Gator Prize recognizes service to local Jewish community
Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.
In his 50s, Harvey Budd became “Uncle Harvey” to two busloads of students.
What: Harvey Budd, Howard Rothman, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rabbi Aaron Rubinger and Morris Futernick will be honored for their contributions to UF Hillel and the local Jewish community.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: UF Hillel, 2020 W. University Ave., Gainesville
Information: To register, call 372-2900.
One of Budd's nephews, Sam Frank, was on a Birthright trip to Israel in 2000, and Budd was asked to chaperone. He didn't leave the U.S. realizing what an impact he would have on those students.
Budd will be awarded the 2010 Gator Prize, given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the Jewish community, at a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at UF Hillel. Howard Rothman will be given the title Board President Emeritus, or honorary president, at the event.
2010 Gator Prize recipients who will be honored at a later time include U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will be honored March 21 in Plantation; Rabbi Aaron Rubinger, who will be honored April 21 in Altamonte Springs; and Morris Futernick, who will be honored April 15 in Miami.
Hillel Executive Director Keith Dvorchik described the award as “a way for us to say ‘thank you' to the people who have given so much of themselves to help the Jewish students at the University of Florida.”
Hillel at the University of Florida began the Gator Prize in 2002.
Past Gainesville recipients include Sam Proctor, a UF historian; Ralph Lowenstein, dean emeritus of the UF School of Journalism; Ellen Gershow, a partner in the Dell Graham law firm; and Mickey Smith, a retired builder. Others include Miami residents Norman Lipoff, a partner in Greenberg Traurig; Howard Goldman, CEO of Cedarfresh; and Robert Merlin, a family attorney in the law firm of Robert Merlin P.A.; as well as Matthew Bernstein, who was a pharmacy graduate student at the time from Hollywood.
Budd was introduced to Hillel in the 1960s by his older sister, Deborah Frank, who met her husband through Hillel.
In an effort to be social and belong to a Jewish community, Budd became involved with UF Hillel when he became a student in 1965.
Budd originally studied dentistry at UF but switched his major to accounting and became a CPA. He took on the job as treasurer after becoming a certified public accountant.
After 20 years in that position, Budd passed the job on to a friend in the 1990s with the promise of being available to offer his expertise.
“I'm kind of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, so I'm kind of shocked by this Gator Prize,” he said.
“There's a lot of pleasure I get out of helping this institution survive and prosper,” added Budd, a Gainesville broadcaster and former owner of the Gainesville CBS affiliate WGFL-TV.
Rubinger of Orlando's Congregation Ohev Shalom emphasizes to parents that college is the first time that students are away from home, and that Hillel is a place where they can maintain or even find a sort of Jewish spirituality that will shape their adult lives.
“To me, Hillel is very important, and therefore, the fact that Hillel thinks that I have in some way helped them, or have been a help to them, makes me feel like I have done something of some significance,” Rubinger said.
Rothman served as a board member at UF Hillel for 39 years and was chairman of the board for about 18. He also served as cantor for about 28 years, in addition to being the faculty advisor to every Jewish group on campus.
He became involved with Hillel when he came to Gainesville because he wanted to increase Jewish awareness among the student community and the Gainesville community at large.
“Howard has done everything,” Budd said.
Rothman came to Gainesville in 1969 to teach in UF's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. He retired from teaching in 2002 and officially retired from advising in 2009.
About a decade ago, Rothman retired from the board at Hillel.
Now, he enjoys spending time with his family, is working on a book and visits with his grandchildren.
“I felt I was doing something good and something right,” Rothman said, “and that's its own reward.”