius Foundation.

The Genius Foundation joins Dr. Phillips Charities, which donated $10 million last fall, in supporting UCF’s $30 million fundraising campaign to support the creation of the new College of Nursing building, which is anticipated to open during the 2025-2026 academic year.