50 Alumni of Distinction
Jan 4, 2019
Flagler Alumni who are making a difference in Florida, across the U.S., and beyond
Flagler College is 50! To celebrate this milestone, we are thrilled to tell the story of Flagler’s progress through the accomplishments of its alumni. I am so excited to share with you the “50 Alumni of Distinction” for this milestone.
The selection process started in early 2017 with an online nomination form that received hundreds of submissions. In late 2017 nominees were vetted by the Alumni Board of Directors, and a final selection was made by a committee of alumni, faculty, retired faculty, administrators and students in the spring of 2018. Selecting these 50 graduates was one of the toughest jobs I’ve had as Director of Alumni Relations because every one of our 18,000 alumni have a unique and important story to tell. Ultimately, we chose alumni based on how distinct their paths have been since graduation, telling a bigger story of the impact Flagler has on our communities across the country, and the world.
Some featured are young, their stories still unfolding in surprising ways. Others are established industry or community leaders. These stories are as different as the people in them, and they help illustrate a larger point: people who graduate from Flagler College are prepared to chase their dreams. Whether that dream is to work at Google, teach deaf children or start a business, Flagler alumni make it happen.
I hope you enjoy reading about our “50 Alumni of Distinction,” and join me in feeling an immense sense of pride in being a Flagler College graduate.
MARGO THOMAS, '06
DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI RELATIONS
P.S. We are always eager to hear your stories! Contact my office to share yours today at email@example.com.
Jon Brunson, ‘84
Making a difference by protecting children in Bermuda
By Bobbie Stewart
In the span of seven years, Jon Brunson, ’84, has played a pivotal role in changing the social norms for protecting children on the island of Bermuda. That’s not lofty praise, but an appraisal based on numbers and a much-lauded theory known as the “tipping point.”
The Bermudian Flagler alumnus has been an integral contributor to the formation of the nation’s Saving Children and Revealing Secrets (SCARS) organization, which aims to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse through education and advocacy. The tipping point theory, popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell, states that if five percent of a given population changes its behavior, a cultural shift manifests changes in societal values.
Brunson and the SCARS team, with the help of U.S.-based partner organization Darkness to Light, have trained over 14 percent of Bermuda’s adult population — more than 7,500 adults – on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. As a result, more citizens than ever before are reporting crimes, and organizations tasked with the caregiving of children are increasingly requiring employees to undergo SCARS educational programs.
“This is not a job, it’s a responsibility,” Brunson said. “As a father of two, it’s a charge I take very seriously.”
The idea for the advocacy organization developed in 2011 during a time when Brunson was looking for something new. He had devoted more than two decades to banking and business in Bermuda, as well as time to philanthropic causes targeted at supporting disadvantaged youth. He went on sabbatical in 2009 to work for Habitat for Humanity in Africa and Central America and came back home with a lingering thought on his mind: “I’ve made a difference there, now what am I going to do to make a difference in Bermuda?”
Soon after he posed the question, he bumped into a lifelong friend and learned something that would forever change him and his life trajectory.
“This old friend of mine told me her life story — her personal struggle, that she and her daughters had been sexually abused as children,” he said. “She expressed to me her frustration with a system that didn’t work to address the issue.”
Brunson was astounded that he knew very little about the trauma that plagued the life of someone with whom he grew up, someone who suffered so long, in silence. In years past, he had served as an elected member of Bermuda’s Parliament, listening to the concerns of the people he represented — and yet the abuse of a friend and numerous others remained a dark secret.
“I told my friend, ‘It’s no longer appropriate to just talk about this issue, but we need to engage and act,’” he said. “We went to my office and strategized on how to breathe life into an organization that would give voice to the voiceless.”
For his dedication to the protection of children, Brunson received the “Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour” award in 2017. He was also appointed to the coveted position of Justice of the Peace by the Governor of Bermuda in 2003.
Asked if he foresees a day when his work in Bermuda is redundant, Brunson expressed hope, but said they can never let up.
“We must continue our work and not sit on our laurels. We must never go back to the way things used to be. Protecting children is an adult’s responsibility.”
Margaret Fenwick, '96
Helping the business world transform policy into action on sustainability
By Bobbie Stewart
Margaret Fenwick is on a mission to create solutions. That drive was the catalyst behind attaining a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Sustainability and Environmental Management program, fueled her ambition at the United Nations and at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, and inspired her to join the business world in transforming policy into action.
“The environment, the outdoors, the wellbeing of others and social justice are important for me – so I set out to explore how I could build a career around this,” she said.
The Flagler alumna is currently the manager of Corporate Sustainability Engagement at BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world. Fenwick is not oblivious to the knee-jerk reaction of some people to the descriptor, what she labels “chemophobia.” But chemistry, she said, “is a part of our lives, 24/7 — it is the building block of the sustainable solutions we need to house, feed and drive the world.”
She said BASF has taken this immutable fact and is making products to be the best they can be, for people and the world.
It is this spirit, of taking concrete steps toward definable goals, that inspired her to leave what was formerly her “dream job.”
“When I told a high-school friend I was working at the UN, she recalled how decades ago I had said this was my dream job,” Fenwick said. “I don't ever recall saying that, but ... when I made a list of the top 10 places I wanted to work, the UN was number one, and on the third try I was offered a position.”
At the intergovernmental organization, she worked with the Environment and Climate team helping to manage the Caring for Climate Initiative, the UN’s business leadership platform. At the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, also known as COP21, she helped organize the Caring for Climate Business Forum, the official event for business. The forum brought companies together with government representatives, civil society and the UN to demonstrate climate leadership from the private sector and raise ambition for the final Paris Agreement.
In her role, she was exposed to the potential of the business world, but was involved only at the periphery.
