Spring 2022 | Alumni & Friends Magazine
UWF WOMEN HISTORY MAKING
THE ROLFS’ GENEROSITY PROVIDES SIGNIFICANT SCHOLARSHIPS FOR MUSIC STUDENTS
FINANCE STUDENTS GAIN REAL-WORLD SKILLS MANAGING UWF FOUNDATION FUNDS
ENGINEERING STUDENTS DESIGN, BUILD AND RACE THEIR OWN OFFROAD VEHICLES
Inside CONNECTION MAGAZINE Spring 2022
Q&A WITH THE PRESIDENT
PRESIDENT Dr. Martha D. Saunders
3 LETTER FROM THE
VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY ADVANCEMENT Howard J. Reddy
ADVANCEMENT AND ALUMNI RELATIONS Katie Schutts
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Brittany Sherwood ’14 MANAGING EDITOR Colton Currier ’18 SENIOR EDITOR Brittany Swinford ’11 DESIGN STRATEGY & LAYOUT Jennifer Peck ’08 DESIGN Lacey Berry ’12 PHOTO DIRECTION & PHOTOGRAPHY Matt Coughlin Morgan Givens ’18 Joe Vinson WRITERS AND EDITORS Allison Morgan Jenny Pedraza Leonor Roper ’18 Claire Stewart PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN ASSISTANTS Olivia Ashcraft ’18 Thatiana Rodriguez ’21 Ruben Gardner ’22 Blake Russell ’23 William Tate ’22
VICE PRESIDENT NEWS & NOTES
ROLFS GIFT AND THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC
ARGO INVESTMENTS PROGRAM FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: KAREN MOLEK
15 UWF WOMEN
21 UWF ATHLETICS: 23 26
BAJA RACE TEAM ALUMNI EVENTS
ALUMNI PROFILE: DESTINEE STEELE
ALUMNI PROFILE: JACLYN BRAMLETTE
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UWF Connection is published semi-annually by Alumni Relations and Institutional Communications. The purpose of Connection is to communicate and engage with UWF alumni, donors, friends and others interested in the activities of UWF.
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15 Influential UWF women shape the University into a great institution.
Q&A with President Saunders
Many women have emerged into impactful roles at UWF. UWF President Martha D. Saunders discusses the power women hold to shape the University for years to come.
How does it feel to lead other innovative and spirited women at the University? It is inspiring to work with women who share the same spark for teaching, learning and advancing the University. I have a front row seat to see their ingenuity on display everyday. They have a knack for thinking outside the box and seizing opportunities. How does the University’s environment foster change-makers?
ideas and we aren’t afraid to try new things. Argonauts know they can chart their own course to success and make a real difference at this institution. How do you think UWF women are impacting the future of the University? Their breakthrough leadership will have a ripple effect for generations to come. These women have shown that opportunities are plentiful at UWF. I believe that will pay off in dividends to move us forward.
There’s a sparkling entrepreneurial spirit at UWF. We encourage new
V P L E TTE R
News & Notes Letter from the
Recent news from the University of West Florida BY LEONOR ROPER ’18
ALUMNI AND FRIENDS,
As spring awakens, I am reminded of the growth and renewal we have experienced in the UWF community. Just like the blossoming flowers across campus, our potential is flourishing. Each year, this season brings a renewed sense of energy and life to our campus, often creating new and exciting stories like the ones you will read in this issue of Connection magazine. You can read about Dr. Herman and Valerie Rolfs, a generous couple whose love of music inspired them to make the largest gift in UWF history by living donors. You will also learn about Jaclyn Bramlette, the first female UWF cadet to be selected for the U.S. Space Force. Finally, our feature story spotlights 14 of the many dynamic and hardworking women making an extraordinary impact at UWF. We look forward to what lies ahead and to the milestones our Argos will meet and exceed with the generous and steadfast support of dedicated alumni and friends like you. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the University of West Florida.
Howard J. Reddy Vice President for University Advancement
UWF hosts the 2021 State of the University address President Martha D. Saunders reflected on the adaptation and accomplishments of Argonauts amid a global pandemic during the 2021 State of the University address. Saunders mentioned that despite obstacles, the University stayed true to its mission, providing high-quality education, research and community engagement. Looking ahead, Saunders plans to focus on new horizons including master planning, strategic planning, enrollment planning and diversity planning.
N E WS & N OT ES
National Merit Finalist and other top scholars welcomed to campus The University welcomed its tenth National Merit Finalist in five years in Fall 2021. Landon Nelson was among approximately 15,000 students across the country who met the requirements for Finalist standing, out of an estimated 1.5 million high school juniors who participated in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship competition. Four students were also awarded the Pace Presidential Scholarship, which is awarded to top Florida-resident incoming freshmen who show potential to serve as future leaders with the institution’s most prestigious scholarship. The four students include Brayden Tompkins, Khuyen Tran, Samantha Kammerer and Emma Wagner.
LANDON NELSON Psychology Major, 2021 National Merit Finalist
UWF earns prestigious rankings and designations in 2021 The University of West Florida was awarded the 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity, or HEED, Award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine for the fourth consecutive year and sixth time overall. The University was named a 2021 “Great College to Work For,” marking the institution’s ninth appearance on the list. UWF was ranked in the top 20 public institutions in the region by U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Colleges rankings.
NEWS & NOTE S
UWF Cyber Club places second in regional competition The University of West Florida Cyber Club placed second in the Regional Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition, outranking prestigious cyber programs from the University of Central Florida, Auburn University and more.
Chemistry Scholars Program receives 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM award UWF’s Chemistry Scholars Program was awarded the 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The recognition honors institutions that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.
UWF Center for Behavior Analysis equipped with virtual simulation system UWF’s Army ROTC cadets and local law enforcement agencies utilized a virtual simulation system at the University of West Florida Center for Behavior Analysis for hands-on training. The VirTra 300 LE firearms training simulator is a virtual reality system designed to incorporate applied behavior analysis with behavior-based fluency. The simulator and related curriculum are designed to develop fluent decision-making in highstakes scenarios, while providing simultaneous de-escalation training and practice maintaining situational awareness.
N E WS & N OT ES
University of West Florida student earns gold in prestigious nationwide Japanese language contest Junior international studies major, Ashton Reichard, won the gold award at Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement Talk, known as J.LIVE Talk. J.LIVE Talk is an annual national presentation contest administered by the Japanese program at the George Washington University since 2015. Reichard competed in the College Division I against a finalist from Rice University and another from Baylor University. As a gold award winner, Reichard won a scholarship to study in an eight-week summer intensive Japanese language course at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.
UWF cybersecurity program achieves prestigious ABET accreditation and CAE-CD re-designation The Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program at UWF recently achieved accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. The accreditation is retroactive from Oct. 1, 2019 through September 2025, aligning it with the University’s computer science accreditation.
Partnership with Miami Dade College enhances cybersecurity workforce development The University of West Florida and Miami Dade College announced a partnership that aims to expand cybersecurity workforce development in Florida through a memorandum of understanding. The MOU outlines intentions for both institutions to collaborate on educational and workforce development programs and curricula. Additionally, the partnership between the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and the Cybersecurity Center of the Americas at MDC will enhance collaboration for grants, faculty training, industry and student scholarship opportunities.
L EG ACY GI VI N G
Leaving a Legacy of Music BY BRITTANY SWINFORD ’11
r. Herman Rolfs and his wife, Valerie, made a name for themselves as successful medical professionals–him, a pioneering radiologist; her, a nurse and nursing professor. When it came to their legacy, however, they chose to honor their shared love for music and belief in access to education with a historic gift to the University of West Florida Department of Music. Their donation, valued at more than $8.5 million, marks the largest gift from a living donor in UWF history. It provides significant scholarships and resources for music majors and members of the Argo Athletic Band, includes an Imperial Bösendorfer Grand piano and created the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music. “Being a named school of music is a prestigious honor,” said Dr. Sheila Dunn, professor and director of the school of music. “Every day, I strive to honor the legacy of our incredible donors. Together with my faculty and students, I work to continue raising the standards in our program and to develop a vision for what we can achieve.”
About the Donors Herman was the son of German immigrants who settled in Pensacola shortly after his birth, during the Great Depression. He would later describe those years as “economically very difficult.” Music was woven throughout his life, beginning in childhood, when his family would gather around the radio to listen to classical music. A church member from McIlwain Presbyterian Church gifted Herman a clarinet and taught him to play when his family couldn’t afford lessons. After graduating from Pensacola High School in 1946, Herman found his path to higher education paved with a band scholarship to Louisiana State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in biochemistry. His love for music remained, and he eventually replaced the clarinet with the saxophone, joking that it “just made him look cooler.” He retired from a long career in the medical field in the late 1990s after serving as chief of radiology and nuclear medicine for White-Wilson Medical Center in Fort Walton Beach for over a decade. Valerie Rolfs retired as an associate professor at Miami-Dade Community College and as a visiting professor for five schools of nursing in Colombia, South America.
HERMAN ROLFS with a photo of his late wife, Valerie, whose love of music he honored by gifting a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano to the UWF Department of Music.
The Gift of Music Throughout their 46-year marriage, Herman and Valerie loved to travel, visiting friends all over the world and collecting classical music albums along the way. In 1989, they decided to share their love of music with the Pensacola community by showcasing international classical pianists at the Rolfs Classical Piano Series, hosted by McIlwain Presbyterian until 2007. The Rolfs’ longtime friend and attorney, Gary Leuchtman, said that over the years, the Rolfs’ home was graced by many amazing and gifted artists. “They spoke often about their experiences and the rare opportunity they had of meeting and becoming personally acquainted with so many gifted pianists from across the world,” Leuchtman said. “At one of the last recitals they organized, Herman thanked the audience for helping them fulfill their dream of bringing beautiful music to the community.” A month before his death in August 2020, Herman purchased a coveted Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano for the UWF Department of Music as a way to help aspiring musicians at UWF and honor Valerie, who died in November 2019. His generosity established UWF as one of the elite few universities and conservatories in the country with the renowned instrument. In honor of the gift, the Music Hall in the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts has been renamed the Rolfs Music Hall.
L EG ACY GI VI N G
“THE ROLFS’ GIFT WILL POSITIVELY IMPACT GENERATIONS OF MUSIC MAJORS AND MEMBERS OF THE ARGO ATHLETIC BAND FOR DECADES TO COME.” —Dr. Sheila Dunn, professor and director of the school of music Honoring UWF’s Past In Fall 2020, UWF announced an anonymous gift to rename the Department of Music. The Rolfs’ final gift fulfilled their wish to honor the first chair of the music department by establishing the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music. Williams founded the UWF music department in 1967 and served as its chair for 25 years. Under his leadership, the program earned national accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music in 1971. For 17 years, he also served as principal conductor of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. In 1990, he established the first Pensacola Children’s Symphony Chorus, which was the precursor to the present Pensacola Children’s Chorus. “I have great memories of rehearsing and performing with Dr. Williams as a young musician at the Saenger Theater,” said Dunn, who was a member of the Children’s Symphony Chorus. “It was my first opportunity to perform with a symphony orchestra on a stage like that. Singing in the chorus was undoubtedly one of the most formative experiences for me as a young musician.” Dunn said she was honored and humbled to be selected as the first director of the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music, an accomplishment made all the more special by her personal connection. She said it’s only fitting that the music school be named after the man who believed and invested in the program from day one. “During his time at UWF, Dr. Williams laid the groundwork for a successful music program,” Dunn said. “He helped to establish Pensacola as the vibrant, culturally rich city that it is today.”
Paying it Forward Both Herman and Valerie Rolfs had access to higher education because of critical scholarship support they received in college. They were passionate about providing the same access that they were afforded to young musicians at UWF. With their gift, every music student and members of the Argo Athletic Band at UWF will have access to scholarship support through a $7 million scholarship endowment. The gift also established a separate endowment to allow the school to fulfill its five-year plan and work toward the long-term goals of establishing a symphony orchestra, an opera program, an expanded concert series and a graduate program. “The Rolfs’ gift will positively impact generations of music majors and members of the Argo Athletic Band for decades to come,” Dunn said. “We want UWF to be on the map as the established, elite music program in our region and beyond. This gift creates unprecedented momentum for us. I believe the sky’s the limit.”
THE ROLFS’ GENEROSITY is honored with a portrait hanging in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts on the UWF Pensacola campus.
Students gain real-world experience with unique opportunity to manage UWF Foundation Funds BY ALLISON MORGAN
niversity of West Florida College of Business students are engaging in experiential learning by managing a $1 million bond fund and $500,000 stock fund in two fund management courses this year. The fund courses have been offered since Summer 2019 at UWF, but now students have the unique opportunity to manage real money. The UWF Foundation Board approved the use of the funds at its September 2020 meeting. “We first had to show some performance and prove to the Board of Directors how great the students were at choosing stocks to invest in,” said Dr. Kwan-Chen Ma, Mary Ball Washington/Switzer Bros endowed professor of finance in UWF’s College of Business. “After they saw that, they approved the use of real funds.” Following the approval of the funds, students began researching stocks for presentation to the Foundation’s board of directors in Spring 2020, without knowing 11
the pandemic would unfold a few months later. Ma says students got lucky because they chose stocks that did well amid changes and new resources being used during the pandemic. Antonia Starzmann, a Spring 2021 graduate, chose Teladoc because of the high rate of success a similar company with the same concept was having in her home country of Sweden. Teladoc is a service that can conveniently diagnose and treat most non-emergency conditions such as flu, seasonal allergies, upper respiratory infections and more by phone or video. “I immediately thought ‘this is brilliant, I think this company would do really well, and it had many areas I could argue in a presentation,’” Starzmann said. “Dr. Ma helped me overcome my fear of presenting a complex subject to a large group of experienced and knowledgeable people.” Teladoc’s stock went up 200% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students also chose high-performing stocks like DocuSign, Roku, Trade Desk and Novacure, among
“I immediately thought ‘this is brilliant, I think this company would do really well, and it had many areas I could argue in a presentation.” —Antonia Starzmann ’21 others. The entire portfolio had a 128% return during the pandemic. Ma is always actively recruiting students to the program, which is open to students of all majors. “It’s a very tough, highly engaging class so I have to recruit students each semester who are up for the challenging and rewarding hands-on course,” Ma said. “The fund management courses jumpstart students’ money management career at least five years earlier.” Ma has the responsibility of reporting results and board governance. The Argo Investments Program is investing $50,000 per approved stock. Ma, along with Dan Lucas, chief financial officer of the UWF
A R G O I N V EST M EN TS
MEMBERS OF THE FALL 2021 ARGO INVESTMENTS TEAM pose in the College of Business lobby on campus. This team works throughout the year to responsibly invest UWF Foundation dollars for optimal returns.
Foundation, and the Foundation’s investment advisor, Atlanta Consulting Group, modeled the program after looking at other universities that have similar programs and following industry best practices. “Dr. Ma and the students are treated like any other managers,” Lucas said. “They are given benchmarks and report performance quarterly to the Investment Committee as any other manager does. They are part of an extensive portfolio; their managed funds make up only a portion of the Foundation’s Investment pool roughly 1.5% of the total. This allows for the total investment pool to be diversified.”
FIN4990/5990 is a stock fund finance elective for the fall semester, and a bond fund management course for the spring semester. The courses are simultaneously offered to both undergraduate and graduate students. The fund management courses are conducted face-to-face and meet twice a week. Students often meet outside of class hours to prepare for state, regional and national finance competitions. JT Thomas, a senior finance major, heard about the class through a friend who encouraged him to join to get practical experience in preparation to be a financial analyst.
“I can already see how the thinking process carries over with the internship I’m participating in,” Thomas said. “You have a better way of thinking about problems and you’re really trying to learn how to be an analyst in the field.”
“The fund management courses jumpstart students’ money management career at least five years earlier.” —Dr. Kwan-Chen Ma, professor of finance
FACU LTY S POTLIG H T
Dr. Karen Molek Dr. Karen Molek is known for her passion for her students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. BY BRITTANY SWINFORD ’11
MOLEK launched the Chemistry Scholars program, which led the way to more than $3 million in grant funding.
or Molek, teaching isn’t a career; it’s a calling. You’d be hard pressed to hear her willingly share her own success story first. She’d tell you that in her 10-plus years as a University of West Florida faculty member, she launched the Chemistry Scholars program, the first of its kind at UWF, which led the way to more than $3 million in grant funding. She’d make sure to mention that there are now 10 different STEM-based Scholars Programs that have involved over 30 UWF faculty and more than 50 faculty from doctorate-granting programs, as well as numerous local industries and most importantly, more than 500 STEM students. She’s undoubtedly one of the most dedicated faculty members at UWF, and her success is evidenced by the notoriety of the UWF Department of Chemistry. But it’s the stories she shares with students in her classroom that tell the most about who she is and why she cares. “I like to tell students that I had a 1.0 GPA at one point in undergrad,”
she said. “It’s my own personal testimony that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful.” After almost 10 years of interviews about numerous student and department accomplishments, we finally sat down with Molek to discuss her least favorite topic: herself. “My parents were 16 and 18 when they had me,” Molek shared. “They are both extremely intelligent with high aptitudes. They have been quite successful but didn’t have the opportunity to attend college. Thankfully, they both realized the importance of education and encouraged me to pursue college.” She described herself as the type of high school student who did “fine enough” to get by with good grades, but said her moment of inspiration didn’t hit until she was in college. “Undergrad was pivotal for me—it changed the trajectory of my professional life,” she said. “I was in an honors freshman program that mentored elementary students who lived in poverty. Through mentoring them, and later high school students from the same area, I realized the support I had from my family and the opportunities I had been granted were rare, rather than ‘the norm’ as I thought previously.” Molek said that realization, along with the support of faculty who played a critical role in helping her gain confidence in her abilities and fine tune her interest in physical chemistry and building instruments, set her on a course toward her “dream job.” “Everybody has a set of passions and talents, and I wanted to help students find that intersection,” she said. “I wanted to inspire undergraduate students who did not have opportunities. I wanted
to find a university that didn’t have an experimental physical chemistry lab, build one and reach students that way.” Tashiema Wilson Ulrich ’15 was a college freshman when she had her first personal interaction with Molek after a failed test. Ulrich said it was the motivation she needed to change course and take her classes seriously. “I went on to become one of the first American Chemistry Scholars at UWF, as well as a Chemistry Scholar, the recipient of the 2015 Jerome E. Gurst chemistry award and more,” Ulrich said. “This was the most significant example of how Dr. Molek impacted my life because it was the first time someone truly cared about me without expecting anything in return. She could have counted me out as just another freshman who would fail chemistry, but she didn’t. She saw the potential in me and fostered it.” Ulrich later attended postgraduate school at the University of South Carolina, where she was the first underrepresented minority woman to receive a doctorate in nuclear engineering in 2019. Molek has fulfilled her dreams at UWF, where she built the University’s first experimental physical chemistry lab and opened the door to mentoring over 75 students through undergraduate research. “I have the opportunity to advocate for and mentor faculty and students,” she said. “The trust I’ve earned from our faculty, students and leadership gives me the opportunity to make an impact on multiple levels. That opportunity to advocate is unparalleled—it’s why I come to work every day.”
“That opportunity to advocate is unparalleled— it’s why I come to work every day.”
UWF WOMEN HISTORY MAKING
They are thought-leaders, mentors, change-makers and critical thinkers. They carve new paths, challenge the status quo and always ask: “what could be?”
BY JENNY PEDRAZA
“When you break a glass ceiling, it leaves jagged edges,” said University of West Florida President Martha D. Saunders. “I believe it’s my job to help smooth out those edges so the next woman coming up doesn’t get cut.” Saunders knows a thing or two about busting through glass ceilings. After working in advertising and public relations and later in secondary education, Saunders began as an adjunct professor in the UWF Department of Communication Arts. She rose through the ranks at the University, serving as the coordinator for the public relations program, director of the University Honors Program, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, provost and executive vice president. In her 30-plus years in higher education, Saunders served in academic and leadership roles at universities in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and Mississippi. She became UWF’s sixth president in 2017. Saunders’ drive and innovative spirit represent core values at UWF. Thousands of women—faculty, staff, alumni and students—have helped make UWF what it is today. Their leadership, intelligence and compassion have changed the University’s course—and the course of all the women who will come after them. These are just some of their stories.
Dr. Sherry Hartnett MARKETING PROFESSOR, UWF COLLEGE OF BUSINESS FOUNDING DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE MENTOR PROGRAM CHAIR, WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE In 2012, Dr. Sherry Hartnett joined the UWF College of Business faculty. A seasoned marketing professional, she previously served as vice president and chief marketing and development officer for a regional healthcare system. She also founded Hartnett Marketing Solutions and Hartnett Learning Academy, a consultancy specializing in marketing and leadership development. Hartnett was ready to put her experience as a senior marketing executive to work in academia—not just to show students the ropes of digital and social media marketing—but to also tap into another facet of her career: mentoring. Hartnett was brought on board to launch the UWF College of Business’ Executive Mentor Program, connecting undergraduate and graduate students with executives for career mentoring. During the initial planning for one of her first programs, Hartnett realized she was on to something bigger.
“We were going to bring in a woman executive to speak on campus,” Hartnett said. “And I remember thinking, ‘There’s so many great women to consider. This really could be a panel instead.’ And from that panel, thinking, ‘Wow, this could really be a full conference.’ And then it just kind of exploded.” UWF will host the eighth annual Women in Leadership Conference on March 11 at the UWF Conference Center, bringing together more than 400 women in-person, with even more attending via a new virtual option. UWF students, young professionals and those more senior in their careers will hear
from women in leadership, including CEOs from across the state, as they share their stories, both personal and practical. “Every year, women walk out of the conference inspired and motivated by each other,” Hartnett said. “That’s really what mentoring is all about—helping people grow in their career and their own direction. Women who support women, at the end of the day, are more successful themselves. You can lift others up while you climb.” Hartnett recently wrote and published a book titled, “High-Impact Mentoring: A Practical Guide to Creating Value in Other People’s Lives.”
LIFTING EACH OTHER UP Tori Bennett DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, DIVISION OF UNIVERSITY ADVANCEMENT FORMER UWF NATIONAL CHAMPION SOCCER PLAYER Tori Bennett secured a gift in excess of $8.5 million—the largest gift to the University from a living donor. The historic gift from the late Dr. Herman and Valerie Rolfs through their estate created the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music and will provide significant scholarships and resources for music students annually.
’12, ’16 Spring 2022
Dr. Cynthia Smith Peters UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CLINICAL PRACTICE, SCHOOL OF NURSING If there’s one thing Dr. Cynthia Smith Peters, undergraduate program director and assistant professor of clinical practice in the UWF School of Nursing, hopes her nursing students remember when they graduate and begin their careers in healthcare, it’s to never forget “why they chose nursing.” It is important to provide holistic care with the consideration of the client’s individual care needs; family; and the importance of care and empathy. This lesson of personal connection and compassion reflects the culture of UWF’s highly successful nursing program, which graduates more than 140 students each year. In 2020, more than 95% of graduates passed the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurses on their first attempt, surpassing the national average for firsttime pass rate by over five percentage points and exceeding the state mark by nearly 10 points.
Smith Peters said it’s a combination of things that she thinks prepares UWF nursing students so well for their future careers. In addition to rigorous coursework, she credits a team of nursing faculty, staff, administration and clinical partners who pull together and work toward the common goal of supporting their students 24/7. UWF students also gain a bigger picture of population health through public health outreach initiatives in the community. Stepping outside hospital walls, UWF nursing students explore
issues related to social determinants of health, social justice and equitable care, community wellness and the management of chronic health issues. “This field is so important in our society. Our students are building a foundation to be able to help so many people over the lifetime of their careers,” Smith Peters said. “We are teaching them to step outside of their comfort zones, keep pushing themselves forward and above all else, always do the right thing. It is an honor to teach the next generation of caring and compassionate nurses!”
CONNECTING WITH COMPASSION Dr. Judy Bense PRESIDENT EMERITUS AND PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY Dr. Judy Bense served as UWF’s fifth—and first female—president from 2008 to 2016, focusing her tenure on growth, visibility, enhancing the student experience and building partnerships. She founded the UWF Division of Anthropology and Archaeology and established the Archaeology Institute, serving as director for 20 years.
Chasidy Fisher Hobbs INSTRUCTOR, DEPARTMENT OF EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES LEADER FOR ARGOS EDIBLE CAMPUS Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, along with Dr. Greg Tomso, director of the Kugelman Honors Program, has spent 10 years working with students and building the UWF Community Garden. An expansion of this—the Argos’ Edible Campus program—incorporates fruiting trees and bushes into campus landscaping. The group hopes to plant more than 1,000 edibles on campus to combat food insecurity. In 2021, Hobbs was awarded the Student Government Association Distinguished Teaching Award.
Mamie Hixon DIRECTOR OF THE WRITING LAB ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH
Mamie Hixon established the UWF Writing Lab in 1982. The lab helps students with grammar, style and mechanics of writing. In addition to her work helping students at UWF, Hixon is a professional editor, radio and television grammarian, motivational speaker and workshop organizer and presenter.
Deb Fletcher ASSISTANT CHIEF, UWF POLICE
“UWF is the land of opportunity. As a woman, UWF has supported me professionally by recognizing my talents and ability to do my job, which has allowed me to rise through the ranks in the police department. Each day, there is a different situation or person who needs guidance or help along the way—it’s what I love most about my job.”
Dr. Kim LeDuff FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, DIVISION OF ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT & STUDENT AFFAIRS FORMER CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER Under LeDuff’s leadership, UWF earned six Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Awards from Insight into Diversity magazine.
“My experience at UWF was rare in that I had the opportunity to work with two female presidents. For the majority of my time at UWF, the cabinet was primarily female as well. The strong examples of women in leadership are good for everyone on campus.” Spring 2022
’13 Ashliegh McLean HEAD COACH, UWF SOFTBALL In her first year as head coach in 2018, Ashliegh McLean led the UWF softball program to a Gulf South Conference Championship, a South Region Title and the NCAA Championship. In 2021, she earned her 100th career win, and her 10436 career record is better than any other current coach in the GSC during their first three seasons. McLean was named the GSC Coach of the Year in 2019.
Dr. Brent Venable INAUGURAL DIRECTOR OF THE INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS AND ROBOTICS DOCTORAL PROGRAM
“My advice to women is to stay focused on what they really want to do and to design a plan that puts them in a position to fulfill their desires and vocation. Work hard to put yourself in a situation where your achievements cannot be overlooked.”
Anna Wall CHIEF CURATOR, PENSACOLA MUSEUM OF ART AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WEST FLORIDA
“I am proud to be building on the history of female leadership at the Pensacola Museum of Art. I am motivated by connecting with the community through art and sharing the work of artists. Telling diverse stories through our exhibitions and stoking the curiosity and engagement of our visitors keeps me going each day.”
