Stetson University

Alumni Engagement

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Outstanding Young Alumni Award

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is presented to up to two alumni of Stetson University who are 35 years of age or younger. The award recognizes contributions to society, to a profession or to Stetson University. Recipients must demonstrate significant accomplishment or promise in their fields; leadership; or civic, cultural or charitable involvement.

Click on the dates below to view award recipients and their bios.

2013

Lauren L. Hill '08

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Lauren Hill, BA ’08 (Environmental Science and Social Science), of Bryon Bay, Australia, is emerging as an international surfing personality with sponsorship by Billabong and Bing Surfboards among other surf gear companies. Her writing, surfing and activism have recently been featured in print publications including Surfer Magazine, Australian Yoga Life, Foam Symmetry, Surfing World, Drift, Eastern Surf Magazine, and Curl. European Surf Girl Magazine featured Lauren on the cover of its summer 2012 issue, highlighting her travels and environmental work. She volunteers for organizations like Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers in Australia and the international non-governmental group Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). This year, she has been working on two documentary films, one based in Italy about surfing culture and environmental issues there, and another set in India, “Beyond the Surface,” exploring eco-feminism and the ability of surfing to empower young girls.

2012

Avantika Hari Agrawal '02

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Avantika Hari Agrawal (digital arts and economics), of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the CEO and Founder of A Richer Lens, Ltd., a film production company based in Mumbai, India. Avantika is both writer and director for the film Land, Gold, Women. She conceptualized, wrote, directed and co-produced the award-winning 98-minute feature film in English and Urdu around the issue of "honor killing." Avantika has received numerous film awards including The Accolade Humanitarian Award in 2011, awarded to a filmmaker for dedicated service to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. She was awarded India's National Film Award for Director of Best Film in English for Land, Gold, Women where she was given the award by the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil. Avantika also won Best of Show at the Indie Film Festival and the Canada International Film Festival's "Royal Reel Award for Excellence in Filmmaking" for Land, Gold, Women.

Amber DeChambeau Bragg '02

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Amber DeChambeau Bragg, '02 (biology), of San Diego, Calif., is a radiology resident at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. She earned her doctor of osteopathic medicine degree with highest honors in 2007 from the Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. Having completed an internship at the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va. in 2008, she reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola (N.A.S.P.) in Florida for aviation indoctrination. She completed primary flight training in several different venues, and transferred to the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute at N.A.S.P., for training as a flight surgeon. Amber received her Naval Flight Surgeon Wings of Gold in April 2009. Following graduation, Amber reported to the Navy Training Air Wing Four at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Tex., where she provides medical support to over 1,000 Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, Air Force and Foreign Allied flight instructors and intermediate student pilots. In March 2010, Amber was accepted as a candidate to be the flight surgeon for the 2011/2012 Blue Angels flight demonstration team. In 2010, Amber received both the Chief of Naval Air Training Flight Surgeon of the Year, and the Training Wing Four Flight Surgeon of the Year Awards. Other decorations she has received include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Pistol Marksmanship Medal. She is a member of the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America, the American Association for Women Radiologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Society of United States Naval Flight Surgeons.

2011

J. Tyler Herbert '06

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Tyler Herbert graduated from Stetson University in 2006 with a bachelor of business administration degree. During his time at Stetson University, he created Trick 360, Inc., an apparel and wakeboard S-corporation. He also acquired his real estate sales associate license and recruited equity partners to build three new rental homes in DeLand. In early 2011, Tyler was offered a place in the University of Oxford Saïd Business School's master of business administration program, which he plans to attend in the fall.

Tyler has realized significant accomplishments in his professional life, working in commercial real estate finance and development. He is currently a senior analyst for CWCapital Asset Management in Washington, D.C., a special servicing firm that manages workout strategies for distressed securitized loans within C.M.B.S. bond portfolios and other investment vehicles. In this role, Tyler leads negotiations with private and institutional borrowers to determine strategies to maximize the value for the firm's assets under management. His goal is to manage his own international development consulting firm that will focus on long-term solutions to infrastructure challenges in developing and disaster-affected countries.

In 2007, Tyler co-founded and serves as chairman of Youth Factor, a nonprofit that builds strategic partnerships to advance the empowerment of marginalized youth globally. Since its inception, he has been involved with projects that have impacted over 400 youth in five different countries. Additionally, for the last three years, Tyler has been visiting and offering support to soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Wounded Warriors branch. In collaboration with Stetson University alumnus Nick Mueller, President and CEO of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, he is co-sponsoring events that benefit wounded warriors and shine a light on the sacrifices U.S. veterans continue to make for our country and the world.

