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2018 Honorees

Student Excellence Awards

Jessica Valdes

Jessica Valdes is a B.A. candidate in Political Science, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida Honors College. She serves as Associate Coordinator of the Latino Educational Advancement Program under Hispanic-Latino Affairs, where she has mentored over 60 first-year minority students to reach academic success. Jessica has served as a Legislative Fellow at the Florida House of Representatives, Senate, and the Executive Office of the Governor. She is currently a Bob Graham Center Askew Scholar conducting research about the “Protect, Respect and Guarantee – All together for the rights of children and youth” campaign launched by the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism for the 2017 Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With her research, she seeks to improve the safety of women during the carnival and to fight against the hypersexualization of black and brown women in Brazil. In the future, she hopes to pursue a J.D. to bridge her interests in law, politics, and education. She is also a first-generation college student and credits a lot to her hard-working mother, Yanet.

Analiese Wagner

Analiese Wagner is completing her B.A. in Economics this semester. She has also successfully completed a number of upper-division courses in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, and she is expected to graduate Summa Cum Laude. In addition to her impressive academic success, Analiese is actively involved in the UF and Gainesville communities. She has been a VERY active participant in the organization of Dance Marathon, she has worked on City Commission and mayoral campaigns in Gainesville, and she is currently serving as an intern in Mayor Poe’s office. Within the Department of Economics, Analiese currently serves as a Teaching Assistant to Dr. Peri Saygin for Intermediate Macroeconomics, and she is completing an honors thesis under the supervision of Dr. Michelle Phillips. Her honors thesis looks at the economic and political events that contribute to the incidence of terrorist attacks. She is using a cross-country database to identify globally universal determinants. Analiese will begin a M.A. in International Security Studies at The George Washington University in the fall. Analiese is among the strongest students in our Department, and her outside-of-the-classroom engagement is equally impressive.

Joshua Pickering

Joshua Pickering is an Interdisciplinary Studies major in Biochemistry and an aspiring physician who will graduate this year with highest honors. Joshua has much to celebrate — not just his GPA of 3.82. His thesis is “Methods of Oxidative Damage Control in Lung Transplantation.” His faculty sponsors are Jason Portmess in Chemistry and Tiago Machuca in TCV Surgery. He has been accepted at Stanford and is one of our military veteran students.

Corporate Partner Award

Holland and Knight

Holland & Knight has been supporting and promoting the Bob Graham Center since our inception. Here to accept the award on the firm’s behalf is Doug Wright, operations and finance partner. Doug graduated with a degree in history from our college and also received a degree from the law school. He has, for example, been instrumental in advocating for Holland & Knight to support the Bob Graham Center. Doug also encouraged the sponsorship of the Graham Center’s annual gathering, which brings together civically engaged people from across the state to help select a Citizen of the Year – an individual who has made a big difference in the state of Florida. In other words, the Bob Graham Center is helping students across Florida, not just at UF.

Superior Staff Award

Verlissa Ford

Verlissa Ford is a prime example of those workers who make us look good by going above and beyond expectations. Although she has been here less than two years, she has made such an impact. Across the diverse departments and centers she serves, people hear her name and immediately sing her praises. Her customer service is unparalleled. She’s the type of person whose professionalism and spirit are equally tremendous, and the type of colleague whose kindness and generosity blow you away.

Volunteer of the Year

Herman Gleicher

Dr. Herman Gleicher shows extraordinary depth and devotion in his volunteerism. During his time on the Board, Dr. Gleicher worked hard to advocate for the development of the Chemistry/Chemical Biology Building, to which he gave a fabulous gift to name a Student Learning Lounge. He actively attended meetings, gave valuable feedback for future of the department, saying chemistry was the foundation for his medical school education. He was very engaged and attentive, which was exactly why he was asked to chair the newly formed Biology Leadership Board.

Faculty Achievement Awards

Matt Jacobs

Not only has Matt Jacobs been an outstanding director and undergraduate coordinator for the International Studies Program, and also serves as an advisor for students interested in the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, International Studies is one of the fastest growing majors in Liberal Arts and Sciences, he’s an associate professor of U.S. and international history, and he’s the director of UF undergraduate programs for UFIC. He helps set students on an interdisciplinary journey and promotes a world-wise education, which provides them the flexibility to pursue their own unique interests. We strongly support experiential learning opportunities here, including internships and study abroad. Overall, Matt has been a key part of the college’s contributions to international education that just earned it the Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization.

