Prominent FSU supporter Al Dunlap passes away

Albert J. Dunlap
Albert J. Dunlap

Albert J. Dunlap, a former corporate executive and one of Florida State University’s most generous supporters, passed away Friday, Jan. 25, at his home in Ocala after a brief illness. He was 81.

Dunlap will be remembered for his boisterous enthusiasm, his grand gestures of generosity and his popularity among Florida State student-athletes.

“Al Dunlap was undeniably passionate about investing in the potential of future leaders,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “We are incredibly fortunate that two decades ago Al and his wife, Judy, chose to share that passion with FSU, fostering the achievements of our students and successes of this university. Their journey of generosity at Florida State is evident, from the Student Success Center in the center of campus to the athletic training facility at the stadium. Al’s legacy will live on to benefit future generations of Seminoles.”

Dunlap’s relationship with Florida State began in 1995 when he was invited to campus to speak. He and Judy quickly fell in love with FSU because of its great academic programs, championship athletics and beautiful campus, and they wanted to make a difference in the lives of its students.

“We are fortunate that Al Dunlap fell in love with Florida State University,” said Ed Burr, chair of the FSU Board of Trustees. “The generosity of Al and Judy have benefited thousands of our students and student-athletes. They have changed the lives of many graduates and future generations for the better.”

The Dunlaps’ generosity produced a number of significant gifts to Florida State over the years. They established the Albert J. and Judith A. Dunlap Student Success Center, where the Career Center is located. Their gifts also supported outdoor football practice fields (Al Dunlap Practice Fields) and a state-of-the-art indoor practice field, the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility. Their generosity was recognized with the naming of the Albert J. and Judith A. Dunlap Champions Club at Doak Campbell Stadium.

In October, the Dunlaps announced a $20 million lead gift to the Seminole Boosters’ Unconquered Campaign, the centerpiece of which is a new, football-only facility to be built adjacent to FSU’s current practice fields.

Florida State University recognizes the Dunlaps as having contributed in excess of $40 million.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Judy and her family,” said FSU football coach Willie Taggart. “When I first met Al and Judy, there was an instant connection because of their genuine love for Florida State and commitment to the value of hard work. All of us fortunate enough to have spent time with Al are better for those experiences. I will miss Al, especially his enthusiasm and passion for bettering the lives of students at Florida State. Our football program and university have been forever changed due to his generosity, and he will be sincerely missed.”

Andy Miller, president and CEO of Seminole Boosters, Inc., said he has many fond memories of Dunlap.

“Just recently Al and Judy were featured speakers for our Seminole Student Boosters’ Champions Forum,” he said. “Not only did the Dunlaps take their time to share their inspirational story of overcoming adversity to achieve success in business and marriage, but I was impressed with how much time the couple spent with our students afterward, engaging with each of them and signing hundreds of copies of his book. Al Dunlap will always be remembered as one of the true game-changers in FSU history. He made an immeasurable impact on our students, our student-athletes and our university and will be missed dearly.”

FSU Interim Athletics Director David Coburn agreed.

“Al and Judy generously provided so many opportunities for our student-athletes that would not have been available without their support,” Coburn said. “We are very grateful to them both, and we offer our deepest sympathies to Judy and her family.”

FSU Vice President for University Advancement Tom Jennings said Dunlap was committed to excellence.

“FSU was his and Judy’s adopted university, and their generosity is promoting and sustaining athletic and academic excellence here every day,” Jennings said. “They are among the university’s most generous donors, and we are grateful for all they have done for Florida State University.”

Dunlap also enjoyed interacting with students and frequently spoke to business classes.

“Al was a great storyteller whose life experiences in business and world events were fascinating,” Jennings said. “He shared his business experience and advice with groups of FSU students many times, and they enjoyed and learned much from these encounters.”

In addition, thousands of students have benefited from the services offered at the Dunlap Success Center, according to Career Center Director Myrna P. Hoover.

“The Career Center and the Center for Leadership and Social Change housed in this state-of-the-art building supports students to find civic purpose, social action and career identity,” she said.

Dunlap’s generosity was not limited to FSU. He and Judy focused their philanthropic efforts on their passions — education, medicine and animals — and they made significant gifts to a Mayo Cancer Center in Judy’s hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in honor of Judy’s parents. In Marion County where Dunlap lived, he and Judy supported the Sheriff’s K-9 Department and sponsored an annual Christmas party for underprivileged children.

Dunlap was highly motivated by his impoverished roots. He graduated from West Point in 1960, the first in his family to graduate from college. He spent three years in the military as a paratrooper and an executive officer of a nuclear missile site before embarking on a 37-year career in business. He met Judy in 1966 while working in Wisconsin.

In all, Dunlap served as chairman and chief executive officer of nine major corporations on three continents, including Lily-Tulip, Kimberly-Clark and Scott Paper.

In those positions, he oversaw operations that created the first plastic ketchup bottle and the Big Gulp cup. He did a five-city international speaking tour with General Norman Schwarzkopf and Mikhail Gorbachev.

He was the author of a bestselling book, “Mean Business,” and was featured on Dateline, Nightline and many other television shows. Florida Trend named him a Florida Icon.

Dunlap was the recipient of three honorary doctoral degrees, including one from FSU.

Dunlap and Judy received the 2015 George Langford Award from the Seminole Boosters in recognition of their extraordinary philanthropic leadership. Dunlap also received the Godfrey Smith Award from Seminole Boosters in 2017 for outstanding leadership and contribution to the Boosters Board of Directors.