FSU’s Jim Moran Institute celebrates more than a quarter century of inspiring entrepreneurial leaders

2021 North Florida Jim Moran Scholar Catherine Williams with Jan Moran at last Wednesday’s ceremony.
2021 North Florida Jim Moran Scholar Catherine Williams with Jan Moran at last Wednesday’s ceremony.

The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University began with a contribution from Jim and Jan Moran and JM Family Enterprises in 1995. Since then, the Institute has grown into a force that’s served thousands of entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders throughout Florida.

Alumni, current and former staff, and administrators celebrated its 27th anniversary on Wednesday, April 13, and also honored the 2021 Jim Moran Scholars from North and South Florida during a reception at the Jim Moran Building. Up to two high school seniors annually are selected as Jim Moran Scholars and receive a four-year, needs-based scholarship to FSU.

Automotive pioneer and philanthropist Jim Moran died in 2007. His wife, Jan Moran, has continued the work Jim began in 2000 when he established The Jim Moran Foundation with a mission to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of Florida through the support of innovative programs and opportunities that meet the ever-changing needs of the community. A grant from The Jim Moran Foundation and a personal contribution by Jan Moran launched the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship and significantly expanded the outreach of the Institute.

Managing Director Melissa Roberts expressed excitement for the Institute’s anniversary.

“The Jim Moran Institute name has been synonymous with entrepreneurship for over 25 years, so it’s thrilling to be able to celebrate that success and the thousands of small businesses that have benefitted from our programs,” she said.

The Institute’s mission — to inspire entrepreneurial leaders through world-class executive education, applied training, public recognition and leading-edge research — reflects the man for whom it is named.

Jim Moran, born in 1918 in Chicago, was an entrepreneur at heart. At age 7, he was selling soda pop at sandlot baseball games. In 1939, he purchased a Sinclair gas station, from where he would sell his first used car, a 1936 Ford Coupe.

That sale was a turning point for Jim, and he eventually went on to build his Hudson and then Ford dealerships into the world’s largest, and later Southeast Toyota Distributors. His entrepreneurial achievements earned him the cover of TIME magazine in March 1961 and his 2005 induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame, the single greatest honor in the international motor vehicle industry.

Melvin Stith, the former FSU College of Business dean who spearheaded the Institute, reflected on the early 1990s when Jim Moran asked him to serve on the board of another initiative he founded, the Youth Automotive Training Center.

“That started our relationship, and it just grew from there,” Stith said. “I knew when I first saw his operation and what he was doing there, how he interacted with his associates, that there was something I could learn from him.”

Now retired and dean emeritus of the College of Business, Stith added: “The way he and Mrs. Moran always treated people with respect — it was a powerful dynamic.”

Stith’s longtime friendship with the Morans paved the way to a $1 million donation from the Morans and JM Family Enterprises for the founding of the Institute and a transformational $100 million gift in 2015 from Jan Moran and The Jim Moran Foundation to create the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, which later became a college.

Stith said the Morans’ belief in the power of the entrepreneurial spirit is now part of the fabric of Florida State.

“Wherever you go on campus, it doesn’t matter what your major is, what you’re studying: You have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is not just a business-school phenomena. That spirit of entrepreneurship is now part of the university’s strategic plan for growth.”

Stith continued: “I think that Jim and Jan gave that to FSU. That was the genesis that started this conversation. And the wonderful thing is that since all this happened, Jim’s legacy has stayed with FSU.”

“Because Jim believed in preparing for the future, he ensured his generosity would continue to make a difference for many generations,” said Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation. “I know he would be very proud of the innovative programs and life-changing opportunities that have been created by his vision so many years ago.”

For more information, visit jimmoraninstitute.fsu.edu.