A few of our favorite stories from the past year
By Angie Lewis, ’03
As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014, we can’t help but reflect on all of the great UCF stories that have been shared over the last 12 months. Celebrating a new year with a BCS bowl win, welcoming more than 16,000 new alumni over three semesters of graduation ceremonies, getting to know an inspirational teacher, helping a little boy get a “robo-arm” and witnessing a Knights marriage proposal are enough to run the emotional gamete on their own. But, we’ve got more!
Here are our top 10 favorite stories of 2014:
10. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
On Jan. 1, 2014, our Knights won their first-ever BCS bowl after defeating Baylor 52-42 in Glendale, Ariz. (Seems like a fitting story for our list of favorites, as our Knights play in their third-consecutive bowl, facing N.C. State in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, after celebrating back-to-back AAC championships. Go Knights! Charge On!)
The UCF Alumni Association welcomed more than 5,000 new alumni during fall 2014 commencement ceremonies held Dec. 12-13. With these graduations, UCF has awarded more than 271,000 degrees since classes began in 1968. In total, the alumni association welcomed more than 16,000 new alumni in 2014, including spring and summer graduations.
8. The Origins of Pegasus Magazine
In 2014, Pegasus Magazine celebrated its 20th year in production. The inaugural issue in July 1994 was printed and mailed to 59,861 alumni. Today, the award-winning publication is sent to more than 205,000 (addressable) alumni. Pegasus was created by Tom Messina, ’84, along with fellow Knights Mike Hinn, ’92, and Jim Hobart, ’91.
7. Little Legacy
Marlie Kai Dodson dreamed of being a UCF Cheerleader and attending the College of Nursing. However, pediatric brain cancer claimed her life on Dec. 31, 2011, leaving behind a little legacy that would make a big impact. Thankful for the nurses who cared so much for her daughter, Marlie’s mom, Sarah Dodson, ’01, along with her family of other UCF Knights, established the Marlie Kai Dodson Endowed UCF Oncology Nursing Scholarship, which was awarded this year for the first time.
6. 180 Degrees
Although Jill Schenk, ’90, was an “American Gladiators” contestant, her spirit wasn’t as strong as her body. After struggling with addiction and attempting suicide, she was finally able to learn how to love herself, and now inspires her students as a teacher at San Diego High School.
5. Homecoming Highlights
Homecoming 2014 proved to be another exciting week of alumni and student events, including the Black & Gold Gala, Spirit Splash, Black & Gold Takeover, Golf Tournament, Indoor Tailgate, CECS BBQ/Reunion, and a repeat victory against Temple!
4. Magazine Names UCF Leaders, Alumni to Orlando’s Most-Powerful List
Five UCF leaders and several alumni were named to Orlando magazine’s 2014 list of the region’s 50 most powerful people.
3. Orlando’s University
UCF’s new downtown Orlando campus is in the works, and will be a “game changer” for the university, according to its top supporter, UCF President John Hitt.
Six-year-old Alex Pring received a new prosthetic arm, thanks to e-NABLE, an international organization that connects families with inventors and 3-D printer enthusiasts creating solutions for children with special needs. That’s where his mom, Alyson, met Albert Manero, ’12, an e-NABLE volunteer who would change their lives forever.
1. Proposal Knight
Having a brick engraved with “Marry Me?” was how Rob Brunjes, ’11, decided to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Michele McGlamory, ’10. Now, the Knights Terrace outside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will always hold a special place in their hearts.
We hope you enjoyed our favorites as much as we did. Here’s to bigger and better stories in 2015!
With Knight Pride,
Your UCF Alumni Association Staff
When Jeff Tuttle, ’96, mission and technology manager for NASA’s Balloon Program Office, was sent to Antarctica for the space giant’s Antares rocket program, he made sure to pack one very important item (besides a parka!) — his UCF Knights flag, which he proudly displayed in front of Mt. Erebus.
