Home Business UWF announces $5 million legacy gift from the Bear Family Foundation

UWF announces $5 million legacy gift from the Bear Family Foundation

University of West Florida President Martha D. Saunders announced today a gift of $5 million from The Bear Family Foundation to name the UWF College of Business. The college is slated to be named the Lewis Bear Jr. College of Business, contingent on UWF Board of Trustees approval at its quarterly meeting in June. This is the third college to be named in the University’s history.


“Lewis Bear’s service and support to the University of West Florida was exceptional and will continue to impact UWF for many years to come,” said UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “Many students have already benefited from his generosity and hard work, and many more will also through this legacy gift. We are forever grateful for his commitment to UWF.”

The gift will provide scholarship support for undergraduate and graduate students as well as operational support which will enhance the ability of the Lewis Bear Jr. College of Business to deliver a world-class teaching and learning environment.

“We are thankful to the Bear family for such a transformative gift,” said College of Business Dean Richard Fountain. “This gift will make a tremendous impact on the lives of students, ensuring that we put them on paths to successful careers.”

Bear was the long-time president and CEO of The Lewis Bear Company, a beverage distributorship founded in 1876 in Pensacola. Bear and his company founded The Bear Family Foundation in 2002 which has awarded millions of dollars in grants to more than 118 local nonprofit organizations that serve the citizens of Northwest Florida.

Bear was an avid supporter of UWF. He was a former UWF Board of Trustees Chairman, UWF Foundation board member and UWF Foundation Fellow. Bear served on the University’s Board of Trustees for more than a decade and played a major role in the development of the University’s infrastructure, academic programs and processes. Before his passing, Saunders awarded Bear with an honorary doctorate for his character, achievement and contributions to the region. The honorary doctorate degree recognizes distinguished performance and is regarded as the highest form of recognition a university can bestow.

Bear served on other community boards such as the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Escambia County, chairman of the Pensacola Museum of Art, and trustee of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

“What a wonderful day to celebrate Lewis Bear, Jr. and the University of West Florida,” said David Bear, Lewis Bear Jr.’s son and CEO of the Lewis Bear Company. “Investing in education is about building a legacy of prosperity for future generations. There is no better way to honor his love for our community and the impact of his life’s work than to make this enduring gift in his memory, ensuring that his contributions will continue to benefit others for years to come. Our family is sincerely grateful to the University for the opportunity.”

An AACSB accredited business school, UWF’s Lewis Bear Jr. College of Business prepares students for successful careers by providing high-impact, student-focused courses, relevant and innovative research and real-world experiences. The college is consistently ranked and awarded for its programs and houses five centers that offer programs for the community including the Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz Center for Leadership, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Center for Supply Chain Management Excellence, the Florida Small Business Development Center at UWF and the Louis A. Maygarden Center for Financial Literacy.

For more information about the Lewis Bear Jr. College of Business, visit uwf.edu/cob.