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Distinguished Alumni Award

Each year at Homecoming, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy presents its Distinguished Alumni Award for professional achievements, contributions to society, and support of the university.

2018: Eric Reading

If we had to pick just one example of the college’s catchphrase – “Engaging Today’s World, Producing Tomorrow’s Leaders” – our 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Eric Reading would be at the top of the list.

From his days studying at the college and serving as director of the World Affairs Program to his current position as executive vice president of an international development firm solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges, Eric exemplifies the values of engagement and leadership.

His academic career at FSU also looks like a great testimonial to the global focus and multidisciplinary approach of our programs. Eric earned his bachelor’s degree (1992) and his master’s (1993) in international affairs, with his undergraduate studies concentrated on political science and geography and his master’s on economics and Middle East studies.

Eric has made the most of those degrees at Chemonics, a development company whose mission is “to promote meaningful change around the world to help people live healthier, more productive, and more independent lives.” In his 24 years with the company he has worked on programs in local government and economic reform in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped create infrastructure for capital markets and for drinking water and sanitation in Egypt. In 2004, he went to Kosovo to lead a program for improved electricity services. A program he oversaw in the Republic of Georgia brought that country recognition as the most improved business environment in the world.

It was the year between graduation and starting with Chemonics, however, that solidified his engagement with the college as an alum.

“I struggled to find my first full-time position in my field,” he said, noting some early temp work in a law firm and then at a bank. “Actually, this may be a key motivation for the work I do with the college now.”

Remembering those struggles, Eric takes time now to help current students chart career paths and make the professional connections they need to start their careers. He organizes an annual career day to bring current students and alumni together in Washington, D.C., where he lives and works. Eric frequently travels to Tallahassee to take part in alumni panels to expose students to career options in international affairs. Thanks to his dedication, many students have connected with alumni and potential employers across a range of organizations.

Much of his engagement has been with the World Affairs Program (WAP). This student-run academic program within the college promotes an increased awareness of the global community and encourages personal, social, and political growth among the students who participate in its activities, notably Model UN and Crisis Simulation conferences and competitions. The very active group has brought home numerous Best Delegation awards and ranks in the Top Model UN teams in North America.

Having served as WAP director 1990-1991, Eric remains very connected to the organization as a member of its advisory board; a donor; and a mentor, guide, and inspiration to students. He describes the World Affairs Program as exemplifying the Get More Than a Degree initiative of the college.

“It was where I gained the practical skills of research, negotiations, problem solving, public speaking, and organizational management that were just as important in a career as academic knowledge,” he said.

Eric’s dedication to our students is all the more remarkable considering his busy life. He oversees Chemonics’ global operations, including nearly 5,000 staff in 80 countries, working on such large-scale projects as improving fairness and transparency in Albania’s justice system, helping Colombia pursue conservation and rural sustainability, accelerating educational access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and boosting investment in Sri Lanka’s economic future.

Today, Eric lives in Alexandria, Va., just outside D.C. with his wife Jennie and their children Claudia, 7, and John Porter, 5. But the FSU roots are strong for this first generation college student, and the college is grateful for his support and proud to name him our Distinguished Alumnus.

”I am honored and humbled to be selected as the college’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2018. I feel very fortunate to have a career that allows me to help improve the lives of millions of people around the world. It has been very rewarding to give back to the university to help connect students with opportunities in their chosen careers.“


2017: Marshall Cohn (B.S. Economics, Social Sciences '81): Founder of real estate firm The Dunhill Companies; teaching assistant for online MBA classes at FSU in real estate finance and valuation; sponsor of the university’s annual Real Estate Trends Conference; Florida State University Real Estate Network Award in 2014

2016: Susan MacManus (B.A. Political Science '68, Ph.D. Political Science '75): Distinguished Professor, Department of Government and International Affairs, University of South Florida; political expert for state and national media

2015: Ed Moore (M.S. Public Administration '76, Ph.D. Public Administration '07): President, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida; former president and CEO, James Madison Institute; former executive director, Broward County Community Mental Health Board; Fulbright SpecialistFlorida Advisory Council for U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

2014: Gordon Gaster (B.S. Economics '58): Financial consultant, Florida State University Foundation trustee and vice chair, FSU Alumni Association president, founder of the Gordon D. Gaster Endowment Fund supporting the Gus Stavros Center for Economic Education and its Economic Literacy Initiative, 2010 Circle of Gold honoree

2013: Mark Ellis (B.A. Economics '79): Executive Director of International Bar Association, director of American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, Fulbright Scholar, media commentator, author

2012: Stephen Lawry (B.S. Political Science '73, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '75): Global Practice Lead for Land Tenure and Property Rights at consulting group Development Alternatives, Inc., president Antioch College, associate director for Africa programs at University of Wisconsin Land Tenure Center, director Ford Foundation Office of Management Services

2011: Lettie Bien (B.S. Political Science '76): Retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, Senior Adviser to Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals, South Florida Area Coordinator for Admissions at West Point, recipient of Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award

2010: Harry Lerner (B.S. Economics '82, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '84): President of Maxcy Development Group, Inc., member of Association of Florida Community Developers and Urban Land Institute, City of Jacksonville planner, planning project manager for private firms

2009: Victor Holcomb (B.S. Economics '76): Senior principal Holcomb & Mayts law firm, trustee Kaul Foundation; and John Holcomb (B.S. Political Science '77): Partner with Hill, Ward, & Henderson law firm, National President of American Board of Trial Advocates, trustee Kaul Foundation

2008: Clyda S. Rent (B.A. Sociology '64, M.S. Sociology '66, Ph.D. Sociology '68): President Emerita of Mississippi University for Women; and George Rent (Ph.D. Sociology '68): Associate Provost at Mississippi State University; faculty at University of North Carolina at Charlotte; consultant to U.S. Office of Higher Education, National Science Foundation, and United Family Services

2007: Laird Anderson (B.S. International Affairs '58): Professor Emeritus of Journalism, School of Communication, American University; retired Colonel, US Army Reserves; reporter for Wall Street Journal, Chicago and Washington bureaus; Tallahassee bureau chief, Miami News and Palm Beach Times; international lecturer U.S. State Department

2006: Thomas M. Culligan (B.S. Political Science '73, M.P.A. Public Administration '77), M.S. Public Administration): Executive Vice President of Business Development for Raytheon Company, CEO of Raytheon International, Inc.

2005: Janice Kaminis Platt (B.S. Political Science '58): Hillsborough County Commissioner

2004: Mark Filteau (M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '76): President, Facilities Division, Johnson Controls

2003: Manuel H. Johnson (M.S. Economics '75, Ph.D. Economics '77): Senior Partner Johnson Smick International; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (1982-86); vice chair Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System (1986-90);

2002: Carl Blackwell (B.S. Education '58, M.S. Political Science '59): Interim Chancellor of Florida Board of Education, Associate Vice Chancellor of of Planning and Budgeting of Florida Board of Regents, Associate State Budget Director and Chief of Bureau of Budgeting in Department of Administration

2001: Barbara W. White (B.A. Geography '65): Dean of School of Social Work,University of Texas (Austin); Associate Dean School of Social Work, Florida State University

2000: Alan Sundberg (B.S. Political Science '55): Florida Supreme Court Justice 1975-1982, Chief Justice 1980-82.

1999: Arnold Greenfield (B.S. Social Sciences '58): Investment banker, managing director of Lehman Brothers, Chair of Florida Preservation Advisory Council

1998: Barby Barone (B.S. Political Science '69, M.S. Political Science '70): Founder of Biltmore Advisers Inc., strategic investment management and financial planning

1997: Melvin Magidson (B.S. Economics '48, M.S. Economics '49): President and CEO of MCM Financial Corp.; and Lynda Keever (B.S. Political Science '69): Publisher of Florida Trend magazine; board member of Florida Chamber of Commerce, Leroy Collins Center, Florida Education Foundation, Florida Council on Economic Education; Board of Trustees Florida State University and Leadership Florida

1996: Peter F. Romero (M.A. International Affairs '72): CEO Experior Advisory, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, Chief of Mission for U.S. Embassy in San Salvador

1995: James Ammons (M.S. Political Science '75, Ph.D. Political Science '77): President of Florida A&M University, Chancellor of North Carolina Central University

1994: Alan Bayer (M.S. Sociology '63, Ph.D. Sociology '65): Professor Emeritus Virgina Tech; and Reuben O’D. Askew (B.S. Public Administration '51): 37th Governor of Florida (1971-79)

1993: Parris Glendening (B.A. Political Science '64, M.A. Political Science '65, Ph.D. Political Sceince '67): 59th Governor of Maryland

1992: David Coburn (B.S. Political Science '73, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '77): Chief of staff in Florida House and Senate; staff director of Senate Rules Committee, Senate Ways and Means Committee, House Appropriations Committee