“I felt I needed more fieldwork,” she said. “I wanted to learn first-hand the roadblocks businesses faced. I wanted to move beyond promoting collaboration to actually working with partners to create innovative, sustainable solutions. I wanted to be more hands-on.”
Last year, after waiting for the right “responsible corporate citizen to come along,” she joined BASF.
The pursuit of solutions and progress is all a part of Fenwick’s nature. She is driven in her work, aligns herself with like minds and aims to change the world for the better. At the moment, her pathway to progress is through the business sector.
“Business creates jobs and an economy that can be vibrant,” she said. “I firmly believe in policy, but to implement it, business is going to do a great job at that.”
Laura Neal, ‘98
Top of her game at PGA Tour
By Tom Iacuzio, ‘06
Laura Neal first picked up the sport of golf as a high school student. Decades later, and now the senior vice president of communications for the PGA Tour, she has yet to put it down.
“My sister and I were on the golf team together and that lured both of my parents to take up the game,” Neal remembers. “We were never very good at it, but it was an incredible family bond that we developed and, looking back, that’s a perfect illustration of why I love the game. It brings all generations, all skill levels together.”
Neal came to Flagler College in 1994 at a time when there was no women’s golf team, though she jokes she wouldn’t have made the team anyway. But it was the sport management program and the now retired Dr. Bernadette Twardy that she credits with her success in the field.
“Through that program, I found my senior-year internship at the LPGA, in the Communications Department,” said Neal, who graduated in 1998 after studying sport management and communications/public relations. “I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without that curriculum and (Dr. Twardy’s) encouragement.”
After graduating, Neal became the director of public relations at the LPGA, a position she held for nine years before jumping to the PGA Tour in 2007. And while the game hasn’t changed much since she began her career, the way it’s promoted certainly has.
“It’s a whole new world now, compared to when I graduated college or even when I started working at the PGA Tour in 2007,” she explained. “I often tell the story about how at media day for The Players Championship in 2008, a new employee working with PGATOUR.COM was telling me that she was planning to start a Twitter account for the tournament. I had to have her explain to me what Twitter was.”
While media relations is absolutely still part of Neal’s world, the tools she has at her disposal to directly reach fans continue to grow. “Content creation is much more a part of our day-to-day lives than I ever could have imagined 10 years ago,” she said.
Neal seems to be handling all these changes pretty well. She was named a “Top Woman in PR” by PR News in November of 2017.
“Honestly, it’s a reflection on the PGA Tour as a whole and on my team, specifically,” said Neal. “I’m honored to be recognized for my work, but the opportunity to have a voice that influences our core business and product – through a team that is passionate and enthusiastic about our goals – is a dream come true.”
But between her career and her two-year-old daughter, Neal says the one thing she hasn’t time for, ironically, is golf.
“I haven’t played much since coming to the PGA Tour, which surprises a lot of people,” said Neal. “And since having my daughter, that’s another excuse.”
But Neal explains that while her daughter might be an excuse not to play, she’s also a reason to get back out there.
“I have such fond memories of those Sunday morning adventures with my parents,” she said. “Being a mom now, I want the same bonding experience with her on the course that I had with them.”
Penny Fields, '87
Committed to diplomacy and developing relationships around the world
By Bobbie Stewart
Penny Fields was studying French in the African nation Zaire — now the Democratic Republic of Congo — when she picked up a book that would transform the trajectory of her life. Philip Gourevitch’s book, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families,” detailed survivors’ stories of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 1 million people were killed.
“It was heart-wrenching,” she said. “There were so many issues of culpability — of living next to people that would be slaughtered. We knew of it, but didn’t do anything.”
The book did more than tug at her heartstrings. It triggered a visceral reaction for justice.
“I wanted to work on the Rwandan war crimes tribunals,” she said, “to hold people accountable for the crimes they committed.”
Soon after, she enrolled in law school at the University of Washington, and her desire for justice became even more evident when she fell in love with Contract Law, a tough course that most law students loathed.
“It was the basis of everything I believed in,” she said. “When someone breaks a promise, how do you hold them responsible? I’m a passionate believer in the rule of law.”
Fields didn’t make it to the Rwandan war crimes tribunals, but that didn’t stop her from easing social injustices. She worked as an attorney for a top law firm in Seattle, where she successfully represented abused children seeking asylum and worked with state and local organizations on child protection and women’s advocacy issues, among other cases.
But she yearned to return overseas, where in the past she represented the American ideals of justice and equality in places like Gabon, Niger, Bangladesh and Poland for the Peace Corps. In 2015, her wish came true. She was hired as the Country Director for the organization’s Cambodia operations. She served as the country’s senior representative for all operations and strategic engagement. At the end of her term, she directed the development of the Peace Corps program in Myanmar.
Now, the Flagler alumna is back in Cambodia, not with the Peace Corps (employment is limited to five-year terms), but with the U.S. Department of State as the American Citizen Services Chief for the U.S. Embassy. There, she helps Americans traveling or working in the country by providing emergency assistance, passports and citizenship guidance and local resources for various needs. In August of 2019, her next tour with the State Department will take her and her family — wife Allison and sons Soren and Micah — to Bern, Switzerland.
“I believe in the power of diplomacy and developing relationships with people from around the world,” she said. “I’m committed to representing our country, the people of America and the rule of law.”
Michael Barnes, '96
Putting skills learned at Flagler to work in public policy and corporate responsibility
By Jake Martin
Michael C. Barnes, ’96, says the things he’s doing today he learned to love at Flagler College. And he’s doing a lot.
A managing partner at DCBA Law & Policy in Washington, D.C, Barnes provides strategic counsel on matters related to public policy, corporate responsibility and regulatory compliance, particularly in the areas of health care and drug safety.