A member of the Alumni Board of Directors since 2007, serving as the District Co-Chair for the greater Washington, D.C. area, Tyler has been a tireless advocate for his alma mater. He has helped to recruit students, engage alumni, shape board initiatives and bring greater visibility to Stetson University nationally and internationally.

Kelly Robbins White '03

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Kelly White earned her bachelor of music education degree from Stetson University in 2003, and her master of music education in Kodály Studies (folk music) from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

A third generation Florida native, Kelly is co-founder and owner/broker of Jack White Land Company, a real estate brokerage firm specializing in downtown and historic real estate. The company is dedicated to promoting the "urban lifestyle" in Old Florida cities. From 2005-2007, she co-managed the development of Wall Street Lofts, an urban infill project in Daytona Beach, with husband Jack White '01. For her impressive record as a startup entrepreneur, Kelly was named one of the Most Influential Women in Business in 2009 by the Volusia/Flagler Business Report.

Kelly began her career teaching music in the Volusia County School System and during that time, created the Daytona Beach Young Voices Youth Choir. She volunteers her piano skills for numerous community concerts, and performs at area restaurants and clubs as a pianist in the musical duo, Two Trebled Gals.

An influential leader in the redevelopment of the Daytona Beach downtown area, Kelly was elected in 2010 to serve as Daytona Beach City Commissioner, Zone 3. In this role, her goal is to focus on neighborhood revival, entrepreneurial investment, and a pedestrian-oriented urban core.

Her volunteer and community involvement includes membership in the Daytona Beach Young Professionals Group, and service as Chair of the Daytona Beach Partnership Association's Economic Restructuring Committee and of the Daytona Beach Beautification and Tree Advisory Board.

2010

Wesley L. Whatley '02

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A 2002 magna cum laude graduate of Stetson University who majored in music with business as an outside field, Wesley worked briefly in the entertainment departments of both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando before joining the staff of Macy's Entertainment Department. He currently serves as creative manager for Macy's Parade and Entertainment Group, which produces the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Macy's 4th of July Fireworks in New York City.

Over the last seven years with Macy's, Wesley has been responsible for developing and producing new music and performance programs, as well as handling casting and stage direction for the company's iconic national events. Often in the recording studio, he has worked with many stage and screen professionals, from opera greats Renee Fleming and Deborah Voight, to Broadway stars Betty Buckley, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Victoria Clark and Anika Noni Rose, to Emmy Award winner Jane Krakowski. Wesley currently is working on the 2010 Macy's 4th of July Fireworks music score, which will be recorded by the New York Pops orchestra.

In 2008, Wesley composed the song, "I Believe," with lyrics by Macy's Creative Director William Schermerhorn, which was performed by Kermit the Frog in that year's Macy's Parade. The song was nominated for a 2008 Daytime Entertainment Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song. It was published by Walt Disney Music Publishing and released as a holiday single. "I Believe" made its Carnegie Hall debut in 2009, performed by the New York Pops orchestra. The song was later featured in Macy's Puppet Theatre production of Miracle on 34th Street.

In addition to his work with Macy's, Wesley is an active songwriter and performer. In January 2010, he was a teaching artist in the inaugural "We Are the Song - After the Storm" songwriting workshop in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The year he entered Stetson University, Wesley was one of only four recipients of the prestigious and competitive J. Ollie Edmunds Distinguished Scholarship, which he retained throughout his time at the university.

2009

Sara E. Dodson '02

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A 2002 summa cum laude graduate in behavioral neuroscience, a major she helped design, Sara Dodson earned a doctorate in neuroscience at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., in 2008. Dodson is now a postdoctoral fellow at the J. David Gladstone Institute for Neurological Disease at the University of California, San Francisco, which is ranked by The Scientist magazine as the best place in the United States for postdoctoral fellows to work.

At Gladstone, she is studying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Her doctoral research at Emory was described by her dissertation advisor as instrumental in clarifying a critical role for a new molecule in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's.

Dodson obtained independent funding from the National Institutes of Health for her doctoral training, has had five published articles in the most prestigious journals in neuroscience and has made numerous presentations at national conferences. She was one of only 250 researchers invited to present their doctoral research at the annual NIH graduate student research festival.

In addition to excelling in research, she has a number of impressive accomplishments outside the lab, particularly with educational outreach. While at Emory, she was president of the graduate Neuroscience Society, where she was instrumental in organizing student and faculty visits to Atlanta public schools during Brain Awareness Month. Thanks in part to her efforts, the Atlanta chapter of the Society for Neuroscience was recognized for its excellence in Brain Awareness Month participation.

