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Alum, Emeritus Professor Win Torch Awards

November 25, 2019

by Jenny Ralph, University Communications, and COSSPP communications staff

Florida State University’s Faculty Senate presented five members of the FSU community with Torch Awards for their contributions to further the academic excellence of the university. Two of the honorees have close ties to the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy.

The awards were presented Thursday, November 21, during the annual reception and dinner.

Named for the trio of torches depicted in the university’s seal, the three categories of Torch Awards are: Vires, symbolizing moral, physical and intellectual strength; Artes, symbolizing an appreciation of aesthetics and the beauty of intellectual pursuits; and Mores, symbolizing respect for customs, character and tradition.

“Each of these honorees have contributed to the academic excellence of this university,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “They have donated their time, talent and treasure because they believe strongly in our mission and because they care deeply about our faculty, staff and students. They do it, quite simply, because they love Florida State University.”

This year, the Faculty Senate conferred one Vires, one Mores and two Artes awards. The winners from the college are:

VIRES: Sean Pittman (B.S. '90 Social Sciences), former Student Body President, received the Vires Award for his commitment to helping students at Florida State both during his time as a student and alumnus. Pittman, who earned his J.D. from FSU’s College of Law in 1994, currently serves as senior attorney and CEO of Pittman Law Group, P.L.

In 2010, he established the Sean Pittman Scholarship for minority students in the Florida State University College of Law. The income from this endowment is used to award at least one scholarship each year to a minority student who will assist the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators as a law clerk and a policy adviser.

In addition, he is the namesake for the Sean A. Pittman Award at FSU — given to a student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and dedication to the student body, the university and the community with an emphasis on support of and contributions to African-American students.

Pittman also proved instrumental in securing the $1.5 million funding from the Florida Legislature for the construction of the Black Student Union building on campus, which opened in 2018.

ARTES: Charles E. and Persis E. Rockwood, emeritus professors, received the Artes Award for their continued impact on the university as both academic leaders and philanthropists. Charles taught as a professor of economics for more than 30 years (1960-1991) and Persis was a trailblazer at FSU as the first woman promoted to full professor of marketing in 1973. She also chaired a university committee that worked to create a policy on gender equity in faculty salaries, while teaching marketing and management until her retirement in 1989.

The Rockwoods recently donated $2.2 million to the College of Music to build a custom pipe organ, which will enhance both FSU’s organ and sacred music programs while elevating the prestige of the university as a whole. The Rockwoods also established significant scholarship endowments within the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, College of Business and College of Music. The Rockwoods’ financial commitment to the university totals $5 million.

Also receiving Torch Awards this year were Howard Tibbals (Artes), philanthropist and circus historian, and Valliere Richard Auzenne (Mores), who taught in the College of Motion Picture Arts for 30 years and served on various committees across the university.

Established in 1996, the Torch Awards allow FSU faculty members to honor friends of the university who have contributed significantly to its ability to realize its academic mission. Nominations are submitted by faculty members to an awards committee. The committee, in turn, makes recommendations to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee for approval.


2019 FSU Torch Awards recipients. From left: Steven High, executive director of The Ringling, and Provost Sally McRorie,
accepting for Howard Tibbals; Valliere Richard Auzenne; President John Thrasher; FSU Faculty Senate President Kris Harper;
Sean PIttman; and Persis and Charles Rockwood.