“We work on some of the biggest issues in the United States right now,” Barnes said. “I think these are issues that are at the tops of the minds of Americans and policymakers at state and federal levels.”
He has become a leading advocate for individual rights and innovative responses to issues such as the opioid crisis, health care reform, criminal justice reform and privacy.
Barnes can often be found at speaking engagements around the country, tackling some of the toughest topics in policymaking. If you can’t catch him at your nearest convention center you can try your television. Barnes regularly provides legal and political analysis for FOX Business, as well as other networks.
"I love the challenge of communicating in a way that makes sense and is clear and accessible on topics that can otherwise be pretty complex,” he said.
He’s found a “comfortable place” on FOX Business, which he says is more focused on economics and policy rather than pure politics.
Prior to entering the legal profession, Barnes had worked on political and issue campaigns, and was an editor at a national political news site.
Originally from Virginia, Barnes said he was looking for a small school with programs across a wide range of interests. He found a match in Flagler College.
“The fact that it was in Florida and close to the beach was icing on the cake,” he said. “I also had the opportunity there to experience things that I otherwise would not have experienced.”
Barnes came to Flagler to study communications, but at the encouragement of his professors added political science and Spanish to his plate. Administrators, including then-President Dr. William T. Abare, Jr., encouraged him to take his studies further.
After Flagler, Barnes earned a master’s degree in international economic policy from La Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was a Rotary Foundation International Ambassadorial Scholar. He later obtained his J.D. degree from George Mason University School of Law.
Barnes found his footing quickly in the legal profession.
He was a political appointee under President George W. Bush, having served as confidential counsel in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is also chairman of the Center for U.S. Policy, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing health, safety and opportunity for Americans.
“Law is something that I think enables me to employ my greater knowledge and skills to really do what I want to do, which is more on the policy side,” Barnes said.
Martin Guntrip, '81
A passion for tennis atop one of the world's most famous clubs
By Tom Iacuzio, '06
Things have been busy for Martin Guntrip lately.
On top of being a recent inductee into the Flagler College Athletic Hall of Fame and selection as an Alumni of Distinction, he’s also overseen the recent 150th anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where he’s worked since 2005.
If that name doesn’t sound familiar, you might know it as the home of Wimbledon.
Guntrip, who graduated from Flagler in 1981, now serves as the club’s director, a position he says he jumped at.
“I’ve been a member of this club for 30 years and when the opportunity to work here around a sport that I have a passion in arose, I took it and haven’t looked back,” he said. “My job really is to look after the club as a members club 50 weeks out of the year, and then for two weeks make sure we can run the championships in terms of the facilities, the catering, the courts, the buildings and the players.”
As the club hits the 150-year mark since its inception in 1868, Guntrip says the club walks a fine line between keeping true to the traditions of Wimbledon’s rich history while also forging a path to the future of tennis.
“I think Wimbledon is seen sometimes as a little middle-aged, blazer and tie,” said Guntrip. “But we’re working more now towards bringing in a younger generation.”
Guntrip notes that many of the distinctions of Wimbledon remain the same: matches are still played on grass, players still compete in white clothing, the court is still clean of any overt sponsorship banners.
“A photograph of the action is instantly recognizable as Wimbledon,” he said. “However, we embrace change, technology and have developed and improved our facilities immensely. We recognize the need to innovate and invest both short and long-term.”
But that tradition, Guntrip says, is something that Wimbledon has in common with his former alma mater.
Guntrip’s last trip back to Flagler was in 2016, to be inducted into the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame, which he regards as a “true honor.”
“I had forgotten what a delightful city St Augustine is. I guess we take it for granted as students,” he said. “There is such a sense of tradition and history within the city and, particularly, at Flagler.”
And it’s his time at Flagler he credits with his success both in tennis and in business.
“Being on the tennis team (at Flagler), it taught me how to organize myself and introduced me to players from other schools that I still talk to and work with to this day,” said Guntrip. “And honestly, having an American college degree on your resume when working overseas sometimes can be a big advantage.”
Viv Helwig, '08
An entrepreneurial spirit with family at its heart
By Kara Pound, '06
As a young kid, Viv Helwig watched his mother exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit as a single mom, raising two boys and working three jobs. “She’s a really hard worker, and has always inspired me,” Helwig explains. “When I was in high school, she got her real estate license and then opened her own brokerage firm. I saw firsthand the benefits of owning your own business and working for yourself.”
Born in Jamaica, Helwig moved to the U.S. at the age of seven and grew up in Palm Bay, Florida. Today, the 2008 graduate of Flagler is the president of Vested Metals International, a specialty metals raw material distribution company he founded in 2014.
The company, which is headquartered in St. Augustine, focuses on sourcing hard-to-find alloys, grades and sizes for niche applications and markets such as aerospace, medical, automotive and power generation. As the president and business development manager, Helwig’s work takes him on the road and to the sky quite often.
“My wife’s been the greatest support,” Helwig said of splitting his time between family man and businessman. “We have three kids; ages four, three and eight months. My wife has always been unfailing in her support of the family and the challenges that come with me being an entrepreneur.”
Starting a metal distribution company was not necessarily what Helwig envisioned for his future. After graduating high school, he came to Flagler College for the school’s sport management program. It wasn’t long before he changed his major to business administration and started following in his mom’s footsteps.
“Being involved in the Society for Advancement of Management for four years and spending my junior and senior year as the president of the organization – we won a couple of national competitions – was a big part of my college career,” Helwig said of the organization that develops and promotes new management ideas across a variety of disciplines.
Helwig said it was professors like Louis Presysz, who headed up the organization at Flagler, that inspired him. “He was a professor, but also chaplain of the men’s basketball team on which I served as a volunteer assistant coach. I got a lot of exposure to him and along with Bo Clark, the basketball coach, I had two great mentors.”
