On October 5, I had the honor of inducting three alumni into the UCF College of Business Administration Hall of Fame. The connections we faculty make with our students tend to fade with time and distance after graduation. So we seldom get to see how our Knights turned out, what they accomplished, and how they impact the lives of others. Events like the Hall of Fame remind us that our work matters: that many graduates attribute a good portion of their success to what they learned at UCF and that higher education transforms lives.

Nobody got more higher education from our college than Merrell Bailey. She has five degrees from us, a journey that started when Stan Atkinson introduced her to “the time value of money.” Merrell, then a would-be engineer, allegedly stood on her desk and squealed out loud upon hearing the concept. (This story is completely believable if you’ve met her.) Today she is managing partner of Bailey Zobel Pilcher, a firm that specializes in probate, wills, trusts and planning.

Jonathan Kennedy decided to be an accountant as a result of a class project that required him to interview business professionals. At UCF he was heavily influenced by Jim Potts, Linda Savage and Nancy Klintworth. Jonathan took most of his classes on our Daytona campus and today is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Intersil Corporation.

Brian Wheeler was on the six year plan to graduation when he took a marketing class that required him to create a fictitious company. Thanks to a $20,000 loan from his dad, that fictitious company became Tijuana Flats. It has eighty-five locations in five states. Brian also owns Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen and is founder of the “Just in Queso” Foundation.

Over the course of the evening, our three inductees’ stories illustrated the hallmarks of a great education. Merrell’s introduction to the time value of money fundamentally changed her view of the world. Jonathan found a career from a class project that he accelerated through a co-op with Harris Corporation. And Brian got the knowledge, skills and confidence to know he could compete in a highly competitive marketplace with his food covered in his “smack my ass and call me Sally” hot sauce. Today, all three give back to UCF.

It was a great night. Our inductees were funny, articulate and inspiring. If I have one regret it is that we didn’t encourage retired faculty to come to the event. We will fix this for next year. Maybe we will even invite the Dead Pigs to play a set or two. It was the efforts of our retired colleagues that provided the foundation for our honorees’ accomplishments. We just threw a party and reveled in their success. In essence, they paid it forward to us. It is our obligation to ensure that we pay it forward to the next generation of UCF faculty. Twenty years from now, I want them to be as inspired by our work with students as we are by the people who came before us.

Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at http://www.bus.ucf.edu/deanThis post appeared on October 15, 2012. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.