For over a hundred years, the University of Florida has been instrumental in shaping some of Florida’s most talented individuals. Let’s explore the remarkable stories of a few notable alumni who have made a significant impact on the world.
Stephanie Abrams, a 1999 graduate with a degree in Geography, has been at the forefront of meteorology, particularly in the face of destructive tropical hurricanes. During the tumultuous 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Abrams distinguished herself by covering an unprecedented seven hurricanes within 15 months, including the likes of Hurricane Charley, Katrina, Wilma and Rita.
Today, she continues to provide firsthand coverage of significant storms as the co-host of “AMHQ” on The Weather Channel. Additionally, Abrams hosts “Weather Proof,” a groundbreaking series that recreates severe weather scenarios to demonstrate their real-life impact and offer life-saving tips. Her dedication to meteorology has earned her numerous accolades, including membership in the National Weather Association and the American Meteorology Society, as well as the AMS seal of approval. Abrams’s commitment to her alma mater is reflected in her role as president of the North Florida chapter of the AMS from 2002 to 2003.
Before becoming a critically acclaimed blues-rock guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, Jim Allchin, who graduated in 1973 with a degree in Electrical Engineering, played a pivotal role in shaping the future of Microsoft Corp. In 1990, Bill Gates recruited Allchin to Microsoft, where he played a central role in the development of Windows client and server business. After the 2007 release of Windows Vista, Allchin retired from software to pursue his lifelong passion for music.
His blues-themed albums, including “Enigma,” “Overclocked,” and “Q.E.D.,” received widespread acclaim. Beyond music, Allchin is deeply committed to philanthropy, contributing to causes related to education in Africa, marine environments in Indonesia and the Northwest and clean water access worldwide.
Faye Dunaway, a distinguished actress with an illustrious 50-year career in films and Broadway, earned international stardom with three Golden Globes, an Oscar, an Emmy, and a British Academy Film Award. Though she initially pursued education at the University of Florida, she later transferred to Boston University’s School of Fine and Applied Arts, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Her journey in entertainment began with roles in the American National Theatre and Academy Production of “A Man for All Seasons” and William Alfred’s “Hogan’s Goat,” where she gained critical acclaim.
Her iconic role as Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde” catapulted her to Hollywood A-list status. Dunaway continued to shine in films like “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Little Big Man,” “Chinatown,” and “Network,” which earned her an Academy Award in 1976. She released her autobiography, “Looking for Gatsby,” in 1995 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996. After an eight-year hiatus from feature films, Dunaway returned to the big screen in 2017 with roles in “Inconceivable,” “The Case for Christ,” and “The Bye Bye Man,” marking the 50th anniversary of “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Erin Andrews, who graduated in 2000 with a degree in Telecommunications, has achieved widespread fame for her sports coverage. Starting her career as a freelance reporter with Fox Sports Florida, Andrews later joined ESPN, where she hosted “College GameDay” on ESPNU and covered college football, basketball, and Major League Baseball. She also co-hosted “Dancing with the Stars” and expanded her television roles on popular shows like “Good Morning America” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Andrews made her acting debut in the 2012 film “That’s My Boy.”
During her time at the University of Florida, she was a member of the Florida Gators Dazzlers dance team. Her outstanding achievements were recognized with the University of Florida’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2007.
Byllye Avery, who earned a Master’s degree in Special Education in 1969, has dedicated more than three decades to advocating for women’s healthcare. She is the founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the only national organization dedicated to improving the health and wellness of Black women and girls. Avery also established the Avery Institute for Social Change, a national nonprofit organization committed to healthcare reform.
Avery’s commitment to women’s health led her to co-found the Gainesville Women’s Health Center and Birthplace, serving low-income and minority women facing unplanned pregnancies. She also co-founded Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, a national initiative working to ensure women’s concerns are addressed by policymakers. Her work has earned her numerous honors, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Institute of Medicine’s Gustav O. Lienhard Award for the Advancement of Health Care.
Andy Allen, who earned an MBA in 2004, has had a remarkable career in the aerospace industry. He is not only a Top Gun pilot but also a three-time space shuttle astronaut and senior space program manager. As vice president and general manager of the Jacobs Test and Operations Support Contract at Kennedy Space Center, Allen leads a team responsible for ground systems capabilities, flight hardware processing, and launch operations for NASA and commercial entities. He is also the CEO of Aerodyne Industries LLC, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business specializing in engineering and IT solutions.
Allen’s extensive military and NASA experience, including roles like director of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, culminated in his receiving Florida’s most prestigious space-related honor, the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, in April 2017.
Douglas Band began his journey in the White House as an intern during the Clinton presidency. Later, he served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and played a pivotal role in shaping Clinton’s post-presidential career. Band created and built the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an organization dedicated to addressing global challenges. CGI has raised billions for philanthropic initiatives worldwide and impacted millions of lives. After his White House tenure, Band co-founded Teneo Holdings, a global advisory firm.
