Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Society's Good Deeds Are No Acts of Fiction

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Society's Good Deeds Are No Acts of Fiction

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel, The Times-Union

The paths of Amelie Poulain and Ron Zook crossed last year in Gainesville, intersecting at a simple act of kindness.

Zook, of course, was the much-criticized University of Florida football coach, leading the team through the end of season even though he'd already been fired.

And Amelie Poulain? She's the fictional star of Amelie, the wonderful French film from 2001, played by Audrey Tautou, for whom the word "winsome" might as well have been coined.

You might recall how Amelie embarked on a campaign of good deeds (as well as playing some pranks on those who deserve pranks) -- little acts that brightened up her storybook corner of Paris.

That became the inspiration for the Amelie Poulain Society, an irregular group of UF students who've each vowed, like Amelie, to become "a regular do-gooder."

Which leads to Zook.

Adam Spunberg, 22, founder of the Amelie Poulain Society, said members felt badly about how Zook was being treated last year. So, well before Zook ended his Gator career a hero by beating Florida State, they made a photo collage of his high points as coach and left it for him at the athletic department.

The collage wasn't much to look at ("It didn't look professionally done," he notes). But it was heartfelt, and in keeping with the society's goals.

"What we wanted to say was whether you like him or not as a coach, he was really run out of town in the wrong way -- he never really had a good chance," Spunberg said.

Spunberg is a first-year law student at UF, a graduate of Columbia University. He formed his first Amelie Poulain Society chapter in his senior year at Columbia and has tried to nurse it along from Gainesville. He's also helping a friend at the University of Pennsylvania start a chapter there.

"I think we can officially say that we're now somewhat national," he says, chuckling.

Spunberg takes the group seriously but talks about it with some self-deprecating humor. He recognizes it's just starting out, after all, and is subject to the busy and somewhat free-form life of college students.

The group meets at the Reitz Union on campus every other Tuesday evening, at a time that varies according to the availability of rooms. …

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