FSU Alumnus Gift Helps in Bringing Discovery Hall to Life

Photo: Donor Ed Mansouri, FSUCML Director Felicia Coleman and Associate VP for Research Ross Ellington

Donor Ed Mansouri, FSUCML Director Felicia Coleman and Associate VP for Research Ross Ellington

The Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory is one step closer to reaching new heights in research, outreach and education thanks to a generous gift from Florida State alumnus and Tallahassee-based tech innovator Ed Mansouri. Mansouri has gifted $100,000 toward the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility—Discovery Hall—that will be the centerpiece for increased research capacity geared towards protecting Florida’s coastal and marine resources and the economies that depend upon them.

“Ed’s gift represents the largest gift that we have received so far towards construction of Discovery Hall,” said Felicia Coleman, director of FSUMCL. “The new building will tremendously expand the breadth of the marine research conducted by scientists working at the Marine Lab.”

Coleman’s energy and passion resonated with Mansouri the most. “How she feels about marine science is how I feel about meteorology,” he said. Mansouri holds bachelor’s degrees in meteorology and engineering from Penn State University and a master’s in meteorology from Florida State. From a young age, Mansouri had a fascination with severe weather; his dream was to have a career in meteorology.

Mansouri followed this dream, leading to the development of UCompass Educator, a learning management system that has been used by more than 2 million Florida students, including the Florida Virtual School. Mansouri recently sold the software to the State of Florida so he could focus on his most recent venture and passion project, WeatherSTEM. Founded by Mansouri in 2014, WeatherSTEM is an education platform that provides real-time weather information from stations in 225 locations in 17 states, including Doak Campbell Stadium, the FSU Panama City campus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Marine Lab, to name a few.

Through the years, Mansouri and his wife, Virginia, have also been involved with Autism Navigator, a web-based instructional system developed by FSU Professor Amy Wetherby that serves to improve outcomes of young children with autism spectrum disorder. This project is near and dear to the Mansouri’s hearts as they have a 9-year-old son with ASD; Mansouri has graciously provided pro bono technical support for the system.

This experience with the Autism Navigator allowed Mansouri to network with others on the Florida State campus, leading him to an introduction to Coleman. Mansouri met with grad students and learned more about the innovative research conducted at the FSUCML on the pressing environmental problems in the region such as overfishing, climate change and the effects of pollution. Fascinated with Coleman’s work, Mansouri enthusiastically accepted an opportunity to join the FSUCML Board of Trustees.

“I’m proud to be part of what Felicia is trying to do, which is why my gift was earmarked toward her goals to house a facility. My gift sends a message that this is important work, and I’m fortunate to be able to participate,” he said. “I live in Tallahassee, and my wife and I are raising three kids here and we’d love to see them go to Florida State. I want FSU to be the best institution it can be, and I believe in its mission, so I want to do my part.”

Coleman agrees, adding, ”Ed’s gift indicates to me that he understands, appreciates and believes in our mission to conduct coastal and marine systems research that contributes to solving ecological problems in the region and that help inform policy decisions that affect these systems.”

Discovery Hall, which will be housed on 70-acres across from the current lab, will ensure the Marine Lab remains a leader in its field for years to come. The building will provide ample space for faculty and student research on the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Wider Caribbean and bring to the lab renowned faculty and talented students.  Features of Discovery Hall include resident and visiting faculty laboratories, 150-seat auditorium, conference room and an outdoor classroom.  

Coleman concludes, “With the support of people like Ed, our marvelous committed staff and resident scientists, and the FSU administration who have supported the lab on so many fronts—from the research vessel, to building the lab’s research capacity and the new building—how could the future be anything but bright?”

To support the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, visit the donation page