Band’s connection to his alma mater remains strong; he has served on the University of Florida Foundation’s national board and various committees.
Douglas Boneparth, a 2007 graduate with a degree in Public Relations, has been recognized as one of Investment News’ 40 Under 40 for his remarkable contributions to the financial advice industry. Boneparth is deeply committed to helping millennials gain financial independence and believes in transforming the financial services industry to meet the needs of younger generations. He serves as the CFP Board Ambassador for New York and is a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council. His dedication to financial planning and education underscores his role as a prominent alumnus of the University of Florida.
Thomas Clarke, who earned a Master’s degree in Physical Education in 1977, is a leading expert in global brand management, marketing, and product development. As the president of Nike Innovation, Clarke oversees advanced product innovation teams and sustainable business initiatives. During his tenure as president and COO of Nike, the company’s revenue more than doubled, reaching over $9 billion. Clarke played a crucial role in Nike’s globalization efforts, increasing business outside the U.S. by 20% each year. Currently serving on the board of directors at Newell Brands, Clarke’s influence extends beyond Nike, demonstrating the breadth of his expertise.
Elyse Cohen, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in Psychology, has made significant contributions to public health. As the first-ever deputy director for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, Cohen played a pivotal role in addressing childhood obesity by inspiring children to lead active and healthy lives. Today, she serves as the senior director of Health and Wellness Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center and executive director of the chamber’s Health Means Business campaign.
Robert Costanza is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Florida with multiple degrees, including a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Sciences earned in 1979. He has been a trailblazer in ecological economics, earning him the title of “father of the discipline” by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Over his career, Costanza authored or co-authored over 500 scientific papers and 20 books and has been cited in more than 10,000 scientific articles. He is the editor-in-chief of Solutions, an academic journal, and serves on the editorial boards of numerous other international journals. His work has played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of sustainability and the environment.
A 2004 graduate with a B.S. in Telecommunication, Jeff Darlington is an award-winning journalist who has made a significant mark in the world of sports reporting. He started his career as a sports beat reporter for prominent newspapers, including The Miami Herald, before joining the NFL Network as a national field reporter. Darlington has covered over 10 Super Bowls and more than 200 NFL games. His remarkable contributions to sports journalism have earned him two Associated Press Sports Editors’ awards for breaking news.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Neurobiological Chemistry in 1979, Kathy Fields went on to become a prominent dermatologist and entrepreneur. She co-founded Proactiv, the world’s bestselling acne system, and later co-founded Rodan+Fields, a groundbreaking skincare company. Her career has been marked by groundbreaking research in dermatology, extensive publications, and recognition as one of Forbes’ “America’s Richest Self-Made Women” in 2015.
Aminda Marques Gonzalez
Aminda Marques Gonzalez, a 1986 graduate with a B.S. in Journalism, has made significant contributions to the field of journalism. Rising through the ranks at The Miami Herald, she became the first Hispanic editor and second woman to hold that position. Gonzalez has been recognized for her leadership in journalism, with The Miami Herald named twice as a Pulitzer Prize finalist under her guidance. She also received the Presidential Award of Impact from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2016, solidifying her status as a leading figure in journalism.
Bill Nelson, a Miami native, attended the University of Florida before completing his law degree at the University of Virginia School of Law. His career in public service began when he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1972, followed by six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Nelson’s unique career took him into space as a payload specialist aboard the Columbia space shuttle in 1986. He later served as the Florida cabinet treasurer, insurance commissioner, and fire marshal before being elected to the U.S. Senate, where he is currently in his third term. His enduring commitment to public service has made him a respected figure in American politics.
Rear Adm. Mark Emerson, a 1976 graduate with a degree in Business Administration, embarked on a distinguished naval career after completing the University of Florida Naval ROTC program. He was commissioned as an ensign and designated as a navy aviator one year later. Emerson flew aircraft like the A-7E Corsair and F/A-18 Hornet during his sea assignments aboard the USS Midway and USS Independence. He played a crucial role in airstrikes and coordinated joint and coalition air strike planning for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990.
In 2006, Emerson took command of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, which trains all Navy carrier air wings. Upon retiring in 2009, after 33 years of service, he received the Distinguished Service Medal for his exceptional contributions to naval aviation training and combat effectiveness. Emerson now serves as the director of Navy Unmanned Combat Air System at Northrop Grumman Corp.
Raised by her grandmother on a modest income, Gale King’s journey to success began with her graduation from the University of Florida in 1983 with a B.S. in Journalism, followed by an M.A. in Public Administration in 1986. King’s career started as a claims adjuster at Nationwide, where she rose through the ranks to become the executive vice president and chief human resources officer. Her dedication to education and philanthropy led her to establish scholarship funds for first-generation students, leaving an enduring legacy of support for higher education. King’s commitment to service extends to her roles on multiple boards and councils, where she actively works to ensure students have access to education.