PMA was founded in 1954 by a group of women that envisioned a community space for visual art and culture.
Dr. Leasha Barry PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS “I like to shine a light on the good things that could happen if we run with an idea,” said Dr. Leasha Barry, professor and director of the UWF Center for Behavior Analysis. “Instead of convincing someone to help you, I like to show people how something new could support what they’re already doing or what they want to accomplish.” Barry has been “getting things done” at UWF since the early 2000s when she began offering applied behavior analysis courses. UWF is now a leading resource for individuals interested in a career in ABA, with 10 graduate courses and five undergraduate courses and 1,000 new enrollments a year. A recent partnership with Dr. Angela Hahn, chair and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Administration, has paved the way for a new ABA minor. While ABA is the most widely accepted evidence-based treatment for autism, there are many applications in clinical, educational and occupational settings, including workplace safety, corrections and rehabilitation.
Last summer, the UWF Center for Behavior Analysis partnered with Autism Pensacola on Sensory Street at the Museum of Commerce in Historic Pensacola. The UWF team used behavior analysis to help provide families impacted by autism with a safe environment to practice important communitybased skills, like going to the bank or visiting the dentist for a cleaning. The center is also home to the VirTra 300 LE firearms training simulator,
providing hands-on training for UWF’s Army ROTC cadets and local law enforcement agencies. “I feel fortunate that UWF has been so supportive and that there is a spirit of collaboration on campus,” Barry said. “Growing this center took frank conversations and learning from setbacks. I knew I had to advocate for what I believed could work. It was about never being afraid to ask.”
RUNNING WITH A GOOD IDEA Melissa Wolter HEAD COACH, UWF VOLLEYBALL Melissa Wolter is a five-time Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year, the 2010-19 GSC Coach of the Decade and was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region Coach of the year in 2012. Wolter has led the Argos to 16 seasons with 20 or more wins and 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
TAYLOR VANEEKEREN SERVES MENTAL TOUGHNESS ON AND OFF THE COURT BY ALLISON MORGAN
AT HLET I C S
“SHE IS A CAPTAIN, SHE IS A LEADER AND SHE IS A WARRIOR AS A COMPETITOR. SHE HAS NEVER ONE TIME LEANED ON HER DISABILITY AND IN FACT, I THINK IT FUELS HER TO BE AT HER BEST EVERY DAY. ” —Melissa Wolter, Volleyball Head Coach
ne of the top setters in Division II volleyball, Taylor Vaneekeren, is inspiring others through her health condition. Vaneekeren, a junior and a setter for the UWF volleyball team, was born with hearing loss that was diagnosed when she was in the second grade. Vaneekeren now uses hearing aids. Instead of letting her hearing loss discourage her, she uses it to motivate her. “There are going to be people that tell you that you can’t do this or this is going to be hard for you,” said Vaneekeren. “I think for me, I was like ‘okay, watch me. I’m going to do it anyway.’ That’s the mentality you have to have. It always pays off.” Vaneekeren quickly overcame the challenges, and became a standout volleyball player at one of the top high schools in the state of Illinois. At Benet Academy in Naperville, Illinois, Vaneekeren led the basketball and volleyball teams she played on to multiple playoff appearances during her career. Vaneekeren’s time at the Benet Academy was capped off by being named as the 2017 DuPage County Top Area Athlete her senior year. As an Argonaut, Vaneekeren’s achievements have continued. In Fall 2021, she was selected to the All-District Team, given to the top scholars who have also made a large impact to their teams on the court as well, making her eligible to be selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team. She ranks sixth all-time in UWF volleyball history in assists, passing the 2,000 mark for her career earlier this season and was
recently named the Gulf South Conference’s 2021 Setter of the Year. She has also earned recognition from her performance as a student, receiving selections to the GSC Fall Honor Roll every season she has played for the Argonauts. Despite overcoming many health hurdles, Vaneekeren says obstacles still exist. “When you go into sports it brings a whole other level of difficulty because communication is the biggest thing,” Vaneekeren said. “I’ve tried to make it a mindset of whatever I’m going to overcome it but there are sometimes that you miss things or you’re not really connecting with your teammates because you’re not hearing the right things.” The difficulties are a part of Vaneekeren’s everyday life, on and off the court, that she continues to navigate. “I think the biggest thing for me is not being able to hear people that are behind me,” Vaneekeren said. “There were several instances when I was younger where I would get upset with my parents because they didn't tell me something but in reality, they were just behind me.” Vaneekeren chose UWF because of coaches like Head Coach Melissa Wolter, who made her feel at home during her visit to the University. It was a match that netted a positive outcome for both parties.
“From the start, we loved everything that Taylor was about and we are thrilled she chose UWF,” Wolter said. “Taylor is the kind of player that everyone wants to play with. She’s always ‘team first’ putting in the work herself for the betterment of the team but also being the first to lift others up. She is a captain, she is a leader and she is a warrior as a competitor. She has never one time leaned on her disability and in fact, I think it fuels her to be at her best every day. I admire her so much for what she’s overcome and for who she is as a human being.”
TAYLOR VANEEKEREN exemplifies Argo spirit despite being born with hearing loss.
A J A B CE A R AM E T
cal on i n a ech ducati m e ng Taki neering n path e engi he beat 11 RD ’ off t NFO I W S
n 2016, the University of West Florida launched a mechanical engineering program with a clear vision: take education beyond the four walls of a classroom to truly immerse students in practical, hands-on learning that can serve them well into their careers. Six years later, students in the Enterprise Program are reaping the rewards of that plan. “The 11 Enterprise teams are an integral part of our design-based curriculum that offers students hands-on design experience from sophomore to senior year,” said Dr. Michael Reynolds, associate professor and chair for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Students work on a team and gain firsthand knowledge on how engineering works to solve real-life problems.” One of the most popular draws for students is the annual Baja Society of Automotive Engineers competition, in
which 100 colleges and universities from across the world test four-wheeled, off-road vehicles in a four-hour endurance race. The competition also includes a series of static events such as an acceleration test and maneuverability and suspension courses, and each team is required to give a design presentation for their vehicle.
