Small Gifts Making a Big Impact

Life lessons from USF with Shellie Garrett ’70

by Garrett Starr, Office of Development Communications

Mr. Shellie Garrett ’70 MBA ’81 earned two degrees from USF, a decade apart. A first-generation college student, he shares wisdom, life lessons, and why he continues to give to a wide variety of scholarships and programs across campus.

Shelli Garrett standing in Rome
Shellie Garrett looks back on his USF experiences fondly.

In telling what made his time at USF special, Garrett affirmed many of the qualities that make USF stand out today: small class sizes, learning how to think, campus activities, and finding lasting friendships.

“I don’t give a lot, but I give frequently and I like to support scholarships to help students go through and complete their degrees. Suffice it to say, I was able to work my way through college when I attended. Students nowadays need more help,” he said.

Garrett gives generously to an extensive range of USF programs and funds that he feels connected to. They include: KUSF, the Simulation Center, nearly every women's and men’s athletics program, and more. Over the years, he has given most frequently to scholarships.

“The day is still young. That’s what inspires me to give back,” Garrett said. “There [are] always students out there who want to study purely to get a job, but there’s more to college. USF teaches that. If I can give a small piece to help someone discover more, it’s extremely worthwhile.”

Mr. Garrett on campus in 1970
Mr. Garrett on campus in 1970.

His gifts add up to make a significant difference over time. He credits the professors and friends that he met as a student with challenging him for the better and sharing new perspectives. He wants to preserve that experience for future generations.

Garrett said, “My USF education channeled the curiosity that I had as a kid. Not to mention all the friends I made. I met members of my wedding party and most importantly, my wife. She was a graduate of the School of Nursing.

“I didn’t know anything about going to college, to be honest with you. I applied to USF because a representative came and told us about the small class sizes — so I signed up,” he said.

And like nearly a third of current USF students, Garrett was a first-generation college student.

Garrett gives to all types of athletic scholarships because he is proud of the USF athletic tradition. He touted the heart that the 1951 football players showed by banding together in the face of discrimination, and the careers of famous basketball alumni Bill Cartwright and Bill Russell.

“As students, we used to go up on a roof near Kezar and watch 49ers games. Kezar was a neighborhood place. I like to give back because athletics bring people together,” he said.

In closing, Mr. Garrett left an inspiring piece of advice to current and future students.

“Have a good time! It’s not all about grades,” he encouraged. “It’s also about what you say and do. Beyond that, keep the lightness. You never know who you’re going to meet or how you’ll connect. I’m still meeting with people and trying to make the most of where I’m at.”