Al Warrington, an accounting graduate in 1958, embarked on a successful career that started with delivering newspapers at the age of 8. He became a prominent figure in the business world, holding leadership positions at Arthur Andersen & Co. and creating successful companies like Sanifill, Inc. His philanthropic contributions have had a profound impact on the University of Florida, including being the first $100 million donor to the institution. Warrington’s dedication to the university extends to his leadership roles and advocacy, making him a pivotal figure in advancing UF’s goals.
Emmitt Smith, a 1996 graduate in Health & Human Performance, is a legendary figure in the world of football. During his time at the University of Florida, he set numerous records and earned 28 All-American honors. His remarkable college career was just the beginning, as he went on to have a stellar NFL career. Smith, a three-time Super Bowl champion and NFL all-time leading rusher, left an indelible mark on the sport and was inducted into both the UF Athletics Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Manuel A. Fernandez
Manuel “Manny” Fernandez, a 1967 graduate in Electrical Engineering, has had a profound impact on the technology industry. As a leading executive, he has been at the forefront of technology innovation, co-founding SI Ventures in 1996. Fernandez serves on the boards of directors for several major companies, including Tibco Software Inc. and Brunswick Corp. Beyond his professional success, he has been a generous philanthropist, supporting initiatives at the University of Florida and advocating for educational opportunities.
Stanley Escudero, a 1965 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences, dedicated his career to diplomatic service in countries across Central and South Asia. After graduating from the University of Florida, he joined the United States Foreign Service in 1967. He began his diplomatic career in Pakistan and Niger, eventually serving as staff aide to the ambassador and political officer at the American Embassy in Iran. He returned to Iran during the Iranian Revolution in an undercover operation. Escudero also served as the Councilor of Political Affairs to U.S. embassies in Egypt and India and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to be the first American ambassador to Tajikistan, a newly independent state at the time.
He held ambassadorial positions in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan and served as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan. Escudero retired in 2000 after 33 years of government service and later returned to Azerbaijan as a business consultant. He founded Shield Bearer LLC, a consulting firm based in Florida and Azerbaijan, and currently writes a political column titled “The Guidepost” for the internet newspaper Headline Surfer. He also serves on the board of trustees for Daytona State College.
Dara Torres, a 1990 graduate in Telecommunication, is a remarkable athlete known for her age-defying accomplishments in swimming. At the age of 14, she set her first world record, and she continued to dominate the sport for years. Torres’s impressive career includes 12 Olympic medals and five Olympic appearances. Her enduring success and resilience have made her an inspiration to athletes worldwide. Torres also co-hosts “We Need to Talk” on CBS Sports Network, contributing her insights to the world of sports broadcasting.
Best-selling author Michael Connelly, who graduated with a degree in Journalism & Communications in 1980, has achieved critical acclaim for his detective and crime fiction novels, with over 60 million copies sold worldwide. Connelly’s journey as a writer began at the University of Florida when he discovered Raymond Chandler’s books. After college, he worked as a crime reporter in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, later joining the Los Angeles Times.
His experiences as a reporter, combined with current events, continue to inspire his gripping plots. His first book, “The Black Echo,” won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best first novel in 1992. Connelly’s impact extends to television, as he writes and produces for the Amazon Prime TV series “Bosch,” based on his character Harry Bosch, and serves as the executive producer of the documentary film “Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story.”
The Hon. Bob Graham, who graduated in 1959 with a degree in Political Science, has devoted his career to public service. He served as both a United States Senator and Florida governor, witnessing the rise of Florida’s economic and political influence. In 2006, Sen. Graham founded the University of Florida Bob Graham Center for Public Service, which aims to train the next generation of leaders for Florida, the United States, and the international community.
The center provides students with the tools and resources to actively participate in civil engagement and strengthen democratic institutions. In recognition of his contributions to public service and The Gator Nation®, Sen. Graham received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame in 2002.
Lannett Edwards, a 1996 Ph.D. graduate in Agricultural & Life Sciences, achieved a significant scientific breakthrough by successfully cloning the nation’s first jersey cow using un-patented technologies. After earning her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Florida, Edwards completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and contributed to the team that produced Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Edwards and her husband, Neal Schrick, simplified the patented cloning process to produce the Jersey cow “Millie,” paving the way for advances in the consumer market for beef, dairy, and poultry. As a professor and graduate director in the Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee, Edwards continues to conduct and publish research in reproductive physiology and embryology.
These notable alumni exemplify the University of Florida’s commitment to producing leaders, innovators, and change-makers across various disciplines. Through their work in areas such as weather science, diplomacy, technology, music, healthcare and education, they continue to leave a lasting impact on our world and serve as an inspiration to others.
Q : How large is the University of Florida’s campus?
A : UF’s campus spans approximately 2,000 acres, making it one of the largest in the United States.
Q : How has UF contributed to science?
A : UF played a vital role in scientific advancements, including cloning the first jersey cow and leading research in agriculture and life sciences.
Q : What is the mascot of the University of Florida?
A : UF’s mascot is Albert the Alligator, and the athletic teams are known as the Florida Gators.