Artis Gilmore: A True Ambassador

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Artis Gilmore: A True Ambassador

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It is often times difficult to find someone that has achieved success and has remained grounded,  humble and close to the people and communities that helped them along the way, unless the search begins on the campus of Jacksonville University.

Artis Gilmore is one of the most recognized members of JU’s alumni. Gilmore was a member of the 1970 Dolphins basketball team that went 27-2 in route to the National Championship game against the Bruins from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Although Gilmore has achieved great success through his play in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), like being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, he has remained true to the people who have helped him along his path through life. This is why he remains a prominent figure on the campus of JU and why he continues to contribute to the University that helped him gain honor in the game of basketball.

It was at JU that he gained much his notoriety for his skills at the center position as he led the small-time Dolphins to the 1970 National Championship game. Although the Dolphins lost this game, the scouts took special notice of not only his playing ability, but also his demeanor.

Frances Bartlett Kinne, Chancellor Emeritus and former president of Jacksonville University, was asked about Gilmore’s demeanor on the court while at JU.

“I never saw him argue with an official and I admire him for it,” Kinne said.

Although basketball was one of the main focuses of Gilmore, it wasn’t everything to him. After being drafted by the Kentucky Colonels in 1971, he returned to JU’s campus that summer to finish his studies and receive his degree. Gilmore is the oldest of nine siblings and finishing his education was important to him.

“I was the first and the oldest in my family and by finishing school, I was able to set that example for my siblings,” Gilmore said.

“He went to classes even after he became famous,” Kinne said.

His roles on campus include Special Assistant to the President and Special Assistant to the Athletics Director. Both of these roles require him to be available to the president and the athletics director as he is needed. They also require him to be honest with the young men and women that he meets with while representing JU. His message to the students is clear and precise.

“I try to emphasize the importance of education to our youngsters,” Gilmore said. “Education is primary and is the one thing the will carry you throughout your life.”

Gilmore does not just do this with the students at JU, but rather with as many students throughout the Jacksonville community that he can reach.

“One of the best things I think he’s done in the community, which certainly covers more ground that anything else, is that he’s spoken to roughly 75 percent of the schools in the town,” Kinne said. “And that’s probably one of the valuable things he could do.”

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Gilmore continues to be a prominent figure in the JU community as well as in the community of Jacksonville. Along with his positions at Jacksonville University, Gilmore was hired as Jacksonville’s ambassador to sports, entertainment and fitness by Mayor Alvin Brown in 2012. Gilmore’s position requires him to attract more sporting events to the city and he has done so by being a contributing factor in bringing the NCAA College Basketball tournament to Jacksonville.

“Artis is a servant leader,” said Tim Cost, president of Jacksonville University. “He is always asking people ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’”

He speaks to the students of Jacksonville in attempts to propel them to their dreams. He sees the future of Jacksonville as he looks into the eyes of the young children that he speaks to at the local schools. He sees the future of JU’s image as he looks into the eyes of the current students.

“A couple of different times I have taken him along with me to my speaking engagements,” Kinne said. “It was really incredible to watch the reaction of these young men and young ladies.”

Gilmore loves JU as well as the city of Jacksonville, but he also loves giving back to this community and he loves being a role model to young people.

“This community was there when I needed it and it provided for me,” Gilmore said. “Now is an opportunity to for me, with the experience, to be able to share with the kids and give back to the community that gave me so much.”

So how exactly does Gilmore contribute to Jacksonville University? How is he utilized while on the campus of JU?

“What he’s able to do so well, is he’s able to move among different constituents effortlessly,” Cost said. “Artis can bring together current student-athletes, current students, elected officials, business leaders, faculty, the administration of this university, everyone will come together at a time and a place on a subject to support Artis Gilmore, because they know Artis Gilmore has the best interest of the university and the city of Jacksonville in his heart.”

After searching into the man that Gilmore is, it is easy to see why he spends so much time giving back. It’s because he loves it. Giving back to the people of Jacksonville, to JU, to the children that he tries to influence, and to the strangers whom he has never met is what Artis Gilmore loves. He wants people to join him in his quest to better this community that we all call home.

When Gilmore was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, he was joined by his immediate family as well as his extended family from Jacksonville and JU. He was joined by Mayor Brown, Kinne, former JU president Kerry Romesburg and Bill Gay, his friend and benefactor, all of whom are figures in the Jacksonville community, showing his love for the city and for his university.

“I want to thank them,” Gilmore said. “And all of my friends from Jacksonville University.”

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