Alumni CLASnotes Spring 2006
In This Issue:

Alumni Notes

Updates from CLASmates

English Grad Steers NASCAR Driver’s Foundation:

De Fini (left) is pictured with Ryan and Krissie Newman at the inaugural Ryan Newman Foundation Charity Dinner and Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona in November 2005.
De Fini (left) is pictured with Ryan and Krissie
Newman at the inaugural Ryan Newman
Foundation Charity Dinner and Auction in
Scottsdale, Arizona in November 2005.
Rosalie De Fini (BA, English, 1993) is the executive director of the Ryan Newman Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization founded by NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driver Ryan Newman and his wife, Krissie, in January 2005.

The foundation focuses on three main areas of interest—companion animal welfare, conservation and preservation of wildlife, and college scholarships for auto racers. De Fini resides in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband of 10 years, Joe Ley.

Dassler is Broward County Teacher of the Year

Brian Dassler
Brian Dassler
“Transforming education, one student at a time” is the motto of the Broward County school system and on January 25, English alumnus Brian Dassler was selected as the educator who best exemplified this standard when he was named the county’s Teacher of the Year.

Dassler, who earned a BA in English in 2001 and a master’s in English education in 2002, teaches 10th–12th grade English at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale in its Urban Teacher Academy Program. “I believe schools are places where dreams come true,” he says. “I have a deep commitment to social justice, democracy and pluralism, and teaching is my way of honoring those commitments because I believe well educated people make our nation and the world better places for everyone.”

Geology Grad Named UF Distinguished Alumnus

Brian Dassler
President Machen presents Jon L.
Thompson with a Distinguished
Alumnus Award
Jon L. Thompson received a University of Florida Distinguished Alumnus Award at the December 2005 commencement ceremony. For more than 41 years, Thompson played an integral role in the ExxonMobil Exploration Company and had an illustrious career as a global explorer unequaled in the worldwide oil and gas exploration business.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Thompson graduated with honors from UF’s Department of Geological Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in 1961 and a master’s in 1962.

In 1962, Thompson joined Exxon Company USA (EUSA) as a geologist in its New Orleans office. His expertise in petroleum exploration led to his selection as a project leader for the North Rocky Mountain and Gulf of Alaska regions of EUSA and later as exploration operations manager for the United Kingdom. In 1991, after a series of promotions, Thompson was named president of Exxon Exploration Company, which was responsible for all Exxon oil and gas exploration world-wide. When Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999, forming the world’s largest private energy company, Thompson was named president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company and vice president of ExxonMobil Corporation. He retired in 2004 and resides in Sanibel, Florida, with his wife, Beverly.

Thompson serves on the CLAS Development Council and was alumni organizer for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Department of Geological Sciences. CLAS named him an outstanding alumnus in 2003.

CLAS Alumna is Dean of Residents at Oak Hammock

Sara Lynn McCrea
Sara Lynn McCrea
Sara Lynn McCrea is the dean of residents and director of community services at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida. The 1963 history graduate has worked at the retirement community for almost four years and serves as the liaison among the residents, management and UF.

Affiliated with UF, Oak Hammock is a Life Fulfilling Community®—dedicated to lifelong learning, fitness and health for seniors. One of the programs McCrea is most involved with is the Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR). There are more than 80 such institutions across the country, including ILRs at Harvard, Northwestern, UCLA and Duke.

Designed for older adults, ILR classes cover many subjects, such as literature, art and music appreciation, history, archeology, philosophy, medical subjects and current events. Community members interested in enrolling can make arrangements through McCrea. Visit for more information.

PoliSci Grad Represents

Florida Representative Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami, was selected to be the first Cuban-American Speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives.
Florida Representative Marco Rubio
Florida Representative Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami, was selected to be the first Cuban-American Speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UF in 1993, and his term as House Speaker begins next fall. Rubio also graduated with a law degree from the University of Miami in 1996, and was first elected to the House in 2000 and subsequently reelected.

He is a member of the Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights and the Select Committee on Medicaid Reform, and is the fiscal council chair. He has served as city commissioner of West Miami and as a board member for the Miami Performing Arts Center.

Outstanding Alumni

Florida Representative Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami, was selected to be the first Cuban-American Speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives.
Pictured below (left to right): Kendra L. Todd, Eric A. Wagner, Linda F. Wells, Robert O.
Kincart, Ulla M. Connor, Albert A. Sanchez, Jr., Juan Carlos del Valle and John W.
During the university’s Homecoming weekend in October, CLAS presented 10 Outstanding Alumni Awards during its fourth annual Alumni Brunch. Established in 2002, the awards recognize the achievements and contributions of some of the top alumni from UF’s largest college. The following were honored: Ava G. Byrne (BA, Sociology, 1976), deputy superintendent of the Office of Professional Development of Miami-Dade County Public Schools; Ulla M. Connor (MA, English, 1971), the Barbara E. and Karl R. Zimmer Chair of Intercultural Communication at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Juan Carlos del Valle (BA and MA, Geography, 1993 and 1996), first vice president of retail distribution strategy at Washington Mutual in Seattle; Manuel L. Diaz (BA, Latin American Studies, 1969), president and managing director of HSBC Private Bank International-Miami; Robert O. Kincart (BS, Chemistry, 1972), president and founder of American Compliance Technologies; John W. Mintmire (BS and PhD, Physics, 1976 and 1980), associate dean of research in the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University; Glenn M. Parker (BS, Zoology, 1986), a licensed internal medicine specialist and co-founder and CEO of NationsHealth; Albert A. Sanchez, Jr. (BA, Philosophy, 1975), co-founder of The Gibraltar Companies; Kendra L. Todd (BA, Linguistics, 2000), a successful real estate entrepreneur and winner of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice 3; Eric A. Wagner (PhD, Sociology, 1973), professor emeritus of sociology at Ohio University.


Sandra J. (Weiner) Hershkowitz (BA, Mathematics) received a master’s in education from St. Bonaventure University in 1974. Her thesis was “Use of Computer-Generated Repeatable Examinations in Introductory Fortran Classes.” Hershkowitz, who also received a law degree from John F. Kennedy Law School in 1988, mainly practices in juvenile court, delinquency and dependency matters. She is a volunteer attorney for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

W. Stuart Towns (MA, Speech; PhD, 1971) is the new chair of the Department of Communication at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Howard J. Wiarda (MA, Political Science; PhD, 1965) is the new head of the international affairs department at the University of Georgia and the Dean Rusk Professor of International Relations. He also retains his positions as Public Policy Scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.


William P. White, III (BA, Political Science) was elected public defender for the 4th Judicial Court in Florida, which includes Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. He took office in January 2005. White also has received the highest national honor given to an assistant public defender by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and also was awarded the highest Florida honor by the Florida Public Defenders Association.


Chris Monaco (BA, Film Studies) has received the 2006 Presidential Award of Distinction from the Florida Historical Society for his book Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer. The award is presented occasionally to individuals whose scholarship in the field of Florida history is ground breaking in scope or which represents a revived interest in a distinct area of study. Monaco’s book on Moses Levy is regarded as a major contribution to ethnographic studies in Florida history and to the field of American Jewish history in general.


Victor A. Schmidt (BS, Geology) recently accepted the position of drilling engineering editor for World Oil magazine. He was exploration editor for Offshore magazine for more than seven years before accepting the position. Both publications are based in Houston, Texas.


John A. Canuteson (PhD, English) retired after teaching for 31 years at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He expresses fond memories of the preparation for college teaching he received at UF under the direction of Richard Hamilton Green. He continues in the position of “gofer” for a family business.


Pamela D. Cichon (BA, English) received her law degree from Stetson University in 1979. After working as a “landman” in Colorado and Nebraska for various oil companies, she returned to Florida and worked as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Florida Department of Legal Affairs in Daytona, during which time she argued several death penalty cases before the Supreme Court of Florida. She has received several awards for providing pro bono legal services to the poor and has served as president of the board of directors of Gulfcoast Legal Services in St. Petersburg, where she has been a senior assistant city attorney for the past 16 years, concentrating in civil trial practice. Cichon has served as a traffic court magistrate in Pinellas County and is currently the chair of the Florida Bar’s Government Lawyer Section, which has more than 950 members.


Julie A. Jacques (BA, Mathematics), a former Navy helicopter pilot, computer programmer and graduate student in neuroscience, is currently working as a neurologist in private practice in eastern Tennessee. She is also working on a theory of the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis and is seeking collaboration with a selenium biochemist.


Lee Woodliff (BA, Political Science) was recently appointed to resident director of the Merrill Lynch office in Punta Gorda, Florida. With 18 financial advisors and 30 employees, the office manages more than $1 billion in assets. Woodliff retired from the US Army in 1996, having graduated from the UF ROTC Program. He has a MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology.


Sidney W. Kilgore (BA, Philosophy and Economics) has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1986 and holds degrees of Juris Doctor from Stetson University and Legum Magister from the London-based Concannon Programme of International Law of the University of Notre Dame. He is presently pursuing a fourth degree in computer science and mathematics through Florida State University. Kilgore’s practice in Tampa includes patent prosecution, licensing and infringement litigation, information technology law, business law and commercial contracts. He has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida and Stetson University College of Law, and has served as an international trade advisor in the Export Legal Assistance Network (ELAN) program of the US Department of Commerce since 1991.


Nancy Wolfe-Smith (BA, Linguistics) opened her own State Farm Insurance Agency in Pembroke Pines, Florida in April 2006. She holds licenses in property and casualty, life/health, Series 6 and mortgage brokering and earned a Master’s of Business Administration in May 2004 from the University of Phoenix.


Cassandra White (BA, Anthropology; MA, 1993) received her PhD in anthropology from Tulane University in 2001 and is now an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Last summer, she developed and taught a study abroad course in Rio de Janeiro.


Juan L. Riera (BA, History) is working as an education specialist at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, Florida. It is a 17th century Spanish Catholic Mission run as a historical and archaeological site by the Florida Department of State, Bureau of Archaeological Research.

Anne M. Smith (BA, Language and Literature) recently published her fifth book, Cisco CallManager Fundamentals, Second Edition. The nearly 1,000-page book was published by Cisco Press and has been on bookstore shelves since September. A writer and engineer with Cisco Systems, Inc., Smith has also co-authored four other books, including Cisco CallManager Best Practices, Troubleshooting Cisco IP Telephony, Developing Cisco IP Phone Services and the first edition of Cisco CallManager Fundamentals. She is the author of several magazine and online articles, and her stock photography has been published in national magazines and numerous brochures and pamphlets.


Michael Gellman (BA, English) is the founder and CEO of SpireMedia, a Denver-based Web application development firm that produces work for clients including Adelphia, David Letterman, Echostar, Great-West Life, Qwest, Spyder and Western Union. The 7-year-old company has been ranked as Colorado’s Top Web Development Firm and One of Denver’s Best Places to Work. The Denver Business Journal recently selected Michael Gellman as “40 Under 40.” He also is a sought out speaker and a published author.

Steve G. Jones (BS, Psychology) is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and is the president of the American Alliance of Hypnotists. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association, the American Board of Hypnotherapy and the National Guild of Hypnotists. Jones, author of six books on hypnosis, sees clients for conditions such as weight loss, anxiety, pain management, phobias, anger management, natural childbirth and more. He trains and certifies hypnotherapists and lectures around the world, teaching people how to harness the power of their subconscious mind.


Michael A. Ryan (BA, History) earned a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in May 2005 and has since accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of History at Purdue University.

Christopher J. Wilson (BA, Sociology) is an Air Force Captain who works for the United States Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.


Jeffrey T. Donner (BA, Political Science) has joined the Office of the City Attorney in Miami Beach as senior assistant city attorney.


Angela Caudle (MA, Latin American Studies) is the new executive director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. She is the first woman to lead this organization since its founding 33 years ago. Caudle had previously managed US-based Quality Certification Services, serving as its director since 2002.


Joy M. Race (BA, Criminology and Political Science) earned a master’s in management from Webster University in 2003 and currently holds the position of chief financial officer at Arnette House, Inc., a youth and family services organization providing shelter, counseling and transitional living services to at-risk, homeless, abused and neglected youth in North-Central Florida. In her spare time, Race volunteers as the executive director of the Levy County Schools Foundation, which aims to enhance educational opportunities for students and educators in the service area.


Lauren D. Stern (BS, Zoology) earned a medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She received the Gold Humanism Honor Society Award, the Glasgow-Rubin Certificate for Academic Achievement and an Academic Excellence Award in Internal Medicine. Stern, a member of Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society, is in residency in internal medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.


Bertina J. Yu (BA, Political Science) is in her last year of graduate studies at the highly ranked Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She is pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs, specializing in economic development and policy analysis. After graduating from Indiana, she hopes to pursue a career as a political analyst.


Joshua Gellers (BA, Political Science) has been accepted into Columbia University’s climate and society master’s program, which accepts less than 20 students each year. The 12-month interdisciplinary program trains students to understand and cope with the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment.

Ashley Wallingford (BS, Psychology) currently works in Gainesville at ADT Fire and Security Services as a residential sales representative.

keep in touch
we want to hear from you!
Send your update to Editor, PO Box 117300, Gainesville FL 32611. Please include your degree (BA, MA, PhD, etc.), major/minor, graduation date and E-mail address if you have one.

Photos are welcome, too!

You can also E-mail your update to or visit to fill out an online update form.

Courtesy Rosalie De Fini
Johanna Lang
University Photography
Johnson Phototgraphy
Courtesy Marco Rubio

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