To Have And To Hold, Forever Black And Gold

Alumni Brent and Bryanna Beumel were married in November by one of their favorite UCF professors, Jeff Biddle

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2017) – Brent Beumel ’14 and his fianceé Bryanna La Londe ’13 were driving back to Florida in November 2015 from a weekend trip in Savannah, where Brent had just popped the question in a historical bed and breakfast.

Giddy off the high of their engagement, they started imagining what their wedding day would look like. Who would officiate the ceremony?

Without a moment’s hesitation, long-time UCF sports and exercise science instructor Jeff Biddle emerged at the top of their list.

“He’s what every professor should be to a student. He doesn’t want you to just come in and get your degree and walk out. You could go into his office anytime he was in there and talk with him. He loved to get to know people and what you wanted to do with your life,” Bryanna said. “He was the first person we thought of.”

The now-Beumels met in 2012 in a biomechanics class at UCF’s South Lake campus in Clermont.

They started out as friends. Bryanna had plans to move to Portland, Oregon, at summer’s end. After a month, their relationship progressed to more than friends.

“And then I didn’t go! And it worked out well,” Bryanna said with a smile.

The two finished their sports and exercise science degrees, frequently driving the hefty commute out to Clermont – Bryanna drove 70 miles one way from her mother’s home in Merritt Island — because they loved the program and professors, especially Biddle, so much.

“Every class that he taught in our major, I tried to sign up with him. He made the drive out to Clermont worth it,” said Brent, who lived less than eight miles from UCF’s main campus at the time. “It was an hour to get out there, but you knew when you’d have him at 8 o’clock in the morning it was going to be fun. It wasn’t just staring at a PowerPoint for an hour and a half. You were interacting with him and all the other students. He made it enjoyable. He’s not one we’ll forget.”

Bryanna, a first-generation student, graduated in 2013 and is now working in the rehabilitation department at Arnold Palmer Hospital. Brent graduated a year later as a second-generation UCF alumnus.

As fate would have it, Brent’s parents met while they were students at UCF at a house party on Alafaya. His mother Linda graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

They didn’t expect that decades later, their son would mirror their love story and find his future wife while at school.

“UCF helped make me who I am. The experiences I had through sport and exercise molded me into the trainer and coach that I am now,” said Brent, who works at CrossFit Firebase in Orlando. “I view it as a starting off point. That’s where we met. It’s where my parents met, as well. It holds a special value in that to me.”

Brent and Bryanna got married on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 at Club Lake Plantation in Apopka with a black-and-gold-bow-tie-clad Biddle as their officiant.

Their grandparents gifted the couple their wedding rings and served as ring bearers in their ceremony.

The gold band of Brent’s ring belonged to his grandfather. It had to be pieced back together after it was cut off his grandfather’s finger following a motorcycle accident.

When the jeweler melded it together, he chose a black zirconium to sandwich it, making it the perfect color combination for Brent’s UCF roots.

As the couple anticipated, Biddle was a hit among the family in attendance. He was as comical and engaging in the ceremony as he is in the classroom.

In order to perform the ceremony, the professor needed to obtain a notary license. He told the couple to leave the logistics to him and insisted on paying the associated fee.

Biddle, who makes it a point to attend as many of his students’ commencement ceremonies as he can, said that Brent and Bryanna’s request to serve as their officiant was an honor and a privilege.

That realization hit him even harder when he recently watched their wedding video.

“Their kids and their kids’ kids are going to be watching that video. I’m permanently a part of their lives and their family’s lives from now on. And that’s pretty cool,” Biddle said. “I am thrilled that they asked me, thrilled that they wanted me to do it. It is certainly one of the bigger moments to happen in my life.”

What he may not realize is that he already secured a special place in their lives a long time ago.

“Being a first generation degree seeker – professors are who I looked up to for guidance and direction throughout the whole process. Dr. Biddle was a role model for me,” Bryanna said. “Finding what you love to do may change over the years and that’s OK. That is something I learned from him. I don’t even know if I’ve ever told him this, but it’s how I feel about him and what he’s done for me.”

