In the beginning, there was Cope Garrett. The Sarasota resident was the first person hired for the New College admissions office, working there from 1963 through 1969.
At the time, New College was unknown and even unaccredited, a distinct challenge for an admissions officer trying to recruit students. “We sold a dream. We sold an idea,” Garrett said. “The young people followed a dream of what an education could be like.”
During his time, staff worked long hours for low pay at the underfunded college, often to the detriment of their personal lives. Garrett recalled being in a meeting with famed architect I.M.Pei when a secretary came in and told him, “You’d better get down to the hospital, your wife is in labor.”
Despite it being “one of the most enjoyable times of my life,” he said, he left in 1969. He had a wife and three sons to support, so he went into real estate, becoming a successful investor in commercial properties.
That has allowed him to support New College over the years. Lately, he has helped the Daughters for Life initiative, which brings women from the Middle East to the college on four-year scholarships. And he sees annual support as a way to keep New College affordable as tuition costs skyrocket nationwide.
He also has made more personal and visible gifts: He and his wife, Anne, have planted trees on campus, honoring past presidents George Baughmann and John Elmendorff, longtime employee Millie Ellis, and Furman “Brud” Arthur, the college’s first public affairs officer and Garrett’s mentor.
“I left my heart at New College,” he said, “and I’ve tried to help out over the years.”