Here’s some of what Tuttle shared with us about his experience on our planet’s southernmost continent:
McMurdo, the home of the U.S. Antarctic Program’s Long Duration Balloon Facility, is a minor city and, as such, has the amenities of all cities. It has a hospital (of sorts), where basic medicine can be administered. They cannot obviously perform any major operations, but there is a doctor on staff. And, they have a church, a cafeteria, and all kinds of recreation indoors and outdoors.
I joke a lot about the cafeteria, but really, the food is very good. Because we travel more than seven miles from McMurdo to our Long Duration Balloon Facility, we have individual chefs come out and prepare us food out there. We had smoked salmon the other day that I would find at any good restaurant. The cafeteria has two items available 24 hours: pizza and cookies.
The passing of the Antarctic Treaty and Antarctic Conservation Act in the U.S. brought several restrictions to U.S. activity on Antarctica. The introduction of alien plants or animals can bring a criminal penalty, as can the extraction of any indigenous species. Another part of this act involves waste management from both recycling and human waste. While this is not a popular subject in Antarctica (or elsewhere), it is part of the culture if you are staying here. No discussion of Antarctic life would be complete without some mention of the pee bottle.
McMurdo dorms and facilities, and Long Duration Balloon Facility have bathrooms. And, to be honest, the shower water is hotter than the water in my apartment in Chincoteague. But, if I were to go on a long hike or walk and have to use the bathroom, per law, I cannot use it outdoors on the ground. Urine or any other waste does not decompose here. It stays. I would have to collect the waste and return it to base for proper disposal. Thus, when going on long ventures, you either hold it or take an “official” waste cup.
McMurdo station is very much into recycling. Approximately 40 percent of all the waste in the station is recycled. That’s really an amazing statistic considering the isolation of the base from the real world. In every dorm and every building in McMurdo, there is a recycling depot. You empty your waste basket every week and place items in either plastic, aerosols, food waste, mixed paper, aluminum beverage, paper towels, glass and non-recyclables bins. There’s also a skua bin — named after an arctic bird that eats anything and hangs around the cafeteria waiting for someone to expose their food, and attacks — which is where people get rid of the things they don’t want. You’ll find shoes, jackets, shampoo and 1,000 other things there for the taking, mostly left by people lightning their load for the return trip.
Many thanks to Jeff for sharing his experience and representing his alma mater! Go Knights! Charge On!
By Angie Lewis, ’03
As UCF Football prepares for its final game of the season, facing the N.C. State Wolfpack in the 2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, it also prepares to say goodbye to 21 seniors, who helped the team win back-to-back AAC championships and earn three consecutive bowl invitations.
While fans may know each player’s number and position, and be familiar with his performance on the field, what they may not know is how each got there.
One of those seniors is the Knights’ No. 19 wide receiver, Josh Reese, ’14, from Miami Central High School, whose energizing 30-yard reception, followed by Quarterback Justin Holman’s keeper, helped to briefly put UCF ahead of Penn State in the last two minutes of Ireland’s Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.
“He’s really the one guy who sticks out as being the leader of the receiving group,” says UCF Wide Receivers Coach Sean Beckton, ’93. “He’s the one guy you can count on to go out and do everything right.”
In addition to his physical abilities, part of Reese’s success is also thanks to his First Generation Scholarship. He’s one of about 75 UCF student-athletes who receive financial assistance to help them succeed as the first person in their families to attend college.
“Having a First Generation Scholarship helped me get to college in general,” Reese says. “It also made it possible for me to go to a bigger and better college like UCF, and not only play football, but achieve a degree.”
Reese completed his bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science this past summer.
“Everything that he’s gotten thus far, as far as the recognition here, he’s deserving of it, because he’s worked extremely hard,” Beckton says.
And, Reese isn’t the only UCF student-athlete who works hard on the field and off. The graduation rate of UCF’s student-athletes is 95 percent — the highest rate in the country among public institutions and fifth overall.
The graduate rate for UCF Football, specifically, is 90 percent, which is 10th overall among football programs and second among public institutions. The program has also won the Academic Excellence Award for having the highest GPA in the conference for the past three years.
“It’s always good to give back to people who may not have opportunities to go to college and beyond,” Reese says. “Never count out anyone.”