Upon graduating college with a degree in business administration, Helwig dabbled in a few different careers: real estate, working at Flagler’s Office of Admissions and five years spent getting his feet wet at one of the largest specialty steel mills in the world.
“After that, I decided to move back to Florida with my wife and our one daughter at the time,” he said. “I had left my job and was just floating – not sure what to do. I decided to start Vested Metals after a lot of dreaming and praying. This is what God wanted me to do and so is the entrepreneurial journey. Life in a nutshell, it’s been both difficult and rewarding.”
Never far from his alma mater, Helwig currently employs a half dozen Flagler grads at his company and stays involved with alumni events and the occasional campus speaking engagements. When asked how it feels to be named one of the “50 Alumni of Distinction,” he said, “It’s a humbling acknowledgement and honor.”
Mark Zappone, '93
Focused on giving back and helping others
By Jordan Puyear, '17
Following a long line of Flagler College graduates in the family, Mark Zappone, ’93, enrolled at Flagler College. Initially influenced by his family’s roots with Flagler, it was the college’s proximity to the ocean and intracoastal that sealed the deal for the avid surfer and self-described aquaphile. Wanting to advance his critical thinking skills, Zappone found himself pursuing a degree in psychology, philosophy and religion.
“(Flagler) definitely had an influence in helping me choose my vocation in life,” Zappone said. “Flagler instilled a true love for learning in me, and, as a result, I went on beyond Flagler to obtain a number of graduate degrees to hone my skills as a human service professional.”
After his time at Flagler, Zappone worked at several human service agencies including homeless shelters, hospitals and international peace/environmental camps. He even served as an adjunct faculty member for Flagler over a number of semesters.
Zappone’s charitable interests led him to his work with the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization in New Jersey providing financial assistance for those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Not only does the foundation assist individuals in need, but also donates funds to local cancer centers and national organizations such as the American Cancer Society. The funds are used for better diagnostic equipment, preventive measures and more in-depth research for efficacious treatment.
After being approached by the organization’s founding members, Zappone – who is also a cancer survivor – initially assisted in the development of the organization as a board member. Now, as the volunteer president, he oversees fundraising, board meetings, officer and trustee hiring, and the overall management of the foundation.
Zappone is a board-certified psychiatric professional by trade and is currently finishing his dissertation for his Ph.D. However, his more long-term goals include writing books on potential resolutions to both societal and environmental ills. “(This is) in an attempt to hopefully make the world a better place on a more global or international level,” he said.
His advice to current and future Flagler students and graduates is simple: “Reach for the stars, live every day to its fullest, and strive for altruism by giving back, helping others and the environment on a daily basis. Simply do all that you can to make the world a better place, as this will yield significant meaning, purpose and fulfillment for your life and those around you.”
Mignonne Pollard, '85
From small town beginnings, Pollard continues to build bridges for the disadvantaged
By Bobbie Stewart
From the very beginning, growing up in west St. Augustine, Mignonne Pollard wanted more — more education, more insights and more of the world beyond the small town’s shores.
“My motivation from day one was to travel the world,” she said. “I had dreams of the things I’d do and the places I’d see.”
That insatiable desire, matched by an enthusiasm for life, has carried her across the world and inspired various pursuits. From studying or working in places like Spain, South Korea or Zimbabwe to working in the U.S. Office of the President during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush years, and now with the California Department of Education, Pollard has devoted her life to building bridges across geographical, cultural, racial and gender differences. Her work is part of her mission to include those that feel like “the outsiders.”
As an Education Programs Consultant with the state of California, Pollard interprets policy and provides federal grant monitoring for after-school programs that link disadvantaged students with resources to help them grow academically and thrive in core content areas. She also develops and presents workshops to adults and youth, championing efforts that increase intercultural competencies and lift up the underserved.
Prior to that, she taught people how to best support LGBT youth in foster care, supervised and trained volunteer teams for 4-H youth development programs, worked with education leaders at Brown University to address discrimination, reviewed legislation for the American Disabilities Act, evaluated grant proposals for U.S. Department of Education Equal Opportunity Programs grants and has lectured extensively on issues of diversity, cross-cultural human development and multicultural education.
Her endeavors, initially inspired by a restlessness to see the world, ultimately revealed a truth that led her to a greater purpose.
“Connection,” she said “I was always looking for what people share in common.”
Those connections began at Flagler in the 1980s, when she forged “foundational” relationships with professors such as Dr. Dawn Wiles and Tom Rahner. Their mentorship, she said, was integral to her growth. It led her to the University of Minnesota as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in Public Policy, a master’s program at The New School for Social Research in New York, and ultimately to a doctoral program in administration, planning and social policy at Harvard University.
“At Harvard, I was a teaching assistant for the Psychology of Adolescence course,” she said. “I could do that because I had been a teaching assistant with Professor Wiles. I wasn’t afraid to work with a professor and I knew how to engage students.”
Pollard’s connections with others — across public and private sectors and in higher education – has affirmed what she has always believed to be true.
“I believe people are good,” she said. “We can solve the problems in the world if we want to. I’m looking for the good in people, and hoping I get some good back.”
Whatever the future holds, Pollard is hopeful her work will pay itself forward, because compassion, in her mind, is connection in action.
Gareth Paul Cox, '07
As the 'Swiss Army Knife' filmmaker, Cox has worked for HBO and won an Emmy
By Tom Iacuzio, '06
Gareth Paul Cox, ’07, has had a chance to dabble in a bit of it all as a freelance filmmaker. He’s shot documentaries, worked on commercials for Honda and Subway, television for MTV and HBO and had a feature film premiering this fall at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Cox says it’s that “Swiss Army knife”-style that keeps him busy.
