Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
Former Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Gene Valentino knows how to start a business. A successful entrepreneur, Valentino has founded numerous companies and even dabbled in film production.
Valentino hopes a gift to the Pensacola State College Foundation will help spur the growth of the College’s Entrepreneurship Program, which began in 2018.
In January, Valentino and his wife, Maureen, gifted property in Chumuckla appraised at $250,000, as well as an additional $20,000 to PSC to support the Entrepreneurial Program. The College will eventually sell the 4-acre-plus property and use the funds to establish an endowed scholarship and program support for Business Entrepreneurship students in the Valentino name. Students also will participate in an entrepreneurship competition for the scholarships each year.
On Wednesday, the Valentinos were at the Pensacola campus when the College said “Thank You” by renaming a lecture hall in Building 10 in their honor.
The ceremony also included the unveiling of a portrait of the couple inside the Gene and Maureen Valentino Lecture Hall.
The College’s Associate in Science Degree in Business Entrepreneurship is now named the Valentino Associate in Science Degree in Business Entrepreneurship.
“We’re very proud to be able to make this contribution,’’ said Gene Valentino, a member of the PSC Foundation Board of Governors. “We’re pleased about the prospect of a bright future for the students of Pensacola State College, Escambia County and the region.”
Valentino, who served on the County Commission from 2006 to 2014 and focused on economic development, said it was a great honor to contribute to PSC and motivate young people to become better leaders in their community.
“It is important that everyone gives back to their community. Giving is everything and helps a community grow,” he said. “Thinking about ‘we’ and not ‘me’ leads to growth. Money, opportunity, successes came when I stopped thinking about ‘me’ and focused on ‘we.’ ”
PSC President Ed Meadows said the Valentinos’ donation will propel the entrepreneurship program. The College launched an entrepreneurship concentration within the Marjan Mazza Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Business and Management this fall.
“Gene Valentino has been a very successful entrepreneur. He has surely proved himself in that capacity. We’re very, very grateful for this gift,” Meadows said, adding the business entrepreneurship competition will allow students to get a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful business owner.
“Our students will participate in a head-to-head competition to develop a business plan. And that will give them real-life experience in actually trying to prepare all the elements that go into a business start-up.”
Competition winners also will go into the CO-LAB at the College’s Downtown Center to develop their businesses. Their photos will hang to the right of the Valentinos’ portrait on a Wall of Fame inside the Gene and Maureen Valentino Lecture Hall.
Kirk Bradley, PSC dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support, likened the competition to the ABC reality show, “Shark Tank,” which showcases would-be entrepreneurs pitching ideas to business and industry moguls.
Valentino said he hopes the donation will encourage students with dreams of business ownership.
“What I’m impressed about with Pensacola State College is that programs are designed to be flexible or elastic and are responsive to changing needs and demands in society,’’ he said. “PSC is hands on, and truly allows a student to find his or her own way and chase their own dreams.”
Valentino said he and his wife are at a juncture in their life where they want to focus on using their success to help others.
“It is time to do what everyone should do, and that’s give to their community the best way they can,’’ Valentino said. “I started in Escambia County as a commissioner, but I believe there is still more to do and more to give.”
TOP PHOTO: PSC President Ed Meadows presents a gift plaque to Maureen and Gene Valentino to commemorate the dedication of a PSC lecture hall in their honor.