The Legacy of H. Wayne Huizenga
By Kathy Eggleston
Part 2 of a 2 Part Series
Taylor says Huizenga’s impact on him personally was two-fold. “He was such a supporter of my career. Those early decisions, those promotions — the pay that comes with it — if people get on you early you have a head start,” Taylor said. And while highlighting Huizenga’s business record, his philanthropy is not lost at all on Taylor. “It really informed the leader I came to be,” he stated. “Wayne was a capitalist who realized that God had blessed him in very significant ways. He taught me that you can do well and do good.”
While Huizenga retired from his most prominent business role as Chairman of AutoNation more than a decade ago, he and his late wife Marti, who died in 2017, never ceased their active community leadership. Sup-porting educational opportunities for young people was a major focus of their giving, with Nova Southeastern University (NSU) being a centerpiece. NSU consistently places among the top 20 national universities for student diversity in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges rankings.
“Mr. H. Wayne Huizenga chose Fort Lauderdale/Broward County as his Home. He chose Nova Southeastern University as his Home-Town University and created the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business & Entrepreneurship in his image. He lived by his values and invested in the people in his communities. And so, should we all. We are and forever will be Grateful,” said Dr. J. Preston Jones, dean of the Huizenga College.
Miami native Jeremy Mathis, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from NSU in 2013, was the first in his family to graduate from college. He described choosing NSU Business with little to no guidance about higher education.
“I thought the name Huizenga College meant Mr. Huizenga was going to be one of the teachers,” said Mathis, who took a student work study job in the deans’ office to help pay for school. While there, he in fact met Wayne Huizenga and even visited his offices several times.
“Every time, he always knew who I was, always cracked jokes, really a nice humble guy,” Mathis remarked. “For me his impact is dreaming big and believing anything is possible,” he added. An entrepreneur, Mathis started a marketing specialties business while still in school, then partnered with a fellow entrepreneur he met at the Huizenga College to found Dr. Clean, successfully selling that company in 18 months. Mathis and his identical twin brother Josh now invest in real estate and are stepping into development on a small scale. “I hope that as we continue to hire more people they can feel about working with us the way Mr. Huizenga’s people felt a-bout working with him,” Mathis volunteered.
It was the Mathis brothers who flanked Wayne Huizenga when he announced seed funding for a new NSU program to support more high-potential but under-resourced students like them. Launched in 2012, the Huizenga College Pathway Scholars program provides enrichment, mentoring and much-needed scholarships to diverse first-time-in-college students from the tri-county area. In other words, the next generation of South Florida job creators.
Pompano Beach resident Roovens Dorvil, now a client care representative for Bank-United, was one of the first recipients of the Pathway Scholarship. Dorvil became the first in his family to graduate from college when he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 2017. He plans to obtain his master’s degree.
“When I heard the news it really hit me hard, because he has done so much for me that I didn’t know how to process it initially,” Dorvil said of Huizenga’s passing. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it was not for Mr. Huizenga. I owe a huge credit to him for my college education, for the things I have learned about business and my-self over these four years of Nova. My journey, the experiences, the friends, the lessons – it’s all been because of him. He provided the way for me and I’ve been grateful to him since then,” Dorvil explained.
“My biggest hope regarding Mr. Huizenga is that I can continue to do my best, excel and continue to fulfill my dreams as a way of saying thank you for what he has done for me and my family. He is a huge blessing on Earth; the walking spirit of entrepreneurism. That’s why I was nervous meeting him, because of his presence,” Dorvil said. “Despite that, he welcomed me, and he made it known to me that he really cared about my success. I will truly miss Mr. Huizenga and I will forever be grateful,” said Dorvil.
Sheri Brown, vice president of the Community Foundation of Broward, noted that the Huizengas’ education fund at the Foundation has contributed to programs serving abused and neglected children, children in foster care, and high potential K-12 students whose families simply had no ability to pay for enrichment in STEM, entrepreneurship and the arts. Through the Foundation he supported many smaller not-for-profits in addition to his more high-profile investments in NSU, Boys & Girls Clubs, Junior Achievement and the Urban League.
Current Urban League of Broward CEO Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh personally called her predecessor Don Bowen, now president and CEO of the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund, to give him the news of Wayne Huizenga’s passing. “It really struck him from a very personal point of view,” she said. Smith-Baugh says the relationship Bowen built with Huizenga undergirded the successful growth of the relationship be-tween her and AutoNation’s current Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson as they assumed top leadership of their respective organizations. The relationship between the successor CEO’s led to AutoNation’s $500,000 investment in the Urban League’s Community Empowerment Center, opened in 2012.
“It is truly a time of transition in our community, as many titans of business, community, and philanthropy move off the scene,” said Smith-Baugh. “It is evident that their example lives on in their companies and families as well as encouraging more leaders to take up the mantle,” Smith-Baugh declared.