“I’ve basically been traveling and shooting non-stop,” said Cox, who recently wrapped up shooting the second season of MTV’s “Siesta Key.”
Alongside NFL Films, who he has freelanced with since 2015, he has worked on their “Hard Knocks” series for HBO, following the Rams on their transition from St. Louis to their new home in Los Angeles.
His team would go on to a win an Emmy for outstanding camera work.
When asked if he preferred working in television, film or commercials, Cox said that he believes it’s the fact that he works across all of them that makes him the filmmaker he is.
“I like that I’m somewhat of a Swiss army knife of filmmaking because it allows me to use a larger body of knowledge with each new challenge,” he said.
But freelancing isn’t always Emmys and shooting TV shows on the beach. Sometimes, Cox says it can be volatile and extremely frustrating.
“In times like that, I tell others, and try to remind myself as well, to keep your eyes on the bigger picture and the dreams you have for yourself,” he said.
For Cox, those dreams began at Flagler College.
“My time at Flagler was instrumental in shaping who I am today.” he said. “As a shy kid, the smaller class sizes helped me to feel comfortable in my skin and because everyone was very accessible, I could reach out and ask to incorporate a little bit more of what I thought I needed at the time.”
Joshua Ariza, '07
A career out of creating graphic design trends, not following them
By Kara Pound, '06
Color, humor and authenticity. These are the three words that Joshua Ariza uses to describe his work.
“Sure, school stopped. But you don’t ever stop learning,” explained Ariza, an award-winning, multidisciplinary designer who has worked with some of the most iconic brands in the world including Facebook, Nike, Disney and Taco Bell. “You need to keep making, keep doing and keep putting things out in the world that you want to see.”
For Ariza, an Orlando native currently living in Costa Mesa, Calif., the four years he spent as a graphic design student at Flagler College prepared him for real world deadlines, an understanding of mentorship and time spent creating trends rather than following them.
“My experience with Don Martin sealed the deal in choosing to go to Flagler,” Ariza said of a pep talk Martin gave him during the application process. “This personal connection made me feel valued; he saw a lot of potential in me. I was a graphic design nerd and felt close to the teachers. They were people I looked up to.”
Upon graduation, Professor Randy Taylor helped Ariza secure a job at Billabong and off he went to California to become an apparel designer. Four years later, Ariza worked at Nike for another four years in apparel design, and then headed out on his own to try his hand at professional freelancing.
“I hit the ground running,” Ariza remembered. “Red Bull asked me to design a helmet for one of their athletes then I did a bunch of Star Wars socks for Stance and work for ESPN and even SpaceX. I always try and give my clients what they want, but I also try to not follow trends. I’d rather create them.”
Over the past few tears, Ariza has started his own surf and skate apparel brand called CHOMP. He’s the co-founder of Connecting Things, a monthly speaker series that promotes ideas, collaborations and creative knowledge, and is also a devoted husband and father.
“I have worked under smart people who have taught me the creative process and would go as far to say that I really learned how to be creative in college,” Ariza said. “I feel super honored (to be named one of the 50 Alumni of Distinction). It speaks volumes on the education that I got there. I’ll probably frame the spread when it comes out.”
Learn more at joshuaariza.com.
Valeta Cameron, '06
Using law to lift up others and improve communities
By Jordan Puyear, '17
Like many high school juniors, Valeta Cameron, ‘06, didn’t know where she wanted to go to college, but she did know she wanted to study law. After talking with a representative from Flagler College who explained the pre-law program and shared information on the success of past graduates, Cameron knew Flagler was the right place for her. “I wanted to go to a college that would advance my career interest in becoming an attorney and Flagler seemed to have the right program and people to get me there,” Cameron said.
During her time at Flagler, Cameron majored in communications with an emphasis in journalism and public relations while also minoring in pre-law. After graduating from Flagler, Cameron earned her J.D. degree from Florida A&M University College of Law.
Upon passing the Bar, she volunteered at Brevard County Legal Aid Inc., a non-profit organization that provides free or low-cost legal representation for those who cannot afford it. There she served as a pro bono attorney for three years advocating for victims of domestic violence. In 2016, she became a professional staff attorney handling domestic violence, dependency and family law matters.
Not only does Cameron work in the public interest, but she also volunteers at various non-profit organizations. “As a community supporter, I devote time, resources and efforts to organizations that share (my) same vision and purpose of improving conditions in the community,” Cameron said.
Cameron hopes to one day achieve her goal of discovering ways to improve poor societal conditions and inspiring others to do the same. “I understand that many of the improvements needed in our society won't necessarily be solved in a courtroom,” she said. “Realizing this, in the future I plan to set out on a career in politics and eventually run for public office.”
Cameron found that Flagler was the best choice for her educational and career goals. While the coursework gave her the opportunity to grow and expand her horizons as a young adult, she encourages all students to take advantage of the activities offered on and off campus.
“Flagler was a great place to get involved and stay connected,” she said. “Flagler will always be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.”
Sara Pedigo, '03
Creative challenges from the canvas to the classroom
By Tonya Creamer
Sara Pedigo’s paintings and drawings record the seemingly insignificant moments of everyday life. She finds a large part of her inspiration from within, through her own “revelation of life’s fragility,” and expressed in her body of work through the ways in which light interacts in our world.
Her unique and nostalgic works have landed her in exhibitions throughout the United States from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville.
She’s currently exhibiting her work at four different galleries, and on top of that busy creative schedule, she is department chair and associate professor of fine arts at Flagler.
“Teaching has its own set of creative challenges and I find inspiration from my colleagues and student enthusiasm,” she said.
She recognized that she had a budding talent for art in high school, but it was at Flagler that she was able to develop her talents more fully.
