Alumna Speechless After Winning Poet Laureate Contest

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 27, 2017) – You’d be hardpressed to find someone as deeply connected to Orlando as the city’s newly appointed Poet Laureate, UCF alumna Susan Lilley ’75 ’80MA.

Lilley, who was named to the “official storyteller” gig in October, has been rooted in the community since she was still in the womb.

Her parents were both born in Orlando. She grew up in the area and decided to attend the hometown university, UCF, where she pursued bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

She raised her three children here. She worked at UCF for 12 years and was part of a group called “Simply Shakespeare,” the brainchild of her former professor Stuart Omans, who went on to found the festival that became the origins of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

She has served as an instructor in Rollins College’s English department since 2000 and teaches literature and creative writing at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park.

Over the years, she has been recognized as the winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award (2009) and published two books, “Night Windows” and “Satellite Beach.”

When it was announced that a contest would be held to determine the city’s first Poet Laureate, Lilley’s brother texted her immediately. At his and her friends’ urging, she decided to apply along with 49 other poets from Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia, Lake and Brevard counties.

“I was happy to throw my hat in, mainly out of pride and delight that the city is putting something real in place for creative writing,” Lilley said. “I have been astonished and uplifted by the growth in the literary world here over the last few years.”

Three finalists, Lilley among them, were announced in September. She said she was stunned to learn she had made the cut and was floored when she claimed the job after an interview with City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“What gratifying validation for an artist–that someone notices the work you’ve been scribbling away at for years. It was really enough (to be a finalist),” she said. “But when the City called to tell me I had been selected by Mayor Dyer, I was truly dumbfounded. But very excited.”

Dyer appointed her to a one-year term, and he can approve up to two additional one-year renewals before a new laureate is chosen.

Among her duties, she will perform at city events and give presentations to local students, and it’s her interactions with the community that she’s most looking forward to.

“In this new role I hope to work with different groups of people, from young people to the elders, who need to find their voices and have their stories told. I intend to promote and amplify the great writing scene we have here as I learn more about it. I want to help celebrate it all–from formal poets and academic poets to spoken-word and open mic and slam poets,” she said. “As I enlarge my world of the area’s creative writers I want to share it with the community and spread the word.”

4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors Receive Order of Pegasus

jill+gerald-order_of_pegasus
While attending a 4EVER KNIGHTS meeting in March, two of this year’s Order of Pegasus awardees, seniors Gerald Richardson and Jill Dutmers, posed for a photo in front of the Knights for Life wall at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

Jill Dutmers and Gerald Richardson, two of the UCF Alumni Association’s 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors, were awarded the 2015 Order of Pegasus — the university’s most prestigious and significant award a student can attain.

The Order of Pegasus recognizes exemplary performance by UCF bachelor’s degree students in the areas of academic achievement, outstanding university involvement, leadership and community service. Master’s degree students, doctoral, professional or M.D. students are selected separately based on academic achievement, professional or community service, leadership, and publication or research experiences.

  • Jill Dutmers is an undergraduate majoring in English literature in the College of Arts and Humanities, and is a student in The Burnett Honors College. She’s a member of the Honors Congress and President’s Leadership Council, and has participated in numerous service projects for the UCF community. Dutmers also serves as president of 4EK. She’s currently deciding which law school she’d like to attend. (She’s been accepted into seven.)

“My four years at UCF has afforded me incredible opportunities and experiences that have shaped not only how I view the world, but also how I view myself,” Dutmers says. “The education I received and leadership skills I gained have me a stronger, more polished, more confident Knight.”

  • Gerald Richardson is an undergraduate majoring in biomedical sciences in the College of Medicine. He’s a third-generation Knight. He’s involved with the Student Undergraduate Research Council and the President’s Leadership Council. Richardson also gives free, private tutoring, was a member of the 2014 UCF Homecoming Court, and participates in countless community service activities.

“At UCF, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to serve as a university ambassador, contribute to the well-being of the Central Florida community, and explore my passion for research, all while acquiring the scientific foundation necessary to pursue a career in medicine,” Richardson says. “I owe all of my success and professional maturity to the unwavering support that UCF and The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences have displayed for my academic and extracurricular endeavors.”

The 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors are a group of student leaders, chosen to serve as the liaisons between students and alumni. They operate as an extension of the UCF Alumni Association and oversee the programming and benefits for 4EK general membership. These student ambassadors uphold UCF traditions and leave a lasting legacy.

Two former 4EK Ambassadors have also been awarded Order of Pegasus: Todd Currie, who won it this year, and Jamie Gregor, ’13, who won it during her junior year, in 2012.

Congratulations to these exceptional Knights!

More Info

4EVER KNIGHTS Student Alumni Association
4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors