From the time they were UF freshmen, Anita Zucker and her late husband, Jerry, worked side-by-side completing their education, nurturing a family and building a successful life in Charleston, S.C.

The Hebrew phrase, tikkun olam, meaning “repair the world,” was at the heart of everything they did. It led Anita Zucker to become an elementary teacher where she gained an understanding of how the earliest building blocks would ultimately construct strong, vital communities. Jerry Zucker, who became an engineer and businessman, used his entrepreneurial know-how to guide their professional and personal endeavors. It also fueled Anita’s passion to help children.

“Every child needs to have every opportunity,” Zucker says. “Healthy communities have to start with our youngest children.”

Zucker, a staunch advocate of early childhood education, emerged in 2014 as a leader of UF’s initiative focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences with a $5 million gift. Matched by the university, a $10 million investment established the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the UF College of Education.

By partnering with the UF College of Education, her alma mater, Zucker continues to live out the Hebrew creed. She is creating opportunities that benefit everyone, from babies and their families, to those who are teaching and working with young people. She is making it possible for early childhood experts to educate parents and caregivers about the critical developmental years before age 5. These experts are also training tomorrow’s researchers and educators, who will continue to prepare and enrich children for generations to come.

Zucker earned a bachelor’s degree in education at UF in 1972, received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision at the University of North Florida, and taught English and social studies in elementary schools in Florida and South Carolina for 11 years. Following the death in 2008 of her husband Jerry, she became the first female CEO of the Hudson Bay Company and head of the Charleston, S.C.-based manufacturing conglomerate, the InterTech Group.