She credits Flagler faculty for helping to guide her on that journey, and now finds herself in the same position as she provides the same guidance to her students
“I consider teaching a privilege and responsibility,” she said. “A large majority of teaching occurs outside of the classroom and takes the form of mentoring and modeling behaviors for students. Showing them what it means to be a practicing artist and giving them the creative and intellectual skill sets to pursue their own passions.”
Pedigo insists that her “beautiful and magical” surroundings on the historic campus contribute to her artistic endeavors, and probably those of her fellow artists and students, as well.
Home to artists’ studios since the days of the hotel, she finds working in the Molly Wiley Art Building compels her creative energy from those who have come before. For her, pursuing her creative passions at Flagler is a foundational connection to historic artists, built right into the brick and poured-coquina walls.
Antonio Puente, '07
A parent's health issue leads to a life focused on helping others
By Jake Martin
Antonio N. Puente,‘07, thinks a lot about the way we think.
He is a clinical neuropsychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
“It was a slow and evolving process that really started with my love of psychology,” Puente said of his career path. “I love the study of human behavior and what makes us do what we do. I think that’s something that Flagler College really instilled in me.”
Puente’s primary interest is in helping people. His mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 11 years old.
“That has also shaped my life in understanding how we function, and it’s an illustration of how the brain can affect behavior in a very personal way,” he said.
Puente conducts neuropsychological evaluations of patients with psychiatric and neurological disorders — such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury and ADHD — to characterize their cognitive, behavioral and emotional functioning for diagnosis and treatment optimization.
In addition to his clinical work, Puente has developed a program of research to gain a better understanding of the neural basis of cognition and to refine neuropsychological methods in order to improve accuracy in the prediction of patient behavior.
Originally from Wilmington, N.C., Puente came to Flagler for a well-rounded liberal arts education in a small school setting. The proximity to the beach and a strong tennis program made his decision all the easier.
“St. Augustine is a beautiful town and I was looking forward to going to school and learning all about the town,” he said. “I could play tennis, surf and learn about psychology, so it kind of checked all the boxes.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Flagler, Puente received his doctoral degree from the University of Georgia following an internship at the Duke University School of Medicine. He then completed his postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Jean Rahner, '74
A love for the stage that carries on today
By Tonya Creamer
Jean Rahner is Flagler’s oldest alum. Her time at Flagler began with a Spanish class in the summer of 1968. She raised two kids while working in many capacities on campus: as a bookkeeper in the Business Services Office, at what was then the “front desk” of the college, and finally in the Library.
She was finally convinced to take on a full-time class schedule and in 1974, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in theatre arts. Until recently, she gave back by teaching and directing in the same department from which she graduated, but also taught speech and communications classes.
Rahner went on to star in the official state play of Florida – “Cross and Sword” – while managing the Monson Dinner Theatre. In 1993, she co-founded Limelight Theatre, Inc. to replace the dinner theatre. That same year, she started the WFCF radio show, “Kaleidoscope,” which ran until 2010.
When she retired as artistic director from Limelight Theatre in 2005, she immediately jumped into another project and founded A Classic Theatre, the second semi-professional theatre company in St. Augustine. She still serves the local theatre community by serving on the boards of both Limelight and Classic.
Rahner has been recognized for her generous contributions of time and talent by the organizations Recognizing Outstanding Women in the Arts, Enterprising Women’s Leadership Institute and the Florida Association of Community Theatres.
In 2014, Flagler College named Rahner and her husband, Tom, Honorary Alumni. Rahner is adamant that a broad education, along with theatrical training, has helped her in her advocacy efforts.
Despite her continued presence in community theatre, Rahner’s work is never done. She maintains that St. Augustine “needs more theatres” and to that end is currently involved with county discussions revolving around a performing arts center in St. Augustine.
Sherri Anthony, Class of 1982
Not only is Sherri Anthony the dean of Students for Landrum Middle School, but also the head coach of the women’s varsity basketball team at Nease High School in St. Johns County, Fla. As a coach, she has won state championships, and in 2018 was named the state and southeast region coach of the year for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. She was also a finalist for National Coach of the Year.
Chris Barnwell, Class of 2008
The first Flagler baseball player to make the Major Leagues, Chris Barnwell was drafted in 2001 and made his debut with the Milwaukee Brewers when they played the Detroit Tigers in June 2006. Since retiring from professional baseball in 2009, Barnwell is now a senior vice president of Business Development with Lumina Analytics.
Lorna Bracewell, Class of 2005
A political theorist and published assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Kearney, Lorna Bracewell focuses on feminist theory and history of political thought. In 2017, Bracewell won the Okin-Young Award for Feminist Political Theory, which recognizes the best paper on feminist political theory.
Brad Brewer, Class of 1984
After playing golf around the world, Brad Brewer returned to Orlando to partner with Arnold Palmer and open the Arnold Palmer Academy at Bay Hill Club. After 16 years with Palmer’s organization, Brewer opened the Brad Brewer Golf Academy at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla., and has operated this business for the past 14 years.
Brad Brown, Class of 1988
It was Flagler professor Joyce Libby who encouraged Brad Brown to add an accounting major to his business major. This advice would start Brown on a career path in investment banking at Price Waterhouse and then Bank of America. In 2013, Brown was named the corporate treasurer of Ally Financial Inc., where he is currently responsible for capital, liquidity and interest rate risk management.
Hunter Camp, Class of 1991
Dr. Hunter Camp II is the pastor and head of staff at Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Augustine, adjacent to campus. After a departure and return to faith, Camp credits Flagler professors Dr. Mattie Hart and Dr. Robin King with helping him find his path.