NY ITTA R B BY
The University’s Baja Race team was founded in January 2017 and first entered the 2019 season of competition, just two years after the launch of the mechanical engineering program. For most Enterprise teams, mechanical engineering students complete a survey to participate, but Reynolds said the Baja Race team is more selective in filling its 20-plus slots. “We try to find students with previous experience in metal fabrication, racing or other skills such as welding,” he said. “We also look for individuals who have special skills in promotions, social media or fundraising–all valuable roles to fill out this prestigious team.” Since its inception, the team has fundraised to furnish the tools and materials needed to build their race cars, which Reynolds said cost about $10,000 total. The UWF mechanical engineering program and the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering provided seed money to launch the program, and Reynolds said they are thankful for the support from local businesses and industries acting as team sponsors, as well as funds provided by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Bear Family Foundation. Past sponsors have included the Air Force Research
BA JA RAC E T EAM
lorida Man.’ e named ‘F vehicl d a o f -r d, of heele w r u UW o heir f F Ba ja Race s and t team member
“That experience, plus my work with the Baja Race team, have enriched my engineering experience and provided me with even more passion and interest in my craft.” —Alex Ardoin, senior mechanical engineering major
Laboratory, Santino’s Pizza, Southern Aluminum and Steel and Wild Boar ATV. Alex Ardoin, senior mechanical engineering major, has been a valued member of the team since the beginning. In high school, he raced cars under the instruction of talented engineers who took him under their wing. He said that was just the beginning of his interest in competitive engineering. “Even though I was in high school, the engineers I worked with involved me in research, testing and experimentation, and I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed that
aspect of racing,” he said. “That experience, plus my work with the Baja Race team, have enriched my engineering experience and provided me with even more passion and interest in my craft.” The competition takes place every May, and the students begin building the car the prior September, following what Reynolds described as a “long process of designing and building many of the assemblies such as the suspension, drive-system, steering and braking.” Practice runs with the vehicle begin in April.
Reynolds said participating in the competition is an invaluable opportunity to prepare students for future careers in mechanical engineering. “The competition is always changing, just like engineering is always changing,” he said. “Students learn how to adapt, work together and solve problems. This competition is very practical, in that you need to not only get the car to run, but it needs to survive a treacherous endurance course that is designed to break many vehicles.”
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The UWF Foundation’s recent partnership with FreeWill provides all UWF alumni and friends with free access to an online platform where you can create a will in less than 20 minutes. Take advantage of this free resource at freewill.com/uwf and support the people and causes you care about most. Though not a requirement, a gift to UWF in your will can provide invaluable support for future Argos. Join the more than 1,000 UWF alumni and friends that have begun their free will by heading to freewill.com/uwf and starting the process today.
A LU M N I
Alumni Events for Spring 2022 The UWF Alumni Association plans events throughout the year for alumni to reconnect, network and engage with their alma mater. We hope you will attend one of our spring events and find out more about future events and alumni networks around the country by visiting alumni.uwf.edu.
Founders Week: Day of Service Various locations in Pensacola Give back to the Pensacola community and work alongside fellow alumni at one of our various service projects across Pensacola and surrounding areas. Alumni can view a list of sites and register to volunteer at alumni.uwf.edu. Founders Week: Day of Giving dayofgiving.uwf.edu Which decade is best? Find out on UWF’s Fourth Annual Day of Giving. Each UWF alumni decade is challenged to raise support for UWF during this 24-hour online fundraising initiative. If you make a gift of $30 or more you will receive an exclusive pair of UWF socks. Alumni Day at the Ballpark UWF Baseball/Softball Complex Join the UWF Alumni Association for a day at the ballpark. Come cheer on the UWF baseball and softball teams and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Spring 2022 Grad Celebration Commons Auditorium, UWF Pensacola Campus Join us in a toast as we welcome the newest members of the Alumni Association.
Atlanta Alumni Network Reception Visit with former classmates and hear a University update from UWF President Martha D. Saunders. Heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and UWF promotional items will be available.
UWF Alumni Night with the Wahoos Blue Wahoos Stadium Join your fellow Argos as we cheer on the Blue Wahoos on the Winn Dixie Party Deck. Celebrate with a complimentary buffet, exclusive Wahoos Party hat and UWF swag.
BY THE NUMBERS TOTAL UWF ALUMNI
TOTAL UWF DEGREES CONFERRED
PAST ARGOS enjoying the alumni breakfast event at Museum Plaza during Founders Week 2021.
Just because you graduated, doesn’t mean you stopped learning. As an alum, you have exclusive access to a range of online learning tools. Join us for one of our exclusive webinars or search our past event recordings. Visit alumlc.org/uwf.
Stay Connected with UWF Alumni | Connect.uwf.edu |
/UWFAlumni Spring 2022
ALUMNI PRO FIL E S
Founder, The Beauty Menagerie
“Because of the uncertainty and how that made me feel, I started an LLC a month after the shut down,” Steele said. “I knew I had a skill that I could use to help others but I also desired to build a legacy. I had never had the time or ability to solely focus on a new business. Although there were many times I second guessed
opening a business during the pandemic, I thought about Madam C.J. Walker becoming the first self-made millionaire during an outbreak of the Bird Flu. That was one of the things that kept me going.” In addition to running a business, Steele also serves as a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, or JEDI, trainer at NETworks on Tour and is a founding member of the Black Hair and Makeup United. Steele earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UWF and a master’s in wig and makeup design from University of North Carolina School of Arts. “UWF showed me that when you are doing what you love, sometimes you will end up surprising yourself with what you can accomplish,” Steele said.
Photo courtesy of Elijah Horton.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theatre performances among other in-person events, Destinee Steele ’15 combined her passion and experience in theatre to craft the career of her dreams as a business owner. Steele used the unforeseen challenges in 2020 as a catalyst to carve her own path to success through the founding of The Beauty Menagerie, a handmade, ready-towear wig company that caters to people living with hairloss.
ALUMNA DESTINEE STEELE turned challenges into opportunities by launching a handmade, ready-to-wear wig company at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown.
Jaclyn Bramlette 2nd Lt., U.S. Space Force
In September 2021, 2nd Lt. Jaclyn Bramlette took her oath as a guardian in the U.S. Space Force, becoming the first female Argonaut ever to commission into the branch. Bramlette is a Spring 2021 graduate of the UWF Air Force ROTC program who majored in computer science. The commission is highly competitive and prized among Air Force graduating cadets. For Bramlette, serving in the armed forces and supporting space operations runs in the family.
“My sister and brother-in-law have each spent almost 20 years in space operations for the U.S. Air Force, and my brotherin-law is now in the U.S. Space Force, so I was influenced by the positive impact it has had on their lives,” Bramlette said. “I wasn’t sure I would be selected, but upon hearing I received a commission into the Space Force I was excited to be joining something so new and important to America’s history.”
The branch’s stated mission is to provide space capabilities and to protect U.S. and allied security interests in space. Launched in December 2019, it is the newest branch of the armed forces. “I feel honored to be among some of the first people to enter into the Space Force,” Bramlette said. “It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s new and still evolving.” Bramlette is in the 333rd Training Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
SNAPS H OTS
Smile! Whether we gather at commencement, a banquet, network event or tailgate, our events provide the perfect opportunity to show our appreciation of your continued support. They are also a wonderful chance for you to socialize with fellow alumni, current students, staff, faculty and friends of the University.
