Boca Raton philanthropists Harold and Patricia Toppel (pictured above with President and Mrs. Brogan), through the Toppel Family Foundation, Inc., recently made a $3 million gift to the College of Education. The gift will fund the construction of the Toppel Family Early Childhood Education Institute on the Boca Raton campus. The gift is eligible for matching funds from the state's Alec P. Courtelis Capital Facilities Matching Trust Fund, doubling its value.
The free-standing structure is slated to be built next to the Karen Slattery Educational Research Center and will incorporate technology into its design. The building’s official “green” designation will symbolize FAU’s commitment to ecological awareness and sustainability.
A focal point for teaching and learning, the Toppel Institute will provide a setting for faculty, educators, researchers, early childhood degree students and community partners to collaborate on issues related to early childhood education. Children and families will benefit from this facility as well.
“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Toppel Foundation, this center will become a reality,” said President Brogan. “In a growing community such as ours, the need for early childhood educators is pronounced. The Toppel family responded immediately to the challenge. The Institute will serve as a model of excellence and inspire educators throughout the world. I am proud that FAU has embraced this important area of study and eager to see our university lead the way.”
Dr. Nancy Brown, head of FAU’s early childhood education programs, will direct the Institute and coordinate, along with College of Education staff, innovative learning opportunities for those dedicated to educating young children.
“The Institute will one day be home to a center for research, early childhood teacher education program classrooms and faculty offices, Slattery Lab School classrooms, a family center, and a community resource network,” said Brown. “These five inter-related components are key to the Institute’s mission. The Toppel Institute is also designed to promote community partnerships and collaboration. We are committed to supporting a synthesis of ideas and new directions in the field of early childhood education. We are grateful to the Toppels for their heartfelt and generous gift.”
The Toppel family has for many years been instrumental in developing initiatives and programs within FAU’s College of Education. In 2003, the Toppel Family Foundation teamed with the community college system, local public school districts and community organizations to launch the career development in child development (CD2) program. Designed to cultivate and train future teachers, the CD2 program is proof that private foundations can work successfully with institutions of higher education. Now, four years later, this newest gift from the Toppel Foundation is the culmination of their efforts to equip the region with bright and enthusiastic teachers and well-educated parents.
“It is essential to understand how children learn. Of particular interest is how the mind develops in early childhood,” said Patricia Toppel. “With this new Institute, all young children, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, will have all the advantages they deserve. They are, after all, our future, and they deserve every opportunity.”
College of Education Dean Gregory Aloia believes the Institute will help strengthen the infrastructure of the community. “You must catch children early on,” said Aloia. “Functioning as a center for teacher training, FAU, thanks to the Toppel Foundation, will be able to provide South Florida with qualified early childhood professionals—specialists who will ensure that our children enter kindergarten ready to learn and well prepared for all that lies ahead.”