Matthew H. Morton '06

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Matthew Morton received a bachelor of arts degree in political science with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Stetson University in 2006. A 2008 graduate of the University of Oxford with a master of science in evidence-based social intervention, with distinction, he is now a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention and Said Business School.

During his undergraduate years, he was a Bonner Scholar, a member of the Cross Country Team and the founder and director of the Campaign for Adolescent & University Student Empowerment (C.A.U.S.E.), which places Stetson University students in mentoring roles with disadvantaged students. He also served as advocacy coordinator for the Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services, and was a Congressional Fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. He subsequently served as the coordinator of the Bonner Scholars and Community Outreach program at Stetson University.

At Oxford, his current research is focused on youth development and non-formal education in the Middle East. In March 2009, he was chosen as a regional finalist in the British Council's International Student Awards, one of 12 students selected out of more than 1,500 students from 130 countries.

With a special interest in youth development since the age of 15, he has founded and worked with youth empowerment programs in the United States, Latin America, East Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has served as vice chair of the National Council for Youth Policy and as a policy consultant for the European Union. He currently is working with an international team of youth leaders in launching Youth Factor, a nonprofit that forms strategic partnerships with promising youth empowerment programs around the world. An inspirational speaker, he has delivered more than 50 keynote addresses, including the White House's first National Youth Summit.

2008

Katherine L. Rhorer '98

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A 1998 vocal music graduate, Katherine Rhorer (photo by Lisa Kohler) taught music for a year before moving on to graduate school at the New England Conservatory, where she earned a master's degree in Music. In 2001, she won first place in the New England Regional Metropolitan Opera Competition and was also a National Council Finalist, competing on the New York Metropolitan Opera stage.

A mezzo-soprano, she is a former Adler Fellow and made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2002. She has since built a successful professional singing career around the globe. Her current season has included a return to New York City to sing Stella in Elliott Carter's opera What Next? at the Miller Theatre. She also has sung Clara in Sergei Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery in Valencia, Spain; and plans a recital and residency for the Marilyn Horne Foundation in Louisville, Ky. This summer she returns to the Glyndebourne Festival in England, where she will sing Mercedes in Georges Bizet's Carmen, before going on tour with the company in the title role.

In her 2005 debut with the Glyndebourne Opera, she sang Nadine, the leading character in the world premiere of John Lunn's opera, Tangier Tattoo, which is designed to attract younger audiences. She has also sung major roles with the New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glimmerglass Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, Opera Colorado, Opera Theater of St. Louis and Central City Opera; and has toured with the Western Opera Theater.

In addition to her Metropolitan Opera honors, she won the John Moriarty Apprentice Encouragement Award at Central City, first place in the Rose Palmer Mobile Opera Competition and third place in the Eleanor McCollum Competition at the Houston Grand Opera.

2007

Sara E. Cotner '99

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An American studies major at Stetson University, Sara Cotner received her bachelor of arts degree in 1999, with minors in English and women and gender studies. At Stetson University, she worked on The Reporter, serving as managing editor in 1998, and organized Common Ground, a student club working for understanding of diverse sexualities. A member of the Honors Program Executive Council, Cotner edited the Honors newsletter. She was a project supervisor for the Stetson University Institute for Social Research, conducted a Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience (S.U.R.E.) study of sexuality education in elementary schools and co-taught American studies and economics courses. In 1999, she won the June Brooks Award for Activism, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and received honorable mention in the Florida College Student of the Year search.

Now director of teacher evaluation at Teach for America, Cotner works to help more than 4,400 teachers in rural and inner city communities. She also is a sixth grade reading teacher at YES Prep, a charter school for under-served students in Houston. She has recruited and trained more than 400 volunteers to work as reading tutors in public schools in Tampa for AmeriCorps, and taught third grade in rural Louisiana for Teach for America and sixth-grade English at KIPP Academy.

Cotner founded her own consulting firm, Catalyst Consulting, in 2005, during a self-funded sabbatical, to help schools strengthen their literacy programs. Having helped start a school and tutoring program in Houston for children living in the Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina, she then joined the national staff of Teach for America.

In 2002, she was named a Teach for America Sue Lehman national finalist and the Walmart Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. She also won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to participate in a month-long seminar for educators.

2006

Bryan C. Haines '95

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A 1995 graduate of Stetson University, where he was a member of Beta Beta Beta Biology honorary society, Bryan C. Hains majored in biology and chemistry, earning a bachelor of science degree. He moved to Boston University, receiving a master's degree in Neurobiology, and then to the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he earned a doctorate in Neuroscience.

