Distinguished Service Award
The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to a graduate or friend of the university in recognition of their personal commitment to the ideals and objectives of the Stetson University Alumni Association and dedicated service and advancement of the goals of the university.
Click on the dates below to view award recipients and their bios.
*: Now Deceased
Linda P. Davis '73
Linda Parson Davis is a philanthropic leader who has always given of herself, and her time, talents, and treasures. Linda has spent more than four decades at her alma mater — the same university from which her parents, husband, son and daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law all graduated.
Coming out of high school, Davis didn’t even apply to another school. Stetson was a virtual rite of passage. Through the years on campus, Davis held numerous positions of leadership in alumni relations and development, with titles that included Director of Alumni Programs, Director of Development, Associate Vice President for Planned Giving, Vice President for University Relations and Special Advisor to the President for Philanthropy.
Davis established the first full-time planned-giving program and currently is helping to guide the successful completion of her fourth major fundraising campaign. Her time at Stetson has spanned four university presidencies and resulted in widespread goodwill on campus and across Hatter Nation. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, she began taking graduate classes while working locally. Soon after she went overseas for missionary work before returning to DeLand and getting a job on campus as coordinator of alumni programs in 1978. Davis obtained a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1985, focused on institutional advancement through alumni development.
Linda retired from the university in January 2019 but she will always be the ultimate Hatter for the university she so dearly loves. This fall an endowed fund was created in her honor. It has already accrued over $100,000, and it is still growing.
Ronald D. Clifton, Sr. '63, MA '65
After earning his Ph.D., he served as a scholar at the American Embassy and as director of the American Cultural Center in Calcutta, India. He briefly taught at Stetson and DeLand High School while honing both his teaching and administrative skills. His career has included service in India, Tunisia, Ireland, Belgium, London, and Austria, often with U.S. Information Agency or the Fulbright Commission. His last post abroad was as director of the American Studies Center in Salzburg, Austria.
He was called by Stetson to return and assume the position of associate vice president and director of Stetson’s Celebration Center. In 1997, he reorganized and revitalized the project, making it viable. He led the process of building the physical center as a synergetic business and educational building which opened in 2001. He has received Presidential awards and Congressional commendations for his distinguished service to our country. He retired in 2005, although he continues to lecture and consult.
2010 - 2016
2016 - Harlan "Butch" Paul '76
Butch Paul began practicing law in 1979, when he received his JD from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He was a partner with the law firm of James, Zimmerman & Paul, LLP, until founding the firm of Paul & Elkind, P.A., in 2003. He is board-certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America. He is active in civic and community affairs, having served on the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, Chair of the Emergency Medical Foundation, the West Volusia YMCA Board and the St. Barnabas Episcopal School Board of Directors. Butch has served as an adjunct professor at Stetson in the area of Business Law and has served on the Board of Trustees since 2004. He served as Chair of the Board from 2010-2014.
2015 - KathleenLinehan Graf '76
A finance major from the class of 1976, Kathy has worked in the commercial banking industry for 30 years with a focus on credit risk and client relationship management. She has worked with a number of financial institutions over the years and has worked primarily with Barnett Bank, now Bank of America. She has been certified by The Stonler Graduate School of Banking of the American Bankers Association and has worked in client management, credit underwriting, credit risk management and project management. She currently resides in Jacksonville, Fla., with her husband, Jeff.
Kathy is a past board member of the Stetson University School of Business Administration Board of Advisors and the Stetson University Board of Trustees. She has served on the Stetson University Alumni Board of Directors for more than 10 years, including four years as president. Her service to these groups, and to Stetson as a whole, shows her deep personal commitment to her alma mater to ensure its success and that of its students.
2014 - Jane Edmunds Novak
From the age of six, Jane Edmunds Novak held a special place in her heart for Stetson. It started with her father, J. Ollie Edmunds, who worked his way up from custodial services on campus to president and chancellor of Stetson University. He instilled in his two children his love of Stetson and giving to others.
That legacy of giving continues. Novak, who was honored with the Distinguished Service Award, along with her brother, John “J. Ollie” Edmunds Jr., support some of the most significant scholarships bestowed at Stetson.
