Distinguished Alumni Award

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

2022: Cecelia Bonifay, M.S.P., J.D.

Cecelia Bonifay (B.A. ‘71 Political Science, M.S.P. ‘73 Urban and Regional Planning, J.D. ’84 FSU College of Law), chair of Akerman’s Land Use and Development Practice, helps developers navigate the governmental approval process for their real estate projects. With a strong background in urban planning and development approvals for large-scale projects, she has represented many clients in the development of commercial, residential, and industrial projects. Clients benefit from her keen analysis of a wide range of land use, zoning, sustainable development, and environmental matters in Florida and across the United States.

Collaborating with the firm’s land use development and planning professionals, Cecelia assists clients in permitting and structuring economic incentives packages. Her professional accolades include recognition in Chambers USA and The Legal 500 as a leading lawyer in land use and zoning.

Bonifay has devoted more than 25 years to the community. She has held several leadership positions at the Urban Land Institute, including co-chair of the Climate Change, Land Use, and Energy Committee, immediate past chair of its Florida Statewide Summit, a current member of its 2017 Executive Planning Committee, and chair of its Central Florida District Council. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Kelley A. Bergstrom Real Estate Center at the University of Florida and Secretary Treasurer of the Orlando Economic Development Commission. She also serves as the president emeritus of the Crealde School of Art and as a board member of United Arts of Central Florida.

As a three-time FSU alum, Bonifay is passionate about supporting FSU students and alumni.

“This award as a COSSPP Distinguished Alum is very meaningful to me as I have always had a special passion and desire to assist in FSU’s future success,” Bonifay said. “As a pioneer in the field of land use real estate law, I have become a trailblazer for all the women aspiring to serve as allies to local governments across both Florida and the U.S. in shaping the landscapes of their communities. I hope my hard work and determination serves as an inspiration to current students and young alumni at Florida State University.”

2022: Daniel M. Gropper, Ph.D.

Daniel M. Gropper (M.S. ’85 & Ph.D. ’89, Economics) has served as Dean of the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University since July 2013. He joined FAU after 25 years at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, where he rose through the ranks to become the Luck Professor and Associate Dean, while also receiving several awards for teaching, research, and leadership.

At FAU, Dr. Gropper leads one of the top-15 largest AACSB-accredited business schools in the United States, with over 8,200 students in Fall 2022. He has raised millions of dollars to support students and faculty and has led FAU’s College of Business to new heights. FAU’s online MBA and non-MBA graduate programs (in accounting, health administration, and finance) were ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News & World Report, and the online BBA and the International Business undergraduate program were both ranked in the top 30. Princeton Review first ranked the FAU entrepreneurship programs among the top 50 in 2019, where they remain.

A member of Phi Kappa Phi and Mensa, Gropper was a Weaver Fellow of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute at FSU. He believes that while business students need to learn the latest technical skills, they should also have a broad-based education in the liberal arts and sciences.

His research has attracted funding from the federal government and private sector and has been published in leading academic journals, including the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, and the Journal of Banking and Finance and cited in Forbes, The Economist, and U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Gropper was elected to the Southern Business Deans Board of Directors in 2020, and he is part of the Sun Sentinel’s South Florida 100. He and his wife – Sareen Gropper, Ph.D., RDN, and distinguished two-time FSU alumna and Professor of Nutrition at FAU – attended FSU together after graduating from the University of Maryland.

“In higher education, particularly in our state Universities, we help open the doors of opportunity for our students and help them pursue their own individual version of the American dream,” Gropper said. “My parents were the first in their families to graduate from college, and I could see what a difference that made. At FSU, I had the opportunity to teach my own class early in my graduate program, to learn from and work with some great fellow graduate students who became lifelong friends, and study under some wonderfully supportive faculty. I am particularly grateful for Drs. Jim Gwartney, Fred Bell, Joan and Charles Haworth, Dave Rasmussen, Randy Holcombe, and others. I am familiar with the activities of the current faculty at the DeVoe Moore Center, the Hilton Center, and the Stavros Center; this work is first-rate, and the College and Department faculty continue to help FSU students get a great education.”

2022: Jimmy Patronis

Jimmy Patronis (B.A. ‘96 Political Science) serves as the State of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, State Fire Marshal, and a member of the Florida Cabinet. 

As Florida’s CFO, Patronis oversees the state’s accounting and auditing functions and unclaimed property, monitors the investment of state funds, and manages the state’s deferred compensation and risk management programs.

His public service career began as an intern in the Florida Senate and the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. 