An assistant professor at the Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research at Yale University School of Medicine, he studies chronic neuropathic pain, secondary injuries after traumatic spinal cord injury, and applications of cell-based therapies to spinal cord injuries. He also teaches chemistry at Quinnipiac University.

Author of two books, Brain Disorders and Pain, he has published more than 30 journal articles and given many invited lectures, including a 2005 talk to the International Association for the Study of Pain in Sydney, Australia. He has jointly presented more than 30 papers at conferences around the world, most recently to a combined meeting of the German Society of Physiology and The Federation of European Physiological Societies.

His current work is funded by a two-year Pfizer Scholar's Grant in Pain Medicine, and he has also received support from the National Institutes of Health and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. In 2003 he won the Young Investigator Award of the Central Nervous System Section from the American Physiological Society.

Laura Dunifon Kicklighter '95

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A religious studies major at Stetson University, where she was named to both Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa honorary societies, Dr. Laura D. Kicklighter received her bachelor of arts degree in 1995. She went on to earn a master's degree in theology at Emory University's Candler School of Theology and a doctorate at the University of Texas Medical Branch's Institute for the Medical Humanities, focusing on religion and medicine, as well as bioethics. In 2002, she won the Ransom Dissertation Award in the Medical Humanities from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Now an assistant professor in the philosophy and religious studies departments at Lynchburg College, she has also taught at Baylor University's College of Medicine, the University of Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch. Her specialties are philosophical ethics, bioethics, religion and medicine, and religion and democracy. She is also interested in women and medicine, feminist theology, medical ethics and religious ethics.

She has presented papers and led panels at several international and national conferences, most recently a panel on "Religion and Spirituality in Medical Education" at the 2003 joint meeting in Montreal of the American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities and the Canadian Bioethics Society. Writing for a more popular press, she published the article, "Age Control," in U.S. News and World Report on Nov. 11, 2000.

2005

Andy A. Dehnart '99

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A journalism major at Stetson University, with minors in religious studies and political science, Andy Dehnart received a bachelor of science degree with honors in 1999. At Stetson University, he edited The Reporter for two years and won the Josephine Field Davidson Award for Integrity in Journalism in 1998. He was also chosen to address his fellow seniors at Commencement. He went on to earn a master of fine arts degree in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College in Vermont and has worked as director of communications for a nonprofit organization in Chicago and as producer for an online venture of the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post.

Since 2002, he has taught English, journalism and communication studies at Stetson University, including courses he created in literary journalism, new media and digital journalism, and magazine writing. He also teaches writing during the summer at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth. Two years ago, he brought Fray Day to Stetson University, the first time the worldwide true storytelling event had been staged in the southeastern United States.

An expert in reality television and online journalism, he writes and edits reality blurred, a website he created in 2000 to chronicle reality television. Read by more than a quarter of a million people internationally each month, his website was the first to explore the phenomenon and has been highly praised by Slate and Entertainment Weekly. In 2001, USA TODAY listed him as one of "100 People of the Year" in pop culture. He is currently working on a book exploring the nation's obsession with reality TV.

His writing and reporting have been published in many forums, including Salon, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and The Advocate. He contributes regularly to MSNBC.com on popular culture and entertainment, including television criticism and analysis. A frequent guest on radio, from NPR to XM Satellite, he has also appeared on cable news shows and been quoted in many publications, from The New York Times to TV Guide. Featured in a documentary produced by Spain's Canal+, he also recently filmed a one-minute commentary for a pilot episode of a new reality TV-focused news program.

Jane Fleming Kleeb '95

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A religious studies major at Stetson University, Jane Erin Fleming received her bachelor of arts degree in 1995, with minors in leadership studies and women and gender studies. During her Stetson University years, she helped found Stetson University's first volunteer coalition, Into the Streets. She was honored for her community service with Stetson University's Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, as well as the Florida Excellence in Service Award. The first appointed Youth Commissioner to the Governor's Commission on National Service in Florida, she also served as Youth Delegate to the President's Summit for America's Future.

Now executive director of the Young Democrats of America, which has more than 50,000 members under the age of 36, she worked extensively within various grassroots organizations, foundations, and corporations for 13 years before assuming that post during the 2004 election cycle. She helped develop the first-ever National Youth Coordinated Campaign, which turned out young voters in record numbers in 2004.

Before entering the political arena, she was a senior executive at the high-profile access strategies consulting firm, Scott+Yandura; executive director of the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders; and the youngest AmeriCorps Director in Florida.

She earned a master's degree in international training and education at American University, where she started a campus group focusing on political activism as a tool to fight eating disorders. She currently serves on several boards and committees, including the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy and Action; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Dads & Daughters. She is also a member of the Stetson University Alumni Board of Directors representing the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Often consulted as an expert by the news media, she has been interviewed several times on CNN, profiled in national publications such as Rolling Stone and Spin magazine, and has appeared on the Style network. She was also a key advisor for an HBO documentary and was featured in an MTV documentary, both on eating disorders.

2004

Gerard K. Marino '98

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A music composition major at Stetson University, with a minor in digital arts, Gerard Marino received his bachelor of music degree in 1998. Moving to Los Angeles after graduation, he earned an Advanced Studies in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Graduate Certificate from the University of Southern California in 2000.

Hired as a synthesizer programmer on a major studio film by composer Christopher Young, he first worked on Paramount's Bless The Child, starring Kim Basinger, then continued working for a year as Young's synthesizer programmer and studio engineer, earning screen credit on six other studio films, including Swordfish, Sweet November and The Gift.

Turning his focus to his own composing career, he provided musical scores for three independent feature films, including El Padrino, starring Jennifer Tilly, Stacy Keach and Faye Dunaway; television commercials; and several theatrical motion picture trailers, including Terminator 3, The Missing and The Chronicles of Riddick.

He has recently discovered the video game music field, and is now at work on his biggest writing assignment yet: two hours of synthesizer plus orchestra music for God of War, an $80 million video game in its third year of development at Sony Computer Entertainment and slated for release in 2005.

Stephanie L. Todd '92

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Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Stephanie L. Todd followed her uncle, the late Robert L. Todd, to Stetson University, as did her sister, Kristen A. Todd, a 1994 graduate. After receiving her bachelor of business administration degree in finance in 1992, Stephanie worked in corporate marketing for Revlon, Inc. in Manhattan, then returned to Florida to serve as an assistant branch manager for First Union Bank in St. Petersburg.

Always interested in medicine, she went back to the classroom in 1994, earning a second bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of South Florida in 1996. During her USF studies, she accompanied a medical team from her church to Guyana in South America, a pivotal experience that inspired her to undertake further volunteer work around the world.

She traveled overseas full-time with volunteer groups for three years, living and working in Africa, Central and South America and Asia. In 1999, she enrolled in a Columbia University program in international health, studied in Israel, then attended St. George's University in Grenada. She completed most of her clinical education in New Jersey, with stints in Long Island and in England. Her worldwide volunteer efforts have continued, taking her to 25 countries in the past nine years.

Receiving her medical doctor degree in May of 2004, she began graduate studies at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she is specializing in infectious diseases. Dr. Todd expects to receive a master's degree in public health in May of 2005 and will begin her residency in July.

2003

Jeffery P. Fay '98

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Jeffery P. Fay '98 of Alexandria, Va., was a mathematics and computer science major at Stetson University. He served for nearly three years as the senior UNIX system administrator while he was a Stetson University student, working for the Center for Information Technology. He also spent a year as UNIX system administrator in the Department of Computer Science.

He joined Security Design International in 19999, where he performed audits of major banking, telecommunications, power and utility networks, all defined as part of the National Critical Infrastructure. He also did research in the analysis of implementation of cryptographic functions, and his results have been used to brief members of the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency. In 2001, he became an independent security consultant, and was named to a select team that evaluated the security of the Federal Aviation Administration's modernization program.

Founding president of Patch Advisor, LLC, which specializes in mapping software patches to network assets, Fay is also a senior information security engineer, operating as a consultant to commercial and governmental entities all over the world.

Fay has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN and Fox News, discussing information warfare and network security. He has given many talks around the country, as well as at Tokyo University in Japan and at a conference in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Brian D. Ray '91

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Brian D. Ray '91, Ph.D., director of undergraduate programs for the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, Gainesville, is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, serving with the Florida Army National Guard. His unit was activated to provide security at military bases in support of homeland defense. Ray recently returned from active duty as a company commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With a bachelor's degree in finance from the School of Business Administration, Ray was vice president of Stetson University's student body during his junior year and was elected president in his senior year. He earned a master of business administration degree from the University of Central Florida in 1993 and a doctorate in university administration from Florida State University in 1998. Ray has served as director of MBA Student Services at UF and held several positions at the Florida State University College of Law and Career Resource Center. Ray recently co-founded LDM Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on process improvement, business ethics and employee leadership development.

A graduate of several military schools and a Distinguished Honor Graduate of the Signal Officer Advanced Course, in 2000 he won both the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, given each year to the top 24 company commanders in the U.S. Army; and the Lowry Award, presented annually to the top company-grade officer in the Florida National Guard.

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