“My father was the most generous person I have ever known. He taught our family the joy of giving,” explains Novak. “The privilege of giving to others and getting a good education were important to him. We honor his legacy by recognizing and supporting deserving students, faculty and friends of Stetson.”
The most prestigious award is aptly named after their father. The J. Ollie Edmunds Distinguished Scholarship Program is a four-year, full-ride scholarship awarded to exceptional students.
Novak and her brother also facilitate many of Stetson’s most prestigious annual awards and chose to name them after people who were “near and dear” to them while they were on campus.
The George and Mary Hood Award is given to a member or friend of the Stetson community in recognition of commitment and contributions to the university’s core values. The William Hugh McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching (which honors the former dean of the university) is Stetson’s most prestigious award for faculty. The Etter McTeer Turner Award recognizes a student with outstanding academic performance, leadership and commitment to community service.
“These people were so special to us,” says Novak. “It is fitting that these major awards are in their honor.” Novak has served on the Stetson board since 1995. They are both on the boards of Gualala Redwoods Inc., a family-owned redwood forest company in Northern California, and the Third Growth Foundation.
2013 - Geoffrey A. Jollay ’75
Geoffrey Jollay, BBA ’75 (Marketing), of Jacksonville, Fla., is a member of Stetson’s Board of Trustees, which he joined in 2008. He is past chair of the Board of Advisors of the Family Enterprise Center and currently serves that board in an ex-officio capacity. He is a valued member of the Audit, Enrollment Management, Facilities, Finance, Student Affairs and Athletics, Audit, Trusteeship, and Executive committees of the Board of Trustees. In 2012, Geoff chaired the Campaign Planning Committee for Beyond Success….Significance, Stetson’s comprehensive campaign, and is now serving as chair of the Campaign Committee. The planning phase was scheduled to run for 18 months, but under Geoff’s leadership, planning for the campaign was completed six months ahead of schedule. While a student, he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
After graduating from Stetson, Geoff joined the family company, Ohio Packaging Corporation. Becoming president in 1985, he grew the business to three locations in the Midwest. Three years later, he became the head of the newly formed joint venture, CorrChoice Corporation, which then grew to seven locations from Michigan to Georgia. The company was acquired by Greif, Inc. in 2003, and Geoff is now retired from his role as chairman and CEO.
During his career he served his community in Ohio as a member of the boards of United Way and the Massillon Development Foundation as well as chair of the Massillon Community Hospital and the Community Health Foundation. A past co-chair of a campaign for his church in Ohio, the First Christian Church, he now serves on the Board of Advisors of Chet’s Creek Church (Jacksonville) and on its Mission Board. He has made multiple missions trips to China and India.
2012 - Sarah "Sally Matthewes Sartain Jane
Sarah Mathewes Sartain Jane, BA '62 (Russian studies and sociology), of Fort Myers, Fla., has lived a distinguished life helping others through years of community engagement and advocacy as well as supporting her alma mater. Her extensive professional career includes holding librarian positions in Virginia and Florida, and serving as head of collections development for the Lee County (Florida) Library. She served on the adjunct faculty with the University of South Florida's School of Library & Information Science. She served professionally on the Reference and User Services Association (R.U.S.A.) Standards and Guidelines Committee.
For more than 50 years, Sally served as a member of local, state and national professional organizations, held several offices in those organizations, lobbied in Tallahassee and wrote numerous book reviews for local and national publications. The Southwest Florida Library Network presented her with the Library Advocate of the Year Award. The Sartain-Jane Conference Room at the Meadows Alumni House honors the memory of both of her late husbands.
She served Stetson University on the Alumni Board of Directors, first completing her husband's term upon his death, and then completing two terms of her own. She serves on the Southwest Florida Hatter Scramble committee, the annual golf tournament that generates scholarship funds for Stetson University students. She served on the Student Recruitment committee as South Florida regional chair, in addition to working college fairs with the Office of Admission and off-to-school parties for current and prospective students. Most recently, she served on the Class of 1962 Reunion Committee and is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors.
2011 - Betty Drees Johnson
For nearly five decades, Betty Drees Johnson has touched the lives of thousands of Stetson students and members of the larger community as a professor and librarian. She has used her vision and leadership to develop Stetson University's duPont-Ball Library into a heavily utilized, world-class resource. Through Betty's dedicated work, numerous research materials and collections are now available electronically, providing the University community easy access to a world of knowledge.