Ken Wagener

UF and its Department of Chemistry conduct a lot of cutting-edge research, and in fact we have more than 100 minds working on polymer chemistry, an emerging field with numerous applications. Among these minds is Professor Ken Wagener. Ken is living proof that science is a universal language. His former students are successful and living all over, and even though they couldn’t be here, they had to share their gratitude for Professor Wagener.

Horizon Award

Carolyn Luysterberg MS’12 Geological Sciences

Carolyn Luysterberg was among the most excellent students while she was in the Department, and now she’s a rising star as an exploration geoscientist at Shell Oil Company, and a fierce advocate for Gator Geology. If you need something Gator-wise in Houston, Texas, to call Carolyn. She keeps young geologists engaged with the department and the scientific community.

She started her trend of excellence at UF – she received the Danker Award for best student in Geological Sciences and the Eads Award for best student in Environmental Studies. She graduated summa cum laude with her undergraduate degree in 2011, then received her master’s in 2012, but she didn’t stay away from Gainesville for long. As an active member of Geological Sciences Advisory Board since 2014, and organizer of the Houston Alumni Group, she helps us out on a number of fronts, including engaging the Texas alumni, transmitting the goals of the Department to a wide audience, to helping organize a Geology tailgate last year! Young philanthropy is so inspirational to us, and we’re proud of this young alumna financially supporting her department already and inspiring her peers to do the same.

Outstanding Alumnus

Jim McClave PhD’71 Statistics

Jim McClave. Jim is deeply connected to the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation. He received his PhD in statistics from UF in 1971, then 6 years later he launched Info Tech here in Gainesville, a flagship company that employs more than 250 people and generates enormous economic impact. He has served communities far and wide through his work, applying statistical analyses to solve real-world problems. Initially, Info Tech focused on statistical and economic consulting services for the Florida Attorney General, developing the first computerized methods for detecting collusive behavior in sealed bid markets. As a consequence of this engagement, Info Tech became the pioneer in computerized techniques for detecting fraudulent business behavior in various industries. As an example, in its early days Info Tech focused on statistical investigation into bid rigging and price-fixing for highway construction and developed a software that is widely cited in court proceedings these days – and saves taxpayer dollars. Jim says his “affinity for the science of statistics stems from the synergistic relationship it enjoys with all of the other sciences,” and indeed, his work has meaningful applications in many fields.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Bud Shorstein

Bud Shorstein’s tireless advocacy for the Center for Jewish Studies has helped them reach excellence. He epitomizes the Gator spirit of giving back – he’s someone with a great career who’s engaged in public service and who gives back in every way to their alma mater. He is a tremendous advisor to and supporter of our efforts. For one, he established the Shorstein lecture series that explores historical, literary, and sociopolitical topics in Jewish studies, as well as the Samuel R. “Bud” Shorstein Professorship in American Jewish Culture and Society. Bud also is on the Bob Graham Center’s council of advisors and worked for both Governor Bob Graham and Senator Bob Graham.

Civic Champion

Amb. Dennis Hays ’76 American Studies

Ambassador Dennis Hays has an incredible resumé. As a student interested in U.S. government and foreign relations, I find him truly inspiring. After pursuing his bachelor’s within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he went on to receive his MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His professional resumé displays a depth and breadth that our college encourages and embraces. His career highlights include 25 years in the United States Senior Foreign Service, a presidential advance man, the U.S. Ambassador to Suriname, and executive vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation. Now, as a consultant with his own Hays Consulting, he lectures on national security affairs including to members of the Joint Forces Staff College. But despite his world travels, he hasn’t forgotten the Gator Nation. He’s come back to campus to reconnect with students here and share his wisdom.

Liberal Arts and Sciences Champion

Linde and Alan Katritzky

As essentially the inventor of the field of modern heterocyclic chemistry, Alan was a scientific innovator of the first magnitude, and his legacy as a scientist, educator and mentor will provide inspiration for generations to come. However, tonight we honor him and his wife Linde, not only for their respective scholarly accomplishments, but also for their philanthropy, which has benefitted not only the University but the entire global scientific community. The endowment of the Katritzky Chair, the creation of the journal Arkivoc, and the Flohet conferences, and building bridges between academia and industry are all important examples of their generosity and efforts.

Alan’s most important and most lasting contribution was, over the course of his 60 year academic career, providing educational opportunities to a multitude, indeed about a thousand international students and visiting scientists, most of them from what were then iron curtain countries or from within the developing world. After spending critical years within Alan’s research group, doing science and learning research techniques that would not have been possible in their home countries at that time, many returned to become academic leaders in their own countries, while some remained in the US, enhancing and often rising to leadership positions within our chemical industry.

As a result of their lifetimes of dedicated effort, both Alan and Linde are beloved and respected worldwide for their humanistic endeavors.