Longboat Key’s Bob and Pat Gussin—he’s a pharmacology Ph.D. who retired as Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, and physician Pat was the company’s worldwide vice president of consumer pharmaceuticals—have more energy than a roomful of preschoolers and see opportunities around every corner. Since retiring in 2000, they’ve bought two New Zealand wineries, written books, and started Oceanview Publishing, which specializes in mystery thrillers.
That energy and entrepreneurism propels their philanthropy, which focuses on health care and education. When the Gussins moved to Sarasota in 2010, Pat, 75, volunteered as a doctor at the Friendship Centers, and they became donors. They helped found the Library Foundation of Sarasota County and set up an endowment. They bought two book vans—the “Gussinmobiles”—and hired drivers to take the vans to underserved communities. Bob, 81, joined the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, and they brought seniors from the Friendship Centers into the clubs to read to young people.
But they soon realized, says Bob, “These kids do so well and then they graduate from high school and get lost.”
To help change that, in 2014, they endowed a scholarship program (full tuition, room and board) at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Bob’s undergraduate alma mater, for one to three Sarasota Boys & Girls Club members a year. Duquesne matched the scholarship and, so far, seven students have benefited. (The Gussins previously started a tutoring program at Duquesne that has helped hundreds of freshmen and sophomores.)
Almuta Hawks, a 19-year-old Duquesne sophomore, received one of the scholarships. Raised by a single mother who was disabled after a stroke, Hawks worked three jobs
during high school and had never entertained the idea of college. He sobbed when the Gussins told him he was a scholarship recipient. “This has changed my life,” says Hawks, who plans a career in communications and is thriving at college. “It’s stopped the cycle of poverty and struggling. I want to pay this forward.”