After holding several positions and moving up through the ranks, Betty was named Library Director in 2002. She has developed and led fundraising efforts for the library that resulted in more than $1.8 million in contributions, including several endowments. Under Betty's leadership, the library acquired alumnus E. Clay Shaw's personal papers from his 13 terms in the U. S. Congress, as well as the political and Vietnam War memorabilia of alumnus and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.
Holding bachelor's and master's degrees in History from Stetson University, and a master's degree in Library Service from Columbia University, Betty's research and professional interests center on collection development, budgeting and inter-library cooperation. In 2006, she was awarded the first Florida Library Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
A philanthropist in every sense of the word, Betty has given generously to her alma mater, supporting scholarships, the library, and a variety of programs. Her service to Stetson University over the years has included numerous committee appointments, as well as three terms on the Faculty Senate. Beyond Stetson, Betty is very active in the League of Women Voters, and has held top positions in numerous regional and national professional organizations.
Betty and her late husband, History Professor Evans C. Johnson, were advocates for incorporating the arts into the lives and education of children. She was one of the founders of the Cultural Arts Center in DeLand, and in 2010 was awarded the Community Volunteer Award by the Florida Association for Arts in Education. The Evans C. and Betty Drees Johnson Children's Art Center opened at the Museum of Florida Arts in August 2010.
2000 - 2009
2009 - H. Douglas Lee and Margaret Easley Lee
Respected and revered for both their professional and civic achievements, Dr. H. Douglas Lee and Dr. Margaret Easley Lee have for more than two decades epitomized Stetson University to students, alumni, and the wider community.
First as Vice President, then Executive Vice President, and finally for 22 years, President of the university, Doug Lee has never faltered in his commitment to strengthening the long-established values and high academic aspirations of this institution. His has been the clear vision and the steady hand at the helm as Stetson made the transition from a small, church-affiliated university to an internationally respected 21st century university. Today, Stetson affirms its core values through a strong commitment to community engagement and social justice.
He has worked tirelessly to ensure that the university is financially secure and academically excellent. He has established, and helped the university reach, high standards for student and faculty diversity, international involvement, and community service. Under his leadership, Stetson has become a transformational force in the lives of those with whom it is associated.
Always by his side, as loving partner, strong supporter, and wise counselor, has been Stetson's First Lady, Margaret Lee. Through her passion for Stetson's mission, her leadership and support of the arts and of charitable work in DeLand, Volusia County and the state of Florida, she has set a gracious example for all who would improve our world. By her life and her actions, she has enhanced the reputation and respect for Stetson University. The university community recognized her many contributions in 2008 by awarding her the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.
2004 - Michael R. Fronk '74
Michael Fronk served as president of the Stetson University Alumni Association from 2002 to 2004, working hard to build bridges between alumni, students, parents, friends, faculty, and staff. He gives generously of his time to attend alumni and prospective student events, always presenting the Stetson message in an engaging style.
Under his leadership, the Alumni Board of Directors re-aligned its priorities with those of the University, restructured itself to better represent key constituent groups, established new initiatives to interest alumni, led the completion of the Meadows Alumni House backyard beautification, and created the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
A 1974 religious studies graduate, Michael Fronk served as a resident advisor and head resident at Stetson. He was a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and was the first president of the Student Judicial Council. He also worked as a minister to youth in area churches. After graduation, he spent a year as a Stetson admissions counselor, and went on to earn a master of divinity degree in 1979 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
President-owner of Fronk-Hartman and Associates, Inc., a marketing and consulting firm working with funeral homes across the nation, he was a full-time pastor in Florida and Indiana churches until 1986, when he began working in the funeral industry. Currently pursuing his church ministry as a volunteer, he also serves as chaplain of the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida. Oldest of four children to graduate from Stetson, he and his wife Stephanie have six children, two of whom, Christopher and Jamie, graduated from Stetson in May of 2003.
