Bill and Kathie Hohns envisioned a comedy major at the University of Florida. But they got the next best thing: a minor in comedic studies through UF's School of Theater and Dance, within the College of the Arts.
It began last year with a single course -- Comedy Performance 1 -- for which adminstrators hoped to fill 25 seats. Instead, more than 250 students applied, including those with such unlikely majors as engineering and pre-law.
"When Bill and Kathie come to the table, it's to do good," says Jennifer Coolidge, director of development and alumni affairs at the College of the Arts and a longtime friend of the Hohnses. "When they first menitioned this to me, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh! This is so perfect I can't believe it.'"
The couple brought Stephen Rosenfeld, founder of New York's American Comedy Institute, to Gainesville to offer advice and work with students.
Two professors from the School of Theater and Dance -- Jerry Dickey, the director, and Charlie Mitchell, an associate professor -- fleshed out the curriculum and shepherded the proposal through the process of being formally declared a minor.
"Professionals in a range of fields, from business to entertainment to healthcare, employ comedy to acheive their goals," says Lucinda Lavelli, dean of the College of the Arts. "We're so grateful to the Hohnses, whose appreciation of its importance has allowed us to bring comedy training to our students, providing an additional skill to advance their careers."