Don’t miss out! We continue to add new events to the mix. For a look at upcoming events, visit alumni.uwf.edu.
The Alumni Association and the Historic Trust hosted the annual Ghost Tours event on Oct. 22, 2021. The walking tours started at Pensacola Museum of History in downtown Pensacola.
Local nurses as well as members of the UWF School of Nursing were honored and recognized during the Nurse’s Appreciation Event at Blue Wahoos Stadium on Aug. 19, 2021.
UWF held a donor legacy event in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts in honor of the Rolfs family gift and naming of the Music Hall. Acclaimed Irish pianist John O’Conor performed on a Bösendorfer piano, which was part of the generous gift for the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music.
The University of West Florida’s Historic Trust celebrated the state of Florida’s 200th anniversary becoming a territory of the United States. The celebration was held on the Museum Plaza in downtown Pensacola on July 17, 2021.
S N APSH OTS
The UWF Alumni Association hosted alumni for a breakfast and social gathering at the Museum Plaza in downtown Pensacola on Oct. 15, 2021.
The No. 1 ranked West Florida football team returned to Blue Wahoos Stadium for the first time since Nov. 2019 to take on West Georgia for the annual Homecoming game.
The University of West Florida College of Business inducted its inaugural Hall of Fame class on Nov. 12, 2021. The Hall of Fame was established to celebrate individuals who encapsulate the qualities that make the college an extraordinary place to learn and grow. University of West Florida President Martha D. Saunders reflected on the adaptation and accomplishments of Argonauts amid a global pandemic during her 2021 State of the University address on Sept. 30, 2021. Saunders addressed students, faculty and staff in the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts Mainstage Theatre.
The Alumni Board of Directors met at the UWF Historic Trust in September to strategize their efforts for the next year, plan alumni programming and share some Argo Spirit in Museum Plaza. Spring 2022
CLASS NOTE S
Class Notes 1960s
’69 Jeffry I. Gray, B.S. Physical Education; Gray was awarded the Seniors Service Award at the 2020 United States Tennis Association Celebrating Community Champions virtual event for outstanding dedication and contributions to growing tennis at the local level.
1970s ’70 Thomas R. Tolar, B.S. Management; Tolar retired in January 2022 after working for 40 years at Sarkes Tarzian Inc., a company that owns television stations in Tennessee and Nevada, as well as seven radio stations in Indiana. ’71 & ’80 Curtis Powell, B.A. Mathematics & M.Ed. Administration & Supervision; Powell is a full time pastor of the First Pentacostal Church in Bagdad, Florida and is celebrating 40 years of pastoring. ’77 Frederick “Freddy” Ard, B.S. Management; Ard was appointed by Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey as one of three non-attorney judges on the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, and was confirmed by the Alabama State Senate on March 16, 2021. The ninemember court is convened to hear complaints filed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission and has authority to remove from office, suspend, censure or sanction any municipal, probate, district, circuit, appellate judge or supreme court justice in the state. ’78 William Paul Bowers, B.A. Political Science; Bowers was appointed to the Board of Directors of Exelon, an American Fortune 100 energy company. He also recently retired from Georgia Power Company, having served in multiple capacities including chairman, chief executive officer and president of the company.
’82 Theresa Brunasso, B.S. Physical Electronics; Brunasso started a twoyear term on the Board of Directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She will lead and represent the nearly 25,000 members in the Southeastern U.S. region.
’00 Eric Woodrow Gilmore, B.S. Environmental Studies; Gilmore was named the new Escambia County, Florida public safety director in August 2021.
’87 Cheryl Marrs, M.A. Elementary Education; Marrs has retired after 42 years in education. She spent 21 years in New Orleans, Louisiana, and her last 21 years as a teacher in Leon County, Florida.
1990s ’92 Jeffrey M. Brazwell, B.S. Marketing; Brazwell was named president and CEO of Promise to Perform Industries Inc. and its subsidiaries following a management buyout led by him and two business partners. The manufacturing group comprises six companies with factories in Pennsylvania and Nevada. ’93 Erica Moulton, B.S. General Biology; Moulton was inducted into the elite international society for The Explorers Club in upper Manhattan, New York. ’95 Ronald Bramhall, B.A. Criminal Justice; Bramhall was awarded a four-week writer’s residency at Soaring Gardens Artists Retreat in Laceyville, Pennsylvania, and another at 360 Xochi Quetzal in Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, where he worked on his first novel. ’96 Jessica Fiesta George, B.A. Communications; In 2021, George’s podcast titled “Jess Get Hired” gained national attention and she was named as the Top Female Host on Feedspot’s “Top 60 Talent Acquisition Podcasts in 2021” list. Her podcast focuses on helping job seekers and business professionals better understand the job market and is available on all major platforms. ’97 & ’04 Janice Ryan Hall, M.A. Clinical Teaching & M.Ed. Instructional Tech.; Hall published her eighth book, “Dawn Breaks,” in August 2021. All of her published books are available through Amazon or other retailers.
’01, ’02, ’03, ’08 & ’13 Dr. Kathleen S. Hudon, B.A. History, M.A. Communication Arts, B.A. International Studies, Ed.S. & M.Ed.; Hudon received one of 850 Business Magazine’s Pinnacle Awards in September 2021. These awards spotlight leading women in business and education across the 18-county region of Northwest Florida. ’01 Jennifer Marie Wakefield (Williams), B.A. Communications; Wakefield was elected to the International Economic Development Council’s Board of Directors in October 2021. ’02 Casey Gent, B.A. International Studies; Gent and her father, Todd, copublished five children’s books in 2021 revolving around the adventures of Pee Wee and Buddy, two rescue dogs who are getting used to their new lives. Gent also recently published “Make It Count,” a book about her brother who passed away from cystic fibrosis. All titles are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. ’03 & ’08 Sheila Fitzgerald (Harris), B.S.B.A. Management & MSA Public Administration; Fitzgerald was named deputy county administrator for the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners. ’05 Dr. Julie Alexander, M.Ed. Educational Leadership; Alexander was named the new interim senior vice president for academic affairs and workforce development at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida. ’06 Jerri Sutherland, B.S. Clinical Laboratory Sciences; Sutherland was hired as director of process improvement for a nationwide health system where she developed an improvement program and spread it across 84 hospitals. ’07, & ’10 Keysha Cron Alston, B.A. & M.A. Psychology; Alston was hired as a staff clinician/coordinator of student initiatives at the University of Cincinnati Counseling and Psychological Services. She is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina.
’07 & ’09 Dr. Robert Phillip Alston, B.A. Interdisciplinary Humanities & M.Ed. College Student Personnel Administration; Alston was awarded a Northern Kentucky University CARES Award for his role in leading the distribution of over $135,000 to more than 550 students from NKU’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. He currently serves as the assistant dean of students at NKU. ’08 & ’10 Adriannette Williams, B.S.B.A. Management & M.A. Strategic Communication & Leadership; Williams is celebrating two years serving Hillsborough County as the managing attorney and is a founding member of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors. She was also appointed to the Florida Bar’s Media and Communications Law Committee.
