Jacksonville University (JU) announced the formation of the Cost Honors College with plans to formally launch in 2025. The naming of the Cost Honors College, endorsed by JU’s 26-member board of trustees, recognizes President Tim Cost and First Lady Stephanie Cost for their philanthropic support of the university, which now totals $10 million. The Costs’ catalytic gift enables JU to elevate its honors program and transition to become an honors college. The Cost Honors College will focus on three pillars: academic excellence, residential life and global citizenry.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are grateful and thank Tim and Stephanie for their incredible generosity and unwavering support of our students and the entire university,” said Chairman of the Board, Matt Kane. “The Cost family is one of the University’s most generous, who consistently give their time, resources, talents, and voices to benefit our students, faculty, and staff dating back to the 1980s.”
“Tim and I believe in the impact that a high-quality, challenging education can have on a student’s life and their trajectory,” said Stephanie Cost, Jacksonville University First Lady. “Our lives bear witness to the critical importance of education as students ourselves, as parents of two children who graduated from excellent universities, and now having observed and influenced the life paths of thousands of students over the past decade. We’re gratified to make this investment in the Honors College that will benefit today’s students and future generations.”
JU’s Honors Program has been offered for more than three decades. Today, there are 220 students in the program. All students already enrolled in the Honors Program will become members of the Cost Honors College with the first cohort graduating Spring 2026.
“Consistent with our plan, since 2013, our university has introduced dozens of programs and academic offerings to create market-ready graduates in high-demand fields, and this is the next important step toward again upgrading what we do here,” said President Cost. “Our goal has always been to build a much better university, serve the broader Jacksonville community, unlock potential, and graduate more ambitious, competitive, and well-rounded citizens.”
Tim Cost, a 1981 magna cum laude graduate of Jacksonville University, was selected by the Board of Trustees to become its 12th president in October 2012, assuming the role on Feb. 1, 2013. His prior experience includes 32 years in executive roles at several global Fortune 500 corporations, including PepsiCo, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kodak, and Aramark.
This fall, timed with the arrival of Executive Director Dr. Lisa Sutherland, the University expanded its honors offerings and programming by introducing the first honors residential living-learning community, opening a dedicated honors lounge located in the heart of campus, and offering enhanced amenities requested by honors students.
Dr. Sutherland, a Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has built an impressive career in the corporate and academic sectors that uniquely qualifies her to lead the Cost Honors College. Sutherland is best known for creating innovative, forward-thinking strategies that positively transform the lives of individuals and communities. She served as an executive at Kellogg’s leading nutrition strategy, communications, and marketing. As a world-class leader in the food sector, Sutherland has consulted with and led global initiatives for the largest consumer brand companies, including Walmart, Taco Bell, Kraft-Heinz, and Ahold-Delhaize. Before her corporate career, Sutherland was a professor and researcher at the prestigious academic institutions Dartmouth College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Informing the Cost Honors College blueprint is more than two years of rigorous and comprehensive research. The meticulous inquiry included benchmarking more than 80 honors colleges, visiting leaders at top-ranked honors colleges, and interviewing Jacksonville University’s senior leaders, faculty, staff, honors students, and alumni. The recommendations and characteristics for best practice honors colleges by the National Collegiate Honors Council, the premier educational organization that supports and promotes honors education, were documented and underpin the transition plan.
“This transformational gift from the Costs enables us to make a more substantial, institution-wide commitment to the honors student experience at Jacksonville University,” Dr. Sutherland said. “Together with our stakeholders, we will build on our strong honors program foundation, innovative approach to higher education, and student-centric philosophy to create a leading honors college that lifts our entire university. We are grateful for this gift, which creates an unmistakable ripple across this university and community, benefitting all students for decades to come.”
The University has already established The Honors College Executive Council, comprising 22 well-respected business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, alumni, trustees and staff who will serve as thought leaders and advisors through JU’s transition from the Honors Program to the Cost Honors College.