Active in the DeLand community, he serves on the DeLand Planning Board and is vice president and president-elect of the DeLand Museum of Art. He is a member of the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club and the board of directors of the DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts. He served on Stetson's Board of Trustees during his term as Alumni Association president, and is a member of the Stetson University Hatter Club. An avid motorcyclist, he belongs to the Harley Owners Group.
2003 - Michael W. Raymond* '68
A devoted teacher, Dr. Michael W. Raymond has served on Stetson University's English faculty since 1972, building a reputation for focusing on his students and subtly leading them to discover and develop their own talents.
A Stetson graduate, Raymond earned his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Florida, and returned to his Alma Mater to teach. An innovative professor, he has taught courses jointly with colleagues in geography, psychology, sociology, law and economics - learning from them and using their disciplines to teach writing.
An advocate of Stetson's values, his university service includes conducting writing workshops, helping to launch the University Experience course for new students, and directing First-Year English for many years. He has represented the faculty on the Stetson Fund committee and served as faculty advisor to both the student newspaper and the campus literary magazine. He often participates in a student-led poetry group and currently serves as the faculty representative on the Stetson University Alumni Board of Directors.
Beyond Stetson, he serves as a writing and educational consultant to such firms as Florida Hospital Medical Center, Orlando: Humana Hospital Corp., Louisville; and AT&T, New York. A prolific writer, his publications range from academic critiques of modern literature to works of fiction and creative nonfiction. Drawing from his own experience, he has published several books and manuals on living well with diabetes, including The Human Side of Diabetes: Beyond Doctors, Diets and Drugs. He also frequently publishes articles on the art of teaching.
Raymond received Stetson's 1992 McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor the university bestows upon active faculty members; and Stetson's Hand Award for Creativity and Research in 2002. He was named Florida Professor of the Year in 1993 by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and designated an "Exemplary Teacher" in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Education. He also held the Nell Carlton Endowed Chair of English for four years.
2002 - Thomas E. Stringer, Sr.
Dedicated to Stetson University and its missions, Thomas E. Stringer Sr. is a fair and hard-working jurist and a man of many "firsts." He was the first African-American graduate of the Stetson University College of Law (1974), and later became the university's first black trustee. In the judiciary, Thomas Stringer was the first black circuit judge in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. He was elevated to the Second District Court of Appeal where he was also the first African-American appellate judge in the district.
Stringer has served the people of Hillsborough County, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit and Second District as an appellate, circuit and county judge; private attorney; and prosecutor since 1974. Stringer serves the community through membership in and dedication to many organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Tampa, Pi Iota chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Tampa chapter of the NAACP and Tampa/Hillsborough County Youth Council Inc. He also serves Bay Area Legal Services Inc., Timucua District of the Gulf Ridge Council of Boy Scouts of America and the Hillsborough County League of Women Voters. He has been a member of Stetson's Board of Trustees since 1994 and of the College of Law Board of Overseers since 1986.
Today he continues to be an inspiration to Stetson's law students, who recognized his commitment to legal education and the college by honoring him with the annual Judge Stringer Youth Day for area high school students. A 1974 Stetson University College of Law graduate, Stringer served in the U.S. Air Force for close to four years and attained the rank of captain. He is a graduate of New York University, where he received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1967.
2001 - Gary A. Meadows '59
Gary Meadows earned his bachelor's degree in psychology in 1959 and began working as an admissions counselor the next day. He earned a master's degree in counseling from Stetson five years later.
During his 30-year tenure in admissions, Meadows served as assistant director, director and dean. While in admissions, Meadows helped bring fine students to the university and counseled them when making education and career decisions. He saw some of those same students give back to Stetson and become re-involved in the university while working in Alumni Engagement.
In addition to his duties in the Admissions and Alumni offices, Meadows has been the voice of the Hatters at various times at the men's basketball games for 35 years. Stetson also honored Meadows by naming its Alumni House the Meadows Alumni House on March 30, 2001. Mark Whittaker, vice president for University Relations, said that he, President Doug Lee and the Alumni Board wanted to name the house for Meadows because of his loyalty and dedication to Stetson over many years.
In retirement, Meadows hopes to spend more time enjoying some of his hobbies, which include singing, fishing and traveling. Over the years, he has lent his deep bass voice to the Stetson Choral Union and is on the board of directors of