Jim and Leigh Slowiak Embody the Heart and Spirit of FAU Donors

Jim and Leigh Slowiak

During certain times of the year, Jim and Leigh Slowiak are hard-pressed to find an evening not occupied by one FAU sporting event or another.

"We go to the softball games whenever they're in town, and baseball, and women's basketball, as well as football from the pre-season on," says Jim who, along with wife Leigh, began rooting for Owls athletes long before the establishment of an FAU football team.

"It's our hobby," says Leigh.

"It's what you do when you don't have kids," adds Jim with a laugh.

The long-time Boca Raton couple may be the ultimate hometown fans, traveling as far away as Las Vegas to cheer on the softball team and heading up tailgating at away football games. But the Slowiaks do more than just wish the teams well; they've contributed to athletic scholarships, have a locker in their name at the football stadium and display an FAU specialty license plate. Their most notable gift, however, might be the fund they established through planned giving.

"We decided to make a dedication to establish some athletic scholarships. It's just our way of giving back," says Leigh, who recently retired from a career as a bookkeeper. Jim was a Boca Raton firefighter for 33 years. The couple began following FAU sports in the early 1970s, shortly after moving to South Florida from Chicago.

"I had season tickets for the pro teams in Chicago but when we got here we decided to follow college sports," says Jim. "We got tired of going to Miami for football games and we didn't want to travel to Gainesville either. We said if FAU ever gets a football team, we're going to jump in head-first and be fans."

When the Owls fielded their first team in 2001, the Slowiaks started attending games and were quickly caught up in the excitement surrounding the fledgling program. They also made influential friends whose passion for the game was contagious.

"We got to know Howard and Bev Schnellenberger, and they're pretty good at recruiting fans," quips Leigh, referring to the famed FAU Head Coach and his wife. The welcoming attitude of the Schnellenbergers combined with that of FAU's Alumni Association told Jim and Leigh that they'd finally found their "sports home" in Florida.

The Slowiaks eventually purchased lifetime memberships to the Alumni Association and began to consider other ways to support FAU and its athletes.

"We were traveling with the team and we started to hear about the need for scholarships. We thought that would be an interesting thing to do," says Leigh. "I think if you can help someone start their own life and live their dream, that's special."

The James T. and Martha Leigh Slowiak Memorial Education Assistance Fund will provide student athletes with that "something extra" that moderate-income families may not be able to provide, explains Leigh.

"We're hoping it could be used for a laptop or a special tutor, or to purchase books. Those things can be difficult, especially for students who don't have full scholarships," she says.

Jim and Leigh's generosity is rooted in a mutual love of sports, although both admit to being more accomplished as fans than players.

"I played softball in Chicago but that was very, very far from being a serious thing," says Jim, adding, "I do have a decent bowling average, though!"

Leigh says she enjoys supporting young athletes and is drawn back to the stands season after season by the friends she and Jim have made in the FAU sports community.

"We've met some wonderful alumni who live all over the country. FAU has really opened doors for us," she says.



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