Beverly (Copeland) Carmichael, Class of 1972
A graduate of Flagler’s first class in 1972, Dr. Beverly Carmichael blazed a trail for future graduates. She received her master’s and Ph.D. from The George Washington University, and devoted her life to non-profit development, eventually becoming Assistant Chancellor for University Advancement at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Carmichael celebrated her retirement in 2018 after serving for 5 years as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Flagler College.
Jonathan Growick, Class of 2008
Since graduating from Regent University School of Law in 2011, Jonathan Growick has devoted his career to providing legal services to children in the state of Florida. After three years as the managing attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit for Children’s Legal Services for the State of Florida, Growick is now the statewide counsel for Quality Assurance for Children’s Legal Services.
Rick Hankey, Class of 1984
Currently the executive vice president for LifeStream Behavioral Center, Rick Hankey has devoted his career to behavioral health. His work includes behavioral health care, residential and housing programs for homeless and mentally ill individuals, and a myriad of other programs to stabilize individuals experiencing behavioral health issues.
Robert Hardwick, Class of 2008
As the chief of Police for St. Augustine Beach, public administration grad Robert Hardwick has a decorated career of serving his country and community. As an Army veteran, Hardwick was deployed in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also previously worked as an investigator with the Office of the State Attorney Seventh Judicial Circuit.
Eileen Hutton, Class of 2007
American artist Dr. Eileen Hutton developed the MFA and MA in Art and Ecology at Burren College of Art in association with National University of Ireland, Galway. Her work focuses on ecoart and environmental arts, and she has been featured in exhibitions in America, Ireland, Italy and Finland.
Rebecca (Wilson) Jackson, Class of 2002
After earning her master’s in deaf education from Gallaudet University and a Ph.D. in special education from Columbia University, Dr. Rebecca Jackson has gone from classroom to the Minnesota Department of Education. She is a special education workforce specialist and leads innovation efforts to support workforce needs in areas of special education.
Heidi Jordan, Class of 1994
The assistant principal of the Deaf Elementary School at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Dr. Heidi Jordan started her career as a classroom teacher. “My mom was a Kindergarten teacher and my dad is deaf. I always said I wanted to combine them and become a Kindergarten teacher of deaf kids. That dream came true for me.”
John Krieger, Class of 2002
As director of Communications and Advocacy for the ACLU of Colorado, John Krieger works to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all Coloradans. Most recently, he helped produce a documentary about solitary confinement that ultimately led to the state legislature passing a bill banning long-term solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness.
Scott Lagasse, Jr., Class of 2004
A successful racecar driver, Scott Lagasse Jr. has grown Team Scott Lagasse Racing as a business. Racing is his talent and passion, but as a colon cancer survivor, he also gives back through SCREEN YOUR MACHINE™, an initiative to encourage people to get screened for cancer. Lagasse is also an advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Diane Evia-Lanevi, Class of 1987
As the creator of The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students, Diane Evia-Lanevi’s nonprofit has awarded more than $1.3 million in scholarships to Latino students in North Carolina since 2009. In addition to her non-profit work in North Carolina, she recently volunteered with asylum-seeking women and children in an immigration detention center in Texas.
Ingemar Lanevi, Class of 1986
Originally from Sweden, Ingemar Lanevi credits Flagler College with helping him find his knack for finance, eventually becoming a Hewlett-Packard treasury analyst after receiving his MBA from Purdue. Currently he is the vice president of Finance and Capital Markets for LeaseAccelerator, and has enjoyed a career working around the world in finance for tech companies.
Stuart Lee, Class of 2005
After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, Stuart Lee started his career in cyber security. As a chief privacy officer, he works with Fortune 500 companies to design, build and implement global privacy programs. While a Ph.D. student, Lee was a visiting lecturer at University of Wolverhampton, teaching courses on the “Barbarization of Warfare” and “Understanding Terrorism.”
PJ Mistry, Class of 2012
Residing in The Netherlands, PJ Mistry is working for the world’s largest food brand, Knorr, as a brand manager. Mistry recently helped move Breyers ice cream to sustainably-sourced vanilla and free of artificial growth hormones. “When a large company chooses to do the right thing, it can be the driver of the solution.”
Michelle Mattingly, Class of 2003
After receiving her master’s degree from Embry-Riddle, Michelle Mattingly embarked on a career as a human factors and ergonomics engineer at the Boeing Company. In that role, Mattingly designed hardware and software for air vehicle systems for the Navy and Air Force. Most recently, she transitioned into an operations program management role with Boeing Corporate at the Boeing Leadership Center.
Zach McKenna, Class of 1997
Conservationist, boat captain, small business owner, marine mammal researcher — these all describe Zach McKenna’s work as owner of St. Augustine Eco Tours. Life and work for McKenna are inextricable, and dinner is often interrupted by a call to help a dolphin, manatee or sea turtle in distress. McKenna also partners with Flagler’s Coastal Environmental Science students and faculty on local research initiatives.
Patrick Perkins, Class of 2002
After law school, Patrick Perkins started his marketing career with Microsoft, eventually moving to Amazon where his team helped market the launch of the Kindle. Currently, Perkins is back at Microsoft as director of marketing in the company’s education division, promoting products like Windows, Surface, Xbox and Office.
Lisa Wallenda Picard, Class of 1992
From a start as an eleventh generation circus performer, Lisa Wallenda Picard has gone on to become a “Washington insider.” After graduating from Flagler, Picard went to Washington D.C. as a lobbyist for Ringling Bros., but eventually became the chief of staff at the USDA. Currently, she is the senior vice president of Policy, Trade and Regulatory Affairs with the National Turkey Federation.
Marisa Puthoff, Class of 1997
The goal set by Marisa Puthoff was ambitious: become a vice president at her public relations agency by her 30th birthday. Puthoff reached that goal, and is now executive vice president and regional client strategist with Edelman South. Puthoff has led communications strategy, corporate identity and branding, crisis communication and media strategy efforts at Fortune 500s and start-ups alike.
