Florida A&M University (FAMU) unveiled the new Knight Foundation Plaza and digital technology board that will become the centerpiece of the students’ vaunted “Set Friday” tradition.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Plaza is a 25,000-square-foot plaza that includes the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater. The Miami-based foundation first announced the $1.5 million donation during Homecoming 2021 that included funding for the video screen, which debuted during Friday’s ceremony moderated by Student Government Association President Zachary C Bell and attended by FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
“The Knight Foundation Plaza symbolizes an expansion of the long-term relationship between FAMU and this great philanthropic organization. The Plaza will be the location for many memorable events for our students and the community for decades to come,” Robinson said.
Roshell Rosemond Rinkins, vice president/Grants Administration and chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer for the Knight Foundation, spoke on behalf of the organization at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Over the last year, the team has worked tirelessly to bring this digital public space to life with the installation of the video wall that you see right behind me at the Amphitheater and other theatrical equipment that will come online in the coming months,” said Rinkins, a member of the FAMU freshman class of 2000. “This latest investment of $1.5 million builds on a 51-year relationship between Knight and the University and ensures that there is a safe and vibrant gathering place for future generations of Rattlers, Tallahassee residents and visitors.”
The Foundation’s first investment in FAMU dates back to 1971. Since then, Knight has invested more than $7 million in the University. Committing to making a welcoming community space is consistent with the Foundation’s mission, Rinkins said.
“Knight believes that public spaces like this plaza cultivate strong bonds between communities,” she added. “Our research shows that the most successful spaces put residents and in this case students at the center of their planning. And that technology can help make these public spaces more accessible and engaging for everyone.”
“Set Friday” is a weekly event of student entrepreneurship, Greek fraternities and sororities stepping, and musical performances outside the Efferson Student Union, 1628 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It will maintain its name and be moved to the Knight Foundation Plaza on the east side of the street near Truth Hall.
Vice President for Student Affairs William E. Hudson, Jr., Ph.D., thanked the Knight Foundation for its generous donation on behalf of the students.
“This will enhance the Amphitheater to become a centerpiece of our student community through performance, entrepreneurship, and student organization participation,” said Hudson. “This new home of “Set Friday” provides more space, more technology and a platform for student entrepreneurs and student organizations.”