Alumnus Holds Key To Big Data

Big Data Symposium’s keynote speaker Lee Odess ’99 alongside his family

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2017) – In the past, the biggest threat from a data breach was to the individual. But now with the onset of Big Data, there are much bigger threats and even bigger opportunities.

Few people, however, understand what Big Data is or how it can be used, said Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey and the keynote speaker for UCF’s Big Data Symposium on Jan. 26 at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

“The goal of my presentation is, more or less, to give real life examples of what Big Data is and the impact it can have,” Odess said. “Typically you are either super smart on Big Data and have a hard time communicating it, or you are a person who has heard of it but isn’t too sure how to get started. My goal is to bridge the two.”

Practical examples of Big Data are everywhere and can be implemented by both big and small companies. For instance, a company can analyze marketing impacts via its social media reach; predictive analytics can narrow in on customers’ shopping preferences; or it can help analyze where a business should open up its next retail location.

Big Data’s role in our society is one of the reasons UCF’s Colleges of Science, Business and Engineering and Computer Science came together to host the symposium. UCF business professors Robert Porter ’81 ’10PhD and Amit Joshi, PhD; statistics professor Shunpu Zhang, PhD; and Ivan Garibay ’00MS ’04PhD, director of UCF Research Information Systems and chief information officer at the UCF Office of Research and Commercialization, are among the speakers who will talk about practical ways companies, nonprofits and individuals can tap into Big Data to benefit their communities and society.

Odess was a natural choice for the talk because of his familiarity with the use of Big Data within his own profession.

“For UniKey we didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, we need Big Data.’ We did however say, ‘Hey, we need to start understanding exactly how, when, where our customers are using the locks and mobile applications powered by UniKey,” he said. “So we put the systems and tools in place to be able to collect every bit of data we could. Then once we had it, we spent the time to come up with the algorithms and dashboards to easily digest the information. Now, with a touch of a button we are no longer guessing how, when and where customers are using the product. We are 100 percent clear on it.“

In 2012, Odess was the director of sales operations for security company Brivo Systems when he was watching “Shark Tank” on television one night and saw fellow UCF alumnus Phil Dumas ’05 pitching his smart lock. It was the first time in Shark Tank history that all five investors wanted to buy into an idea.

Odess reached out to Dumas after the show and said that given their UCF roots and similar industries, they should get to know each other. Dumas agreed.

They kept in touch over the years, and when Brivo Systems was sold in 2015, Odess wanted to join with a startup that had growth opportunity. He saw UniKey as that opportunity.

His day-to-day responsibilities as vice president include business development, human resources, participation in the overall strategy for the company and its existing customer base.

Dumas and Odess aren’t the only Knights with UniKey. Odess said 80 percent of the company’s 50 employees are alumni.

“Initially people think we’re from Silicon Valley. When we tell them we’re from Orlando, we explain to them we have some hidden gems here, one of them being the university,” he said. “We look for people that want to be in this area. We think the school does a really good job preparing the students for work. It just makes sense. There isn’t a need for us to look outside what’s in front of our face.”

Odess speaks from experience.

Born in Cleveland, he grew up in South Florida before he moved to Pittsburgh, where he graduated from high school. He considered nearly two dozen universities and picked UCF because he said it just felt right.

“There seemed to be a lot of history to be written,” he said. “I liked that.”

The day after he graduated with his bachelor’s in business, he packed up his car and started driving toward Pennsylvania, where a job with Lutron Electronics awaited him.

After eight years with Lutron, he moved to Washington D.C. and worked for a variety of companies, including several startups of his own, Fresh Confections and energy + light + control llc.

In order to become more acclimated to a new city, he rekindled his relationship with UCF by joining the D.C. alumni chapter.

Now that he’s back in Orlando, he is happy to have an opportunity to further his relationship with his alma mater by lending his time to the symposium.

“I’m proud of the fact that I have an opportunity to make a difference,” Odess said. “There’s a true partnership with the university – it has aspirations and goals, and I feel like it realizes that the people that have come out of it are going to help carry it in that direction.”

The Symposium will be held Jan. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The event is free, but RSVP online is required. To learn more about the event, click here.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Jan. 3

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1. The men’s basketball team is off to a hot start in conference play and are back at home Tuesday against East Carolina at 7:15 p.m. on ESPNews. The Knights, who have won their last four in a row, are coming off of their biggest American Athletic Conference win ever, defeating Temple 77-53 on Saturday. It was UCF’s largest margin of victory in an AAC game since the conference began play in 2013-14. Need tickets? Click here. Go Knights!

2. UCF Alumni is kicking off 2017 with an IGNITE Tour stop in Naples! Key members of UCF’s leadership will visit Florida’s west coast on Jan. 23. Register for this event and learn more about future stops on the tour by visiting ucfalumni.com/igniteucf.

3. Just before the close of 2016, two police officers retired from UCFPD after they dedicated more than 60 years combined to protecting and serving the community. Sgt. Hugh Carpenter retired after 33 years with UCF where he first started as a parking services employee before rising through the ranks to sergeant. Cpl. Chuck Reising retired after 10 years with UCFPD following his 25 years with the Orlando Police Department. He trained all three of UCFPD’s other K-9 teams and retired along with his K-9 partner, an 8-year-old German Shepherd named Max.

4. The 23rd annual Joseph C. Andrews Mentoring Celebration breakfast that highlights leadership in the UCF community will be in the Student Union on Jan. 30. Beginning at 8 a.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom, the event hosted by the Black Faculty and Staff Association at UCF will feature keynote speaker Marc Lamont Hill, host of BET News and VH1 Live, and a CNN political contributor. Hill is a journalist, professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta and a social-justice activist. His speech will focus on how culture, education, community involvement and mentoring intersect.

The event is open to the public. It’s $350 to purchase a table and $35 for an individual ticket. Money raised will support scholarships and annual celebration breakfasts. Contact DeLaine Priest at DeLaine.Priest@ucf.edu by Jan. 13 to reserve a seat.

5. In case you missed it, the alumni-loaded Jonnie Morgan Band won a national songwriting contest and will get to record at legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles. Check out this UCF Alumni Today feature on how Morgan found his passion for music while he was still a student at UCF.

Alumni Band Rocks On To Big Win

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 23, 2016) — A self-taught musician, Jonnie Morgan ’10 won a national songwriter contest last week that will send his band – the aptly named Jonnie Morgan Band – to Los Angeles for a recording session in legendary Village Studios.

“We really want to put Orlando on the map as a music city. It’s very important to me to try to build that culture, and that’s why this contest is almost as important to me as anything else,” he said. “I feel like there’s a responsibility to represent where you’re from.”

Morgan grew up on the west coast of Florida and ended up at UCF based off a recommendation from his 10th-grade high school Spanish teacher.

He studied economics and minored in marketing – not exactly the DNA of rock stars. But as a junior, the he started to write his own music.

His inspiration for one of his earliest songs was what else, but a relationship. He called the love song Saranade, named after the girl he wrote it for.

“To this day, it’s still some people’s favorite song of mine,” he said. “Once I wrote that song, the floodgates opened. Everyone was like where are these songs coming from?”

Soon after he formed a band with bass guitarist Jeremy Adams ’12. The two serendipitously met at a pizza place on campus.

They drafted other bandmates along the way, including Brandon Sollins ’11 ’15MS, at open mic nights and local gigs. He thanks former SGA presidential duo Logan Berkowitz ’08 and Brandon Delanois ’10 for always pushing him to perform by booking him for tailgates or happy hours at the Dungeon.

“I love this university. I love everything that it stands for. The experiences. The friends that I’ve made. The people that have helped me and still help me to this day,” he said. “This is the place where I found out I wanted to do music for the rest of my life, and I think that’s something special.”

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The band has experienced some pretty cool moments, like opening up for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cheap Trick at the 2013 SunFest. Even though some of the players have changed in the lineup, the Jonnie Morgan Band has become family.

That family includes Morgan’s wife, Amie, who has been there rooting for him every step of the way, even as she battled breast cancer twice before the age of 29.

Morgan was in the room with her both times she learned she had cancer. He was there for her treatments, the scans, the tests and cared for her through six surgeries. Their first four months of marriage earlier this year included the bulk of her chemotherapy treatment.

