Hate to interrupt your last week of 2021 with some news but here’s a blockbuster.
A potential agreement is in the works that would provide a $4 million scholarship endowment to the College of Central Florida, which would rename the Citrus campus after former Sen. Charlie Dean.
This comes on the heels of what’s already been approved – a $1 million scholarship endowment in Dean’s name from the Citrus County Hospital Board to CF and the renaming of Building C-4, otherwise known as the Learning and Conference Center, as the Charles S. Dean, Sr. Educational Center.
The hospital board and CF Foundation each signed a Dec. 1 agreement for initial “Charlie Dean Endowed Scholarship” and renaming of the building. The scholarship is for Citrus County students in the health sciences-related field of study.
There is no mention in the agreement of anything further. However, I’ve since learned the CF Foundation and hospital board will consider upping that scholarship to $4 million and renaming the entire Lecanto campus for Dean.
The CCHB has a meeting on Jan. 18. I’m told to expect an announcement soon after.
You may be wondering: What a wonderful idea for the college, cash-strapped students and the health care community, but how does Charlie Dean fit into all this?
Plenty. To some, including members of the hospital board, Sen. Dean’s request of an audit at the then-publicly owned Citrus Memorial Hospital was the impetus that led to the eventual long-term lease with Hospital Corporation of America.
In other words, there wouldn’t be money for such a large endowment gift if not for Sen. Dean.
The agreement says of Dean that he “relentlessly dedicated himself to serving Citrus County, first as a student at Central Florida Community College, and subsequently in his roles as State Senator, State Representative, Citrus County Sheriff, Director of General Services for the Citrus County School Board, and juvenile counselor for Citrus County Juvenile Court, among others.”
Now, for us old timers who remember the years-long debate over Citrus Memorial, let me say: We can go one of two ways on this.
We can bemoan what happened eons ago, the millions of dollars needlessly wasted on lawyers (though the hospital board and its attorney, Bill Grant, will argue it was money well spent), and whether the community is better served with HCA.
I suggest a different route. Take a step back and see what’s happening here. Regardless of the past, it’s brought us to a place where a public body can help struggling Citrus County residents earn a degree in the healthcare field where it’s desperately needed here.
As for renaming the campus, well, I’ll just leave that one alone. There’s obviously huge upside to naming the campus after someone with such a long-time public presence in Citrus County. There's an obvious downside to that as well. Not everyone is a Charlie Dean fan.
But please, geez, let’s not let our past political debates stand in the way of a very good thing. We are better than that, and future health professionals will be thankful for it.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.