From reimagining the waterfront to owning the winning Tampa Bay Lightning sports franchise, the Vinik name is synonymous with success. Now - it is officially linked with USF, thanks to Jeff and Penny Vinik's generous total commitment to the University of South Florida and ongoing support of a USF Muma College of Business program that the Tampa Bay Lighting helped found.
Effective immediately, USF announced that its dual-degree sports-focused graduate program will be named the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program.
"This is a momentous day in the history of both the University of South Florida and our Muma College of Business," said USF System President Judy Genshaft.
"Jeff and Penny are inspirational, charitable civic leaders who love Tampa Bay, USF and the family entertainment businesses that they lead. I can't think of two more deserving individuals to receive the honor of having this program named after them."
The Viniks helped launch and provided more than $5 million in support of USF's dual-degree graduate program, which emphasizes the business fundamentals found in MBA courses in management, finance, marketing, information systems, and accounting. Students also take courses that focus on the sport and entertainment industry.
USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said the family's generosity helps the business school remain focused on student success and job readiness, pointing out that the sports-focused graduate program places graduate students who earned degrees from universities across the nation on a professional development track from their first moments at USF.
"This program is creating a pipeline of in-demand talent. Our graduates are becoming known as top employees who make better, stronger companies, which in turn, benefits our entire region," he said. "Our graduates are ready for decision-making professional jobs in areas ranging from operations to business intelligence to marketing and partnership development."
According to Limayem, the Vinik's support also emphasizes faculty development and business community engagement, program components that resonate with the family.
"When we introduced the program in 2012, our vision was to recruit the brightest minds, and educate them in the sports and entertainment business. What is truly unique about the USF program is that it places students through an intensive residency program with Tampa Bay-based sports teams, marketing agencies and entertainment companies best preparing them to join the industry," said Jeff Vinik. "I am pleased to say that USF and its leaders are exceeding expectations, building a growing pipeline of talent with masters' degrees that is helping the Lightning and dozens of other organizations locally and nationally fill open positions with very well-prepared young people."
The Viniks' latest commitment is part of significant financial generosity the couple has shown to the university and to several notable organizations in the region.
Under the umbrellas of the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation, the Viniks have invested more than $20 million in Tampa Bay area charities through a variety of initiatives - the most notable being the Lightning Community Heroes program, which honors grass-roots heroes with $50,000 each for their respective non-profits at every Lightning home game. The Viniks recently announced a gift of an additional $10 million to fund the donations for another five seasons. They also made substantial contributions to aid in the recovery efforts related to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
"The Vinik family is passionate about sports, arts, and family entertainment business, and they are also passionate about building the Tampa Bay community as strong partners with the University of South Florida," said USF Foundation CEO Joel Momberg. "Their transformative gifts across the university exemplify this, and in naming the sports and entertainment focused program after them, we are not only recognizing their commitment to the region, but also to the future talent that will fuel the industries that they love."
Vinik has ventured into development and over the last several years has moved forward with his vision to develop some 60 acres in downtown Tampa. Water Street Tampa includes donated land and financial support to house the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine & Heart Institute downtown. The walkable waterfront community will also feature corporate office buildings, a hotel, residences, retail, restaurants, and entertainment options.
Penny Vinik has forged her own path by introducing arts to people well beyond the established arts community.
In Tampa, she is a board member of the Tampa Museum of Art and she chairs a community arts initiative that enables Tampa Bay-based artists to display their works throughout Amalie Arena and to bring exhibits such as "The Beach" and "The Art of the Brick" to Tampa Bay as free events that are open to the public. Penny Vinik is also at the forefront of organizing the annual Celebration of the Arts, a juried exhibition that displays the works of hundreds of local and regional artists.