“I am so thankful that I have had Jonnie next to me through this, I am not sure how I would have handled it without him,” she said. “I am a very practical person, and I never expected to be a musician’s wife. It’s a bit of a different lifestyle. But I see this guy, and he is just so talented. As an added bonus, he has surrounded himself with such an amazing group of guys in the band. We have really created such a great JMB family, and I am so thankful for each one of them.”

Now that Amie has been deemed cancer free, the band went back to recording music and booked tours in different regions of the United States in the New Year.

When a booking agent called about the EON One Take contest, Morgan figured why not? The contest was judged by legend Quincy Jones and Andrew McMahon (known for hit song Cecilia and the Satellite).

JMB made it to an initial cut of 20 semifinalist, to a top 10, to finally the last band standing with a trip to Village Studios.

“This is what we’re supposed to do and this is the time to do it,” he said.

Village Studios has hosted legends like Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, B. B. King and Bob Dylan to current artists like Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and John Mayer. Even soundtracks like “The Bodyguard” and “The Shawshank Redemption” were recorded there.

He said winning the contest has helped give him the confidence to continue pursuing what he feels is his purpose in life – helping people. He believes music is the tool to achieve it.

“If you look at some of the greats – Bob Marley, Bob Dylan – they have shaped people’s lives. They help you when you’re down. They help you think about things differently,” he said. “I feel like that’s one of my purposes.”

From First Generation To Family Tradition

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 8, 2016) – As a UCF Alumni board member, season ticket holder, Oviedo resident and occasional guest lecturer, Ryan Vescio ’02 visits UCF’s campus more than most. And when the assistant state attorney returns, his three children are frequently in tow.

Ella, 10, Sophia, 9, and Owen, 5, are big fans of tailgating. They debate the merits of their favorite basketball players. They recently got their wish granted to eat at Knightro’s with their dad. They periodically exchange hellos with President John C. Hitt and his wife, Martha, who know them by name thanks to Owen’s habit of running into their CFE Arena suite when he was 2.

To Ella, Sophia and Owen, the idea of college is nothing out of the ordinary – almost an expected path they will one day follow. The same cannot be said for Vescio, a first-generation college student.

“We never talked about college in my house. For my parents, it wasn’t a reality. You pick a job and you go and do your thing,” he said. “It’s incredible to watch that transition of how much one generation can really change the future of a family.”

The son of a hairdresser and auto mechanic, Vescio grew up in Melbourne in a double wide trailer on the grounds of an elementary school. His father was diagnosed with renal disease when Vescio was 10. The oldest of his siblings, he learned to grow up quickly.

He aspired to be a journalist, and thanks to a persistent teacher, he was granted access to cover his first NASA space shuttle launch at the age of 14 for a middle and high school newswire service he helped start. The news story he wrote landed on the front page of Florida Today’s Sunday edition, above the fold.

With the help of Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and Pell Grants, he made his dream of attending college a reality.

After a brief stint studying journalism at the University of South Carolina, he transferred to UCF to be closer to his ailing father. He also switched gears and took an interest in political science and law.

“I think about if I wasn’t as persistent as I was, if I didn’t want better, if I didn’t have the help of other people, I would have never had the experiences that I’ve been able to have,” he said. “Our university is a little different than the others around us, and I think that that’s nothing but positive. It’s exciting to watch traditions being built, but it’s equally as exciting to not have traditions hold us back. We can do anything, we can be anywhere, we can influence anything.”

He threw himself into college life, and his influence is still part of daily activity at UCF today. He was involved in the plans that led to the Recreation and Wellness Center being built. He also was there the day they came up with the idea to rope off the Pegasus on the floor of the Student Union.

“We never thought it would last,” he said with a laugh. “I get a kick around graduation when I see on social media the big deal about taking a graduation picture with the Pegasus. It really blows my mind.”

Vescio graduated with his bachelor’s in political science one year before his father passed away and says one of his proudest life moments is knowing that his father witnessed his son’s graduation day. He went on to law school at Nova Southeastern and is now director of modernization and assistant state attorney, Office of the State Attorney, 9th Judicial Circuit.

Vescio believes in his public service role and is fueled by fighting for the truth. Most of his work entails homicide and major crime cases. He believes it is an honor to serve as a voice for people who have suffered.

His life has come full circle now as a donor, supporting UCF Athletics, UCF Alumni and first-generation students.

“Being a Knight has given me the opportunity to go out and make a positive impact on our community,” he said. “The only limitation for Knights is our own self reservation.

Why I Give Back, by Ryan Vescio:

We owe it to future students to pay it forward and help them. To me, that’s everything from being involved on the alumni board, to showing up to events, to buying football tickets, to donating money that I have. Although I can’t write a $1 million check today, I know that my donation helps to fund a scholarship. To fund a program to go out and find students. It’s so important to be involved and engaged because there are so many high school students out there right now who think of college as this thing, but they can’t conceptualize it because it’s not a reality in their family or in their neighborhood or environment. That to me is the student that comes here and works even harder because it means so much to them. That’s the student who leaves here and becomes the research scientist, the filmmaker, the lawyer.

One in four students at UCF are the first in their family to attend college. To support first-generation students like Ryan Vescio, click here.

UCF Alumna Bright As Broadway

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 16, 2016) – Three weeks after earning her degree a semester early in December 2014, Abby Jaros sat on her bed alongside her parents in a packed up apartment.

All at once, Jaros realized the leap she was about to take in moving to New York City to pursue a career in theater. She questioned herself: Is this really what I should do?

“My dad said, ‘You know what Abby? If not you, who?’” Jaros recalled. “And that is a confidence that I have to take with me everywhere that I go.”

Since then, Jaros has appeared in several regional theater productions and is fresh off her first national tour for Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. The tour spanned nine months and included a trip to Japan.

Recently, she returned to UCF’s School of Performing Arts to conduct an informational workshop with current students. As someone who has navigated the ins and outs of making it in the city on her own, Jaros wanted to provide some guidance to the school that became like a family to her.

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Abby Jaros’ workshop at UCF School of Performing Arts

“From the second I stepped foot on this campus, it felt like home. The people here were so welcoming,” she said. “In life, you really have to thank the people who put themselves out there for you. And this was the only school that did. I am forever thankful to people who go out on a limb for me. I’m thankful to represent UCF.”

Jaros grew up as a dancer. She always viewed it as a hobby until she started musical theater in high school as a creative outlet.

She intended to study marine biology in college. Her parents were supportive of her passion for theater, but also erred on the side of practicality when it came to her future career path.

That all changed when Jaros attended Broadway Theater Project, a three-week intensive learning experience under the direction of Broadway directors, choreographers, casting directors and producers.

Before her final showcase of the Project, with her parents sitting in the audience, Jaros was given the Gregory Hines Scholarship, presented to students who show artistic merit. The scholarship offers training and performance opportunities and encourages pre-professional level students to continue with their studies with on-stage performing experience.

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AbbyJaros.com/Dancers Of New York

She’ll never forget the date, Aug. 1, 2010, when her parents encouraged her to follow her dreams.

“They said they were 100 percent behind me because of getting the scholarship that day,” she said. “They said, ‘We will accompany you to any audition you want to go to. Whatever you want, we will do whatever it takes.’”

Since moving to New York City, the musical theater alumna is constantly on the move. She has been seen for commercial work, television and film roles and of course, theater work.

She is helping a fellow UCF alumnus work on his script for a feature film. She has been featured on the Dancers of New York blog and had a personal project video go viral on YouTube.

When her friends invited her on a weekend getaway to Disney this fall, she booked her trip with some extra days set aside to visit UCF.

“I wanted to come and see my alma mater and really give back because they gave me so much. I think that’s the most important thing – remembering your roots and where you came from,” she said. “A lot of alums from here help me up in New York. It’s such a great community.”

Jaros covered the basics – who photographs good headshots, social media tricks to finding an affordable place to live and where to attend worthwhile classes.

She also offered up words of encouragement, motivating the students to put themselves out there and connect with people.

When she recounted her story of the insecurity she felt before making the leap to New York, senior Amanda Hornberger wiped away tears from her seat in the crowd. Hornberger said it was comforting and helpful to learn from someone who understands the journey that she herself is trying to pursue.

“What I loved that she kept saying was: ‘Find your people. We are a community.’ That’s why I do theater and performing to begin with because I found a community of people here,” Hornberger said. “There is something special about people in the arts. They understand how to be there for each other.”

#ThankADonor: Bonded By Chemistry

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2016) – Fate, and a dash of chemistry, brought together two-time alumna Cynthia McCurry and current College of Sciences student Lauren Gandy.

McCurry has supported a scholarship for the College of Sciences since 2001. Students of various science majors have received the scholarship over the years, but until this fall, it had been awarded just once to a chemistry major.

So McCurry’s day was made when she found out Gandy, this year’s George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship recipient, shared her interest in chemistry.

“I’m just so glad that there are students coming out of the school who are making a difference,” McCurry said. “I’m especially pleased that we are turning out sciences majors who are women.”

McCurry graduated in 1980 with her bachelor’s degree in chemistry before earning her master’s in industrial chemistry two years later.

Gandy is a double major in forensic biochemistry and French. She is also pursuing two minors in chemistry and biomedical sciences. She decided to attend UCF because of its forensic science program and plans on furthering her education in a biochemical doctoral program.

One day, she would like to work within a chemical preparedness center to support safety from chemical attacks for the Department of Defense and the military.

The two talked about this and more during their first meeting in an event organized by the College of Sciences that paired donors with their recipients.

“I was fortunate to receive a scholarship last year as well but I didn’t get a chance to meet the donor. I think this year has been changed in so many ways because I’ve been able to meet her and see that chemists are supporting chemists. Engineers are supporting engineers. Just continuing that legacy,” Gandy said. “It’s so wonderful knowing there are people out there who I can look up to and who are supporting students like me.”

McCurry and her siblings set up the George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship in honor of their parents, who she said always pushed their children to invest their time in education. All three of the McCurry children received degrees from UCF.

“We never thought of not going to school,” McCurry said. “We wanted to do the scholarship in their name. They were so happy that UCF was built here in Orlando and that we were able to attend. I try to support the school the best that I can.”

It took McCurry and Gandy less than two hours and one shared meal to form an emotional connection. As they neared the end of their conversation, they both started to tear up.

“I’m just so honored that I was able to help you in some small way,” McCurry told Gandy.

Gandy paused for a moment and replied, heartfelt: “Words can’t really express it.”

 

Parks And Rec: A Sweeping Success Story

Tony Moore ’92 started in the theme park business more than two decades ago with a broom in his hand. Today, he’s the park director of A Gathering Place for Tulsa. Photo by Shane Bevel

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 1, 2016) – A broom and a pan. That’s all it took to set in motion Tony Moore’s successful 30-year career in the hospitality and entertainment industry.

As a college student, the Class of 1992 alumnus picked up a part-time, entry-level job in operations at Sea World. He put his ego aside and got to sweeping.

“I was able to humble myself, realize it was a job and be the best that I could be at it,” Moore said.

That mindset is what helped Moore work his way up the leadership ladder at some of the biggest names in the theme park world and most recently land him the role of park director for A Gathering Place for Tulsa. A project of George Kaiser Family Foundation, the new park will span nearly 100 acres of Tulsa’s waterfront along the Arkansas River.

Moore grew up in Jamaica with his grandparents and uncle. College brought him to the United States, and since his father lived in Orlando, he decided to attend Valencia for two years before transferring to UCF.

He can remember when Dr. John C. Hitt was named UCF’s president.

“I’m quite pleased to see where the university has come,” Moore said. “At the time [I attended], it was a small university, but you could clearly see it was a university with ambition to be bigger than what it was.”

A business administration major, Moore got into the theme park business strictly by chance. His uncle worked at Sea World, and Moore lived less than 10 miles from the park for an easy commute.

As years went by, he took the opportunities that presented themselves.

He worked with Universal Studios and helped with the opening of Islands of Adventure. He returned to Sea World to dabble in marketing before serving as the director of operations for Discovery Cove. He eventually took on the role of Sea World’s Director of Environmental, Health and Safety Services.

When the parks were still owned by the Anheuser-Busch company, he migrated to St. Louis, Missouri, to work as the executive assistant to the CEO and learn about the corporate business. His work even brought him to Asia to explore the concept of international parks.

“The good thing about what Central Florida offered was the opportunity to learn so many different aspects of the business,” he said. “That diversity of experience is what positioned me for the next opportunity, which was the chief operating officer for Lowry Park Zoo and currently for my job here now in Tulsa.”

Tony Moore and his family

It was while he was at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo that he received a call about the park project in Tulsa. Moore was initially skeptical about moving his family away from the tourism mecca of Florida to Oklahoma, but when he talked to the leadership behind the park’s vision and visited the city, he knew he couldn’t say no.

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history and aims to be a cornerstone for the community while improving social, economic and environmental sustainability in the city. It is estimated to attract one million visitors annually.

“I was blown away with the mission behind the park and the true sense of provision and care for the city,” Moore said. “The mission side of the foundation is really what won me over.”

The park’s management team was thrilled to bring Moore aboard.

“His extensive knowledge base of park management, finance, marketing and facilities are unmatched,” said Jeff Stava, executive director and trustee of Tulsa’s Gathering Place, LLC. “Additionally, Tony is a family man who understands the vision of building an inclusive park for all Tulsans and is someone who leads by example. An extremely motivated and energetic leader, Tony will be a huge asset to the community as he works to bring the park to life.”

Moore’s job is to operate every aspect of the park and be responsible for every guest experience from entry to exit. He said his secret to success is management by wandering around – a leadership style he learned early in his career from the now president and COO of Universal Orlando Resort, Bill Davis.

“You have to get hands on. You can’t manage it from the office,” he said. “In addition to that, you have to have a passion for what you do. In the theme park business it’s long hours. It’s vacations, holidays, weekends. When families are choosing to seek time to spend together, you have to be there to operate the park. You have to have a passion for what you do, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Moore was announced as the park’s director in mid-August. After his initial introduction to the Tulsa community, he said he was pleasantly surprised how many Knights from the area contacted him.

“I had so many folks that reached out to me to say their kids went to UCF or they are from Central Florida and familiar with the university,” Moore said. “It was a proud moment for me to be associated with UCF.”

Olympic Knights: Alumni Shine in Rio

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 12, 2016) – For UCF’s three alumni participating at this year’s Olympics, life has been busy in Rio.

Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 is on the road to recreating magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

With week one of the Olympics in the books, here’s a look at what has happened already, and what is coming up for each Olympian.

Phil Dalhausser
Dalhausser, a 2002 business graduate, and his partner Nick Lucena dominated their first two matches of pool play, sweeping Tunisia and Mexico.

On Thursday afternoon at Copacabana Beach, they outlasted Italy in a thrilling and intense back-and-forth record-breaking third set (24-22). The third set in a beach volleyball match is supposed to be up to 15 — but the team has to win by 2. Dalhausser/Lucena’s third set was the longest final set in the 20-year history of Olympic beach volleyball. Click here to see highlights of the match

According to USA Today, both teams received a standing ovation.

The victory was extra sweet for UCF’s alumnus, as Italy’s Nicolai and Lupo were the pair that knocked him out of the 2012 Olympics in London. 

Dalhausser and Lucena advance to Saturday’s Round of 16 matchup against Austria’s Alexander Huber/R. Seidel scheduled for 11 p.m. ET. Watch link

Dalhausser has previously said these Olympic Games – his third – are likely his last. He told USA Today that before his opening match against Tunisia, he woke up with butterflies.

“It’s the first time since, man, I can’t tell you how long,” Dalhausser said. “I can’t remember being nervous in London, maybe Beijing was the last time I was nervous before a match.”

Aline Reis
Reis’ first appearance for Brazil’s National Team couldn’t have been more memorable. UCF’s former All-American goalkeeper started in Aug. 9’s match against South Africa – the team’s third match of the Olympics – and played all 90 minutes in goal, recording two saves to secure a shutout in the 0-0 tie.

Reis, an interdisciplinary studies alumna, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before Tuesday night.

