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Sep 10, 2014 04:31 AM EDT

The University of West Florida has received a legacy gift of more than $770,000 from the estate of John Thayer and Joan Ames Burr.

Out of the total donation, $250,000 will be invested in UWF athletics and Football, and more than $500,000 will support undergraduate research initiatives in the College of Science, Engineering and Health.

Tim Burr said that his family has always been passionate about supporting higher education and philanthropic causes.

"My parents believed that higher education creates opportunities for people to improve themselves and the community," Burr said in a statement. "It is our family's hope that this gift furthers the University's stature in the education community and attracts high quality students, so that together we can achieve something for the greater good."

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UWF President Judy Bense said that the legacy gift will improve academic and athletic opportunities for its students.

"This gift represents one couple's belief in the value of higher education," Bense said. "...This is a leading example to show that every gift can have a significant impact on students, the University and the region."

The gift entitled for the College of Science, Engineering and Health will be used to establish the John Thayer and Joan Ames Burr Undergraduate Research Endowment. Undergraduate research initiatives will help students gain valuable practical experiences and prepare them for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM fields).

Dr. Michael Huggins - dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Health - said that this gift will also lessen students' financial burden by providing undergraduate research stipends. It will also fund various competition teams and conferences among others. These opportunities help transform students' educational experiences and make them more competitive in their respective professional workforce.

The $250,000 toward UWF Football constitutes the largest gift in the game's history. Honoring the legacy gift, the UWF Field House Lobby will be named in the couple's memory.

"As the lead gift for UWF Football, this will be instrumental in helping UWF Athletics build a solid foundation for our football program," said Dave Scott, athletic director. "UWF Football will not only enhance our athletic department and the University, but will also provide new opportunities for our student-athletes to excel on the field and in the classroom."

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