A Knight’s Journey Sparks Profession and Philanthropy

Robert Aronoff ’92 intended to spend his first night on UCF’s campus in his car. To his surprise, he spent that warm August night sleeping on a couch in the head football coach’s office.

Two days prior Aronoff arrived at the University of South Florida in Tampa to register for classes. After two days of frustration and little help being provided, he hopped on I-4 and pulled up to his future home; the University of Central Florida, on day that classes were to begin that fall.

Aronoff said he was accepted, had his semester mapped out and student ID in hand in a matter of hours. With his first class beginning first thing the next morning, Aronoff decided not to make the five-hour round-trip home. He pulled his Ford Bronco II into one of the many dirt paths among the scrub palms and trees on campus that existed at the time, and closed his eyes for what would be a short sleep.

Aronoff awoke to a flashlight beam in his face and a UCF patrol officer knocking on his window around midnight. He explained his situation to the officer, verifying his story with his student ID and his printed schedule. The officer informed Aronoff that for safety reasons he could not let him sleep in the car parked in the woods. Aronoff was instructed to follow the patrol car out of the woods and follow the officer. Unsure if he was being escorted off campus or going to be booked for trespassing, Aronoff complied and was led to the rear entrance of a building on the other side of campus. The officer led Aronoff down a dimly lit hallway and unlocked an office.  The officer instructed him to sleep on the sofa in the office, set the alarm on side table for 6 a.m. and don’t leave any later.

The next morning, as Aronoff was looking around to make sure he left nothing behind, he turned on the office light and realized he was in the office of Gene McDowell, the UCF Knights head football coach. At that moment Aronoff knew he had made the right decision traveling across the state.

Aronoff spent the next four years at UCF developing his passion for education, speech, debate, athletics, philanthropy and the university he thanks for his success.

Aronoff earned his B.A. in speech, with a minor in organizational communication, from the UCF School of Communication in 1992, which became the UCF Nicholson School of Communication four years later.

Aronoff says he uses the three crucial lessons he learned at UCF every day; how to gather information, organize it and communicate it in meaningful and interesting ways.

These life lessons aren’t the only things Aronoff took with him when he left UCF. He remembers the conversations he had with his professors, like former professor of debate Jeff Butler, that sparked his interest in speech, debate and teaching.

Aronoff also has fond memories of his UCF graduation. He was in the first class administered by President John Hitt. He laughed as he recalled his whole family affectionately chanting “Hey Rob, get a job!” as he walked across the stage.

And get a job he did – and thrived.

From being a reporter, to speech writer, to now a professor, Aronoff has an extensive communication history.

Today Aronoff is an instructor at Collin College in Fisco, Texas, teaching public speaking, interpersonal communication, and his personal favorite, business and professional communication.

Aronoff designed the course while teaching at the Florida State University.

“No matter what people do after college, they will need to professionally communicate,” Aronoff explained. He designed this course to help students effectively communicate in the same way he was taught at UCF.

Aronoff solidified his calling for teaching while earning his master’s degree in rhetoric and communication theory from FSU. He served as a graduate assistant, winning graduate student of the year for his instruction of speech and debate.

Aronoff’s dog, Knightro.

He fell in love with teaching and went on to be an instructor at FSU. He was asked to run the forensics program (intercollegiate competitive speech and debate) leading the team to unprecedented milestones and accomplishments at the national championships for the university.

Throughout his academic and professional journey to success, Aronoff has stayed connected with his alma mater. He served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, as the chair of both the Tallahassee Alumni Club and the Dallas-Ft. Worth Alumni Club, and of course as a die-hard athletics fan. Aronoff even named his dog after the UCF mascot, Knightro.

He says it has been remarkable to see the growth of the UCF Alumni Association and UCF Athletics over the years.

Aronoff frequently travels to games and has had the opportunity to get to know UCF football players, including AJ Bouye who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as Troy Davis, who at one point played with the Dallas Cowboys, but most recently won the Gray Cup with the Toronto Argonauts, the Superbowl of Canadian football.

Aronoff even had the chance to connect with the man who unknowingly provided the roof over his head during his first night at UCF. When Aronoff met Gene McDowell at a UCF alumni event many years later and told him his story, McDowell laughed as he exclaimed, “I knew people were sleeping on my couch!”

It was the accommodation Aronoff received that night, along with inspiration from his UCF professors, that motivates him to give back. He recently documented a legacy gift to the university in the two areas that were most influential in his personal and professional journey.

To the UCF speech and debate teams – for igniting the flame that fuels his profession. To UCF athletics – for accommodating him from the start.

Aronoff hopes these gifts will help other students find their calling and strengthen a growing athletics program for future generations to enjoy.

Learn how you can give.

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