As Brazil’s reserve goalkeeper, Reis said she takes great pride in her role on the team and has always approached each day with a “starter’s mentality.”

“If I’m the reserve, I believe the starting goalkeeper deserves nothing less from me. I want to push her so she can also perform her best, I know this way I’m helping the team, as well,” she wrote in a message to UCF Alumni. “But I have never lost faith, and I knew that if I had the opportunity to play in a game, I would be ready for it. Thankfully, the opportunity did come! It was magical! The best part of it was listening to the whole stadium sing our national anthem. Words cannot describe that moment.”

Brazil is known for its love of soccer, but the country traditionally throws all of its support behind the men’s team. This Olympics, however, things are changing, especially with the men’s team’s early struggles of failing to win their first two matches.

Fans are making their own women’s jerseys. Dozens of supporters are showing up at airports as the team travels around Brazil for their games to either send them off or welcome them with cheers, well wishes and posters. Roughly 40,000 people attended the Brazil-South Africa matchup in Manaus.

Reis said it has been incredible to see the outpouring of love and fandom.

“All this attention we are receiving is a blessing and gives us the opportunity to change the face of women’s soccer in this country. My dream is that one day women’s soccer can be everything it is in the USA,” she wrote. “I’m just thankful and proud to be part of this whole experience and this special moment. I seriously hope that our contributions will serve our country and our sport in ways beyond the soccer field. We want more than just a gold medal!”

Brazil advanced to Aug. 12’s quarterfinal round and will face Australia at 9 p.m. Watch link

Ricardo Gouveia
Ricardo-APGouveia, an interdisciplinary studies alumnus, was part of golf’s historic return to the Olympics in Thursday’s first round. It marked the first time the sport has been featured in the Summer Games since 1904.

Gouveia is one of 60 players from 34 nations competing over the weekend looking to capture glory in Sunday’s medal round.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s 18-hole competition, Gouveia was tied for 42nd with a score of 73. The leader after Day 1, Marcus Fraser of Australia, turned in a score of an 8-under-par 63.

The Golf Channel is airing live coverage on Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Golf channel will begin Sunday’s medal round coverage at 6:30 a.m. and air it until the broadcast switches to NBC from 1-3 p.m.

Olympic Knights: UCF Soccer Alumna Gooooooes to Rio

Aline_torch

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF women’s soccer alumna Aline Reis ’11 dared to believe she could participate in this August’s Summer Olympics, even though she hadn’t played in years. When she proudly parades through Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium during the opening ceremony Friday, she’ll do so in front of her home country.

Reis is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. She along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 will look to recreate some magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

Reis was an All-American goalkeeper for the UCF women’s soccer team from 2007-11 before graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies (minors in coaching and health sciences).

After a brief stint playing overseas, Reis got into coaching and spent the past two years on UCLA’s women’s soccer staff as a volunteer goalkeeper coach, but she said she felt a desire to play again after watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

She was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before, so she was overjoyed when she claimed one of the two coveted goalkeeper slots on the 18-member roster.

Reis posted this on her personal Facebook account on July 12, the day she learned she made the cut:

Aline rings
Aline Reis (black ring) will compete for her home country of Brazil in the Rio 2016 Games

“Last Fall I decided to put my gloves back on again, fight for a shot at the National Team and earn a spot on the Olympic roster.

So I trained my butt off, packed my bags and left a fine life behind to go back home to pursue the dream.
Today I’m so thrilled to announce that I made the Brazilian Olympic Roster for Rio 2016. While I’m thankful for my faith and courage to go after my passion, I’m far more grateful for the tremendous amount of support and encouragement I received along the way from all those who surround me. I’m blessed!

But the dream is far from over… and I won’t rest until my teammates and I have a gold medal on our chest!”

Olympic soccer matches will be played throughout Brazil from Aug. 3-19. Brazil’s first match is scheduled for today against China at 3 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Reis knows she has the support of her home country and her fellow Knights.

“So many people have reached out to me and made sure I knew they are sending me good vibes and cheering for me. It is absolutely awesome to have my fellow Knights supporting me!” she told UCFKnights.com. “My years at UCF were crucial at shaping the person and the player I am today.”