2010s ’11 Patrick Michael Cottrell, B.S. Physical Education; Cottrell was hired as the assistant baseball coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Cottrell was on the staff of UWF’s 2011 National Championship baseball team. ’11 Virginia Ralls, MSA Public Administration; Ralls was named the 2020-2021 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard District 8 Military Spouse of the Year. Armed Forces Insurance recognizes those who are inspiring others and have an effect on their communities. ’12 Sarah Savannah Stanford (Best), B.A. Art & Graphic Design; Stanford was named the new multimedia communications specialist for library services in Escambia County, Florida. ’14 Amy Elizabeth Bradshaw, B.S. Pre-Professional Biology; Bradshaw graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine in May 2021 and received the Outstanding Student in Family Medicine Award. She is beginning a family medicine residency in Anderson, South Carolina. ’16 Andrea Nicole Gibson, B.A. Public Relations; Gibson was named the new media and public information manager for Escambia County, Florida. ’16 & ’18 Jimmy Vuong, B.S.B.A. General Business & MBA; Vuong was recently hired as the associate customer category manager at the Kraft Heinz Company.
’18 Rebecca Maria Acevedo, MBA; Acevedo was named assistant volleyball coach at the University of Maryland in July 2021. She had previously spent two years coaching volleyball at UWF and was a three-time AVCA All-American when she competed at Palm Beach Atlantic University. ’18 Davis Allen Wood, B.A. Telecommunications & Film; Wood was hired to be the new public information and education officer for the Department of Public Safety in Escambia County, Florida. ’19 Yiqiu Huang, M.A. Professional Accountancy; Huang was recently hired as the business tax senior associate at RSM US LLP. ’19 Matthew Luis Mendez, M.S. Physical Education & Human Performance; Mendez was named the interim football coach for East Ridge High School in Clermont, Florida. Mendez coached for four seasons at UWF, including the 2019 National Championship season. ’19 Samantha Renee Poirier, M.A. Public History; Poirier was selected as the new executive director for the Plant City Photo Archives and History Center in Plant City, Florida.
2020s ’21 Esther Davis, B.S. Nursing; Davis was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army through the UWF ROTC Program. Davis is an active duty Army nurse in Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
’77 Suzanne Stewart (Sebastiane) ’77 & ’81 Frieda L. Sheffield ’78 Thomas G. Watson ’79 Lisa M. Hayes (Grant) ’80 Cecil J. McEntire ’84 Stanley Harper ’87 Lt Col John Edward McMurray ’89 & ’95 Michael S. Vann ’90 Annola M. Hall (Ferguson) ’97 Timothy J. Ridder, MPA ’98 Daryl Christopher Summey ’00 Elizabeth Anne Whitaker ’02 Eric Bernard Buchholz ’02 Marie D. Sjoberg ’09 Thomas Ethan Dunkle ’12 James Earl Groshong ’19 Michael Motz ’21 Peyton Antoinette Goodman
Individuals Cleaveland K. Fountain - Friend of the University Barbara Mae Goggins - Friend of the University Evelyn M. Davis - Former Employee
Alumni Rising Stars The following alumni were recognized as 2022 Rising Stars by Inweekly Magazine: ’05 Kay Tappan ’07, ’12 Katie Meister ’08, ’15 Jessica Ogden ’10, ’18 Patricia Gandolfo
’11 Carnell “CJ” Dancy ’11 Morgan Pinder
’11 Joseph Randolph
’68 & ’77 Mary A. Sheffield
’13 Sean Mullin
’69 Harry Wayne Maddox
’16 Melissa Knowlton
’70 Wilbur E. Hood
’17 Mayra Heitman
’70 Harold E. Wells
’18 Chance Donaldson
’71 Stefan A. Brokas
’18 Bradley Sanders
’71 Ben T. Mozo
’19 Briana McCreary
’73 John S. Bartoszewicz
’20 Kathleen Norwood
’73 Rev. Rose E. Pierson (Meacham)
’21 Chris King
’74 Ray C. Johnston
’21 Alyvia Waite
’12 Zachary Noel
’76 Dr. William H. Griffin ’76 Phillip E. Johnson
CLASS NOTE S
Fredric G. Levin 1937-2021
ensacola native, Fred Levin, was widely known as one of the nation’s top trial attorneys throughout his career. He was a partner at the Levin Papantonio Rafferty law firm for more than 50 years and received more than 25 jury verdicts in excess of $1 million, six of which were in excess of $10 million. He is best known for rewriting Florida’s Medicaid Third Party Recovery Act to allow the state of Florida to recover billions of dollars from the tobacco industry for smokingrelated illnesses. He was a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization limited to 100 members throughout the country, and he was listed in every edition of the publication, “Best Lawyers in America,” during his lifetime. Levin used his success in his law career to pursue philanthropy work in his community and donated
more than $75 million to nonprofits and universities. He created the first endowed professorship at the University of West Florida in honor of his father, Abe Levin. In 2016, he became a UWF Football Founder, investing in the program in its first season. Levin also established the Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies, in memory of Florida’s 37th governor and Levin’s former law partner. In 2018, Levin made an unprecedented gift to the University, donating his multi-million dollar waterfront home and estate, known as Timeless Tanglewood, to the institution. The total value of the donation was $8 million, the largest gift by a living donor in the University’s history at the time. Our University, city, state and country are better because of the tireless work and generous investments made by Fred Levin during his lifetime.
The Levin Family invites you to join the Fred Levin Way Dedication and Celebration of Giving on Sunday, April 24, 2022 in downtown Pensacola from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. This community event is free and open to the public.
C L ASS N OT ES
The battle is back! Show your support for another Battle of the Decades at UWF’s Annual Day of Giving. Make your gift on April 14, 2022, and help your generation win! Alumni are invited to share their graduating decade when giving and non-alumni donors can choose from supporting the decade they got involved at UWF or when they made their first gift to the University. Donate $30 to earn a pair of exclusive UWF socks. Who will win the battle in 2022? The 90s decade took home the title last year. Will they be dethroned or go for back-to-back wins? When we all come together, our students and University win. Learn more and make your gift at dayofgiving.uwf.edu.
Connection University of West Florida 11000 University Parkway Pensacola, FL 32514 uwf.edu/alumni
“UWF is perfect for me because campus feels like home!” Elizabeth Royappa Communications, ’24
Close to Home. Far from Average. FIND EVERYTHING YOU WANT AND ALL OF WHAT YOU NEED AT UWF.
At the University of West Florida, our spirited learners are exploring limitless possibilities and finding real value in everything we have to offer. Get an unparalleled education right here at home. uwf.edu/apply