After graduating from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles to the Florida Elections Commission, and he was later reappointed by Governor Jeb Bush.

Patronis served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014, representing District 6. Later, he was appointed to serve on Florida’s Public Service Commission and the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets once every twenty years to propose changes to the state constitution.

He is a partner in a family-owned seafood restaurant, Captain Anderson’s, which celebrated its 55th anniversary this year. He and his wife Katie are proud parents to two sons, Jimmy Theo III and John Michael.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this distinguished award and cannot thank the team at the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy enough for their support,” Patronis said. “Some of the best memories of my life come from walking the halls of the Bellamy Building with friends and waiting for my next public policy class. The encouragement and support I received from my professors and classmates pushed me to embrace public service and led me to a 17-year career, serving first in the Florida Legislature and now as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. I’m a true Seminole at heart and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the education and experiences I was afforded at FSU.”

2022: Nigel Parkinson, Sr., M.S.P.A.

Nigel Parkinson, Sr. (M.S.P.A. ’75, Public Administration and Management) is President and CEO of Parkinson Construction Company, the oldest and largest African American owned, self-preforming construction company in the Washington metropolitan area. He founded the company in the early ‘80s shortly after moving to Washington, D.C. Specializing in general construction, construction management, and masonry, Parkinson’s Construction Company has worked on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Nationals Ballpark, the Pentagon and BWI Airport, to name a few.

Parkinson’s journey began in Freetown, Sierra Leone. At the age of 17, with little money in his pocket but a burning desire to expand his world, he immigrated to the United States. He began by selling magazines door-to-door in New York City and quickly enrolled at Florida A & M University where his great grand uncle had been that school’s first president. From there, he pursued a master’s degree in public administration and management. Later, he was certified through Harvard Business Schools’ Owner/President Management Program.

He has been engaged with the D.C. Contractors Association and is past president of the National Association of Minority Contractors. In addition, he supports high school STEM programs and established a program for returning citizens who seek to learn construction trades as they re-enter society following incarceration.

“I am proud and humbled to be selected as a recipient of a COSSPP Distinguished Alumni Award,” Parkinson said. “As I walked the FSU campus several decades ago, I never would have imagined that the information, stimulation, and encouragement I received would lead me to the level of success and sense of accomplishment I have felt. While I knew I was in a special place, it was much later that the threads came together, and I could truly appreciate my total experience. As I look back, I am eternally grateful to the professors, aides, mentors, and other staff who instilled within me the confidence to confront any challenge and work through any difficult situation. COSSPP’s rich learning environment, infused with the maturation process associated with the graduate school experience, can rightly be credited with producing many who have enjoyed successful careers.

Previous Honorees

2021: Dan Berger (B.S. ’89 Economics), president and CEO of the National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions; Rosemary Magee, Ph.D. (B.A. ’73 Sociology), an accomplished higher education professional who has served in a variety of capacities at Emory University, including as faculty, dean, director and vice-president; Mel Martinez (B.A. ’69 International Affairs), Chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Former Senator and United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Karen Rasler, Ph.D. (M.S. ’77, Ph.D. ’81 Political Science), a dedicated academician with decades of research and teaching at major universities throughout the U.S.

2020: Jeff Butler (B.S. ’95 Interdisciplinary Social Science), entrepreneur and senior executive in the healthcare and technology industries; Jorge Gonzalez (B.S. ’87 Political Science, M.S.P. ’89 Urban and Regional Planning), real estate professional and CEO of St. Joe Company; Robert Hummer (M.S. ’90, Ph.D. ’93 Sociology), distinguished professor of sociology at UNC and acclaimed scholar of population health and mortality patterns and trends; Angela Riley Santone (B.S. ’93 Sociology); Angela Riley Santone (B.S. ’93 Sociology), Senior Executive Vice President for Human Resources at AT&T

2019: William Desvousges (M.S. ’74, Ph.D. ’77 Economics), natural resource damage assessment specialist; Joyce Godwin (B.A. ’65 Political Science), philanthropist and corporate/nonprofit/education board member and consultant; Patrick D. Sargent (B.S. ’85 Political Science), commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Health Readiness Center of Excellence

2018: Eric Reading (B.S. ’92, M.S. 93 International Affairs): Executive Vice President of Chemonics International development firm

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.P.A. 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.P. 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.P. 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.P. 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 (Ph.D. Political Science ’86): 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 Science ’67): 59th Governor of Maryland

1992: David Coburn (B.S. Political Science ’73, M.S.P. 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