Tommy Heller, a junior in the theatre studies program at UCF, juggled a hectic schedule for weeks as the assistant stage manager for “Oklahoma!” in preparation for Friday’s opening night at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts.

 In addition to his major responsibilities for the production that kicked off UCF Celebrates the Arts, he gladly accepted the opportunity to take on another role on opening night – that of a scholarship recipient.

 Heller, who has been awarded four scholarships at UCF, took the time to thank a group of donors called the President’s Circle, who were special guests for UCF Celebrates the Arts — an annual event that showcases the university’s best in theater, music, dance, visual and digital arts to the Central Florida community.

 Heller explained to the crowd of 400 that when he was younger, the idea of a college education was a luxury and one he wasn’t sure he could afford.

 “Quite frankly, college was not something that I ever thought would be possible. Though I always worked hard and have maintained a 4.0 throughout my academic career, I was never sure if it was enough,” he said. “It’s thanks to the wonderful donors and their support that I’m not only able to attend a school with a gorgeous campus pursuing my dreams, but I’m also surrounded by a family that does nothing but support me and makes me feel like I belong.”

 Heller is just one of numerous students who have benefitted from the help of the President’s Circle.

 Recognizing donors who contribute $1,000 to $24,999 in a given year to UCF, the President’s Circle is a diverse and dynamic group. In 2016 alone, President’s Circle members made 1,653 gifts totaling nearly $4 million, supporting everything from first-generation scholarships, post-doctoral fellowships, faculty excellence funds, new facilities, cyber defense, athletics and sea turtle research to name a few.

 “UCF prides itself on being America’s Partnership University. Thanks to all of you for being wonderful partners in the continued advancement of UCF,” UCF President John C. Hitt said to the crowd. “Whether you are a UCF graduate, community friend, faculty member or staff member, you are an important part of our Knights family, and you are a champion for transforming lives through the power of higher education.”

 To learn more about becoming involved with the President’s Circle, please contact Neal Robinson at 407.882.0562 or