James Scheideman, Class of 1994
Lieutenant Colonel James Scheideman is a graduate of NATO jet pilot training and a decorated Air Force pilot. Scheideman flew over 420 combat hours in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and most recently returned from tour in the Middle East as the commander, Dhahran Detachment, for the United States Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia.
Captain Donald Simmons, III, Class of 1987
Upon graduation from Flagler, Captain Donald Simmons III began his career in the Navy in 1989 as a Naval Flight Officer. Since then, he has served in various roles, and is currently at Naval Air Systems Command as the executive director for Logistics and Industrial Operations.
Linda Stoughton, Class of 2009
As the director of Emergency Management for St. Johns County, Fla., public administration alumna Linda Stoughton is tasked with response and recovery for disasters impacting her community — including hurricanes. Stoughton successfully led St. Johns County’s response to Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.
Jessica Talbert, Class of 2004
For Jessica Talbert, an internship her junior year with Flagler graduate Michael Barnes helped establish her career path. Talbert, now the Director of Federal Advocacy for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, has a law degree from George Mason University, and says integrity and ethics is central to her work in politics, “It is better to speak up and do the right thing.”
Greg Teisan, Class of 1989
After a 32-year career in the Army, Greg Teisan is currently a colonel in the Medical Service Corp of the National Guard. Teisan has been a medical training mentor for the Afghan National Army and was recognized for leadership in humanitarian missions to provide medical care to local villages in the Kabul area. Teisan also has worked successfully with Merck & Company in sales.
Amy (Waers) Thompson, Class of 2006
Currently Head Shopper and Partner Activation for Google Play, Amy Thompson got her start in retail through SIFE (now Enactus) at Flagler. Through SIFE, Thompson was offered an opportunity with Walmart Headquarters, where she spent 7 years as a buyer. Now at Google, Thompson has helped bring the Google Play gift card business into 32 countries in 800,000+ locations.
Bill Walter, Class of 1984
In 1983, Bill Walter started working at the St. Augustine Center for Living (SACL), a facility that provides both residential and day services to adults with developmental disabilities. Walter held many positions there — houseparent, weekend supervisor, qualified intellectual disabilities professional and administrator – prior to purchasing SACL with his wife and Flagler alumna, Karen Higdon Walter, in 2008.
Abby Wendle, Class of 2007
A producer for NPR’s Invisibilia, Abby Wendle focuses on long-form radio features that weave storytelling and social science research. Wendle has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Columbia University, and has previously worked as a farm reporter for Harvest Public Media and produced radio for This Land Press.
Jennifer White, Class of 1997
Despite an accomplished career as a lawyer, Jennifer White had a vision to bring a new event space to downtown St. Augustine. After renovations to her family’s property at 1 King St., The White Room was born. White gave up practicing law to operate The White Room, and has built it into a premier Northeast Florida wedding and event venue.
Carl Williams, Class of 1977
As an author of three books in the field of deaf education, Dr. Carl Williams has devoted his professional life to deaf education. Williams has received a Schultz Grant, as well as been named the Student Government Association Faculty Member of the Year twice since 1988, when he started his current position as a Deaf Education professor at Flagler College.
Jenny Zorn, Class of 1980
As provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at California State University, Bakersfield, Dr. Jenny Zorn is responsible for a $62 million budget, 11,000 students, and over 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. As a Flagler student, Zorn was on both the volleyball and basketball teams, earning her a place in Flagler’s Inaugural Class of the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Alumni distinguishing themselves on Flagler’s Board of Trustees
Eight members of Flagler College’s Board of Trustees boast of Flagler diplomas, and continue to serve their alma mater in helping to fulfill the college’s mission and future development. These key members include:
Viki West Freeman, Class of 1974
Freeman was elected to the Board in 2011. She was enrolled at the college before the reorganization of the institution in 1971, and graduated as a member of the college’s third graduating class. She has spent the last 30 years in community service and fundraising activities in the Atlanta area.
Horace “Bo” Gray, Class of 1988
Gray was elected to the Board in 1999 and is the grandson of Lawrence Lewis Jr., who was one of the founders of Flagler College. He is the owner of Gray Homes, a construction company in Richmond, Virginia.
Richard W. Groux, Jr., Class of 1979
Groux was elected to the Board in 2009. He earned his J.D. degree from George Mason University School of Law, and is a partner in Dominion Construction Group LLC, a firm involved in the planning and constructing of commercial and church-related projects in Maryland and Virginia. He and his wife are also co-owners of Hart Song Farm, a 400-acre organic farm in Iowa.
Nancy E. Rutland, Class of 1980
Rutland was elected to the Board in 2010. She earned her J.D. degree at Stetson University College of Law, and is in private practice in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Robert J. Strang, Class of 1979
Strang was elected to the Board in 2011. He is CEO of Investigative Management Group, one of the world’s leading corporate investigative and security specialists, serving major financial institutions, Fortune 500 companies, large law firms and high net-worth individuals and families.
The Honorable Charles J. Tinlin, Class of 1979
Tinlin was elected to the Board in 2015. He earned his J.D. degree from the California Western School of Law, and was elected as a judge in the Seventh Judicial Circuit in St. Augustine in 1990, where he hears criminal and civil cases.
Mitch Walk, Class of 1979
Walk was elected to the Board in 2011. He is co-founder and president of Retirement Wealth Specialists, a Registered Investment Advisory Firm. He also served on the Flagler College Alumni Board for 26 years, including 12 years as president.
Brian L. Wilson, Class of 1982
Wilson was elected to the Board in 2005. He is the owner of Jack Wilson Family of Dealerships in St. Augustine, and earned his master’s degree in management from Clemson University.