- Get the numbers! JOSH REESE’S STATS
- The Knights rank among the nation’s top bowl teams in the classroom. READ MORE
- UCF recently celebrated the groundbreaking of The Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership. READ MORE
- Want to make a difference in the life of a first generation college student? DONATE TODAY
Just as they did for the Fiesta Bowl last year, UCF fans once again reached a little deeper into their pockets and shared their holiday spirit with the troops, buying extra tickets for the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, which will be donated to military personnel in the Bay area.
In fact, Knights were so generous, they helped reach the maximum of 100 tickets, which will be given to service men and women stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Fans also helped UCF sell out its two allotments of game tickets in less than a week.
The Knights take on the N.C. State Wolfpack at 8 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field, which is only 18 miles from the MacDill base.
Happy Holidays! Go Knights! Go USA!
Official UCF Tailgate Party and other bowl festivities:
Jessica Lomasson, ’12 | Senior Copywriter, Geometry Global
Alumni association student intern Daniela Marin sat down with advertising-public relations alumna Jessica Lomasson, ’12, when she spoke to the UCF Ad Club in November, discussing the importance of networking with fellow Knights, how she stays involved with her alma mater, her advice to students for breaking into the advertising industry, and more. WATCH THE VIDEO
By Gene Kruckemyer
More than 5,000 University of Central Florida students are expected to graduate Dec. 12-13 during three commencement ceremonies at the CFE Arena.
The ceremonies will be:
- Friday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m.
- College of Education and Human Performance
- College of Health and Public Affairs
- Rosen College of Hospitality Management
- Friday, Dec. 12, 2:30 p.m.
- College of Arts and Humanities
- College of Graduate Studies
- College of Nursing
- College of Sciences
- Office of Undergraduate Studies
- Saturday, Dec. 13, 9 a.m.
- College of Business Administration
- College of Engineering and Computer Science
- College of Medicine
- College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL)
Doors open 90 minutes before the ceremonies, and graduates begin processing 20 minutes before the ceremonies, which are expected to last about two hours each.
The Friday morning speaker will be Alan Ginsburg, a real estate developer who founded The CED Companies, which has built more than 85,000 affordable apartment residences. He is active in many professional and charitable organizations, and his philanthropic contributions have benefited causes all over Central Florida, including The UCF College of Medicine Capital Campaign. The college’s Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library is named in honor of his late wife. During the ceremonies, Ginsburg will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service.
The Friday afternoon speaker will be Rick Walsh, ’77, a founding member of the UCF Board of Trustees and a former senior vice president for corporate affairs of Darden Restaurants. Today he is president of the KnobHill Group, a strategic counseling and development company. He received the 1985 UCF Distinguished Alumnus Award and has served on the UCF Foundation board for more than 10 years. During the ceremonies, Walsh will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Commercial Science.
The Saturday speaker will be Beverly J. Seay, a business executive in the Central Florida modeling and simulation industry for more than 25 years and a member of the UCF Board of Trustees since last year. She also serves as a board member on the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and on the Steering Committee of the UCF Downtown Campus. She chairs the dean’s advisory board for the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science, and has helped to establish the UCF Women in Science and Engineering program.
Of the 5,067 students who filed an intent to graduate, there are 4,308 seeking bachelor’s degrees, 659 master’s degrees, three education specialist degrees, 11 educational doctoral degrees, 80 Ph.D.s, and six Doctor of Nursing Practice.
With these expected graduations, UCF will have awarded 271,257 degrees since classes began in 1968.
Each guest attending the ceremonies, including children and infants, must have a ticket to enter the arena. Tickets are available from graduates. Guests who do not have tickets can view a live telecast of the ceremony via closed circuit television at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, Student Union and on Campus Cable Channel 21.
Parking for guests will be available in garages C, D and H.
By Zenaida Kotala
In between slurping coffee to stay awake, meeting with study groups and pulling all nighters to get ready for final exams, University of Central Florida students took time out to help one another and break a food-drive record.
In less than 48 hours students dropped off 1,050 pounds of food at the Student Union to be donated to the on-campus Knights Helping Knights Pantry. The drive began Dec. 1 and ends today. So far, more than 1,300 pounds have been collected. Last year’s record was 1,000 pounds.
Students organized the food drive to help keep the food pantry stocked during the holiday break. The pantry began as a class project in a first-year LEAD Scholars course in 2009. The organizers never wanted students to have to choose between a meal and a textbook, so they worked hard to get the pantry started.
The pantry’s first home was a closet space in the Student Union. Today it fills an entire suite in Ferrell Commons attached to the All Knight Study facility there. The Student Union, Student Government Association and generous community donors support the pantry.
Students have access to the pantry Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can select up to five food items per day. For the past few years the Student Union has organized Study Union. During that time the union and other locations remain open 24/7 so students can get ready for finals. Union coordinators plan events and programming to reward diligent students and to promote happiness and healthy study habits. The food drive was added to help keep the shelves at the pantry stocked.
This year, students received a free Study Union T-shirt in exchange for their donation. More than 210 shirts were given away in 24 hours, and when coordinators ran out of shirts, they resorted to giving away union water bottles.
The Knights Pantry accepts donations year-round.
New website provides all the info you need to know about UCF’s downtown expansion
In September, UCF President John Hitt announced that the university will move forward with plans for an expanded downtown campus to enhance educational opportunities for students and stimulate downtown Orlando.
Hitt described UCF’s plans as a “game changer” for downtown. Valencia College will be a partner in the expansion, and approximately 10,000 students from the two schools could study downtown.
UCF is actively working with the City of Orlando and other partners on a plan for the 68 acres freed up when the NBA’s Orlando Magic moved its arena and headquarters about a mile away. This develop-able area, adjacent to Interstate 4 and the historic Parramore Community, is the home of Creative Village — the largest mixed-use project in downtown Orlando, which will provide space for K-12 education, residential units, retail, commercial, office space, hotel, public parks and civic space.
UCF recently launched a website dedicated to the development of the new downtown campus. LEARN MORE
Theatre alumna reprises Off-Broadway role she originated at Orlando theatre
Michelle Knight, ’02 | Performer
Michelle Knight, ’02, stars as Snow White in the Off-Broadway production of “DISENCHANTED!” — a not-for-the-kiddies musical comedy that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know. Fairy tales will never be the same! The show runs for a limited engagement Nov. 26 through Jan. 25 at the Theatre at St. Clement’s in New York City.
Knight originated the role of Snow White in “DISENCHANTED!” in 2011 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, and reprised the role (for which she received a Daily Beast Best Actress award) at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival’s Goldman Theater, as well as the Peter Jay Sharp Theater and Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret Theater, both in New York City.
She’s performed on Broadway in “Jersey Boys,” as well as in the first national tour in Chicago and Las Vegas. Her other national tours include “Grease” and the 30th anniversary tour of “Annie.”
Knight is often a starring performer with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, including leads in “My Fair Lady,” “Carousel,” and “Guys and Dolls.” She can also be seen in “Finding Nemo, The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and with the Voices of Liberty at Disney’s Epcot.
Visiting NYC during the holidays? Get tickets to see Michelle Knight in “DISENCHANTED!”
Alumnus doctor helps professional athletes get back on their feet
Dr. Gideon Lewis, ’00 | Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgeon
By Daniela Marin
Dr. Gideon Lewis, ’00, stood before an audience of thousands of UCF graduates and their families, as the keynote speaker at UCF’s spring 2014 commencement, where he shared his accomplishments since he donned his own cap and gown, and divulged the philosophy that helped him reach them.
“I still stand by my words that the two most valuable assets in life are relationships and experiences,” he says. “Looking back at my journey, these priceless things are what I’ve built my entire career around.”
In his private practice as a double board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon, Lewis specializes in sports medicine, treating professional athletes, like Olympic gold medalist sprinter Justin Catlin, Hall of Fame water skier and X-Game gold medalist Ron Scarpa, and Canadian pro football player Keron Williams.
“I’ve always had the desire and dream of establishing a sports medicine practice working with the world’s top athletes,” Lewis says. “I’ve had the privilege of creating a practice geared toward these types of patients, and, I’m proud to say, there’s rarely a day when I don’t treat a professional athlete.”
His disposition for talent, commitment and passion has not only earned him a revered reputation among his patients, but throughout the entire sports community.
“Dr. Lewis’ professional background is outstanding, but what truly sets him apart from other physicians is his understanding of the mind, the heart and the spirit of the athlete,” says Susan Paul, a top 10 U.S. “Supercoach,” as ranked by Runner’s World Magazine.
Lewis’ past experience as a Division I collegiate athlete has served both as motivation and an added resource for delivering consistently great results. The former tennis player’s ability to relate to his patients has made being part of an athlete’s journey from injury to victory that much more rewarding.
I will always strive toward making my alma mater the top university in the nation.
As an assistant professor with the UCF College of Medicine, he’s had the opportunity to stay involved with rising medical students. He was also named chief sport medicine faculty advisor for the college, and is the founder and director of the UCF Pre-Medical Surgical Internship Program.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with pre-medical and medical students,” he says. “Over the next few years, I hope to take on more leadership positions and continue to teach these future physicians.”
Lewis’ inspiration comes from a genuine interest in providing guidance to passionate students combined with efforts to support his alma mater.
“I have an obligation to give back to the institution and supporters who have given so much to me throughout my life,” Lewis says. “My success is somewhat dependent on the success of UCF. I will always strive toward making my alma mater the top university in the nation.”
Q. Why did you choose to attend UCF?
A. I transferred to UCF after a year of attending the University of North Carolina, where I played tennis. After I realized my hopes of becoming a professional tennis player weren’t going to happen, I enrolled at UCF alongside my good friend Joe Foley from high school. We both chose UCF because of its strong pre-medical curriculum. Today, Dr. Foley is a renowned interventional cardiologist, and I’m a board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon.
Q. Favorite UCF memory?
A. Hanging out at the Pre-Health Professions office with Susie Yantz and the rest of my pre-med classmates.
Q. Favorite professor?
A. Dr. Budd Berringer. He taught me the importance of always giving 100 percent in everything I do, and always finding the opportunity to provide service to others.
Q. Favorite class?
A. Endocrinology. Being a molecular biology and microbiology major, I developed an interest in the mechanisms and pathways of the human body. This area of discipline encompasses these in almost all aspects.
Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
A. During my time at UCF, I was very active with the Pre-Professional Medical Society, and even became president of the organization my last year.
Q. What was your experience like as UCF’s commencement speaker?
A. It was one of the most amazing moments in my life. Having the opportunity to speak in front of an audience of more than 12,000 people was very surreal. To share my motivational words and advice with the hundreds of graduating students was a very humbling experience.
Q. Describe a typical day at work.
A. My typical day depends on whether or not I’m performing surgery. During my typical office day, I will spend eight hours treating patients and then an additional two hours on paperwork and phone calls. Otherwise, I’m in the operating room all day during my surgery days. In addition, I work on my non-medical business, Go Chia!, usually before and after office hours.
Q. Most memorable day at work so far?
A. I received an emergent phone call from a hospital physician requesting me to perform surgery immediately on a pediatric trauma patient. After rushing to the hospital, I performed a complex surgery by reattaching this young boy’s traumatically amputated toe. Later, and without any prior knowledge, it was discovered that this boy was part of one of Florida’s most horrific child abuse cases, which also gained national media attention.
Q. What or who inspires you?
A. People who achieve the impossible. My father has inspired me by his life’s journey of being born and raised in a poor, developing country, who then immigrated to the United States for medical school, and eventually became a family practice physician. Dr. Sarah Kureshi, a UCF graduate and former classmate, is a walking example of someone who epitomizes the word perfection. Not only has she achieved almost everything academically, but also her humanitarian efforts have inspired thousands to make the world a better place.
Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A. I’m attempting that now! I’m the co-founder and co-developer of Go Chia!, a super-foods brand. Developing a healthy food and beverage company has allowed me to take on a business outside of the medical industry. I love promoting this healthy brand in a fun and positive way.
Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. “Welcome every opportunity to succeed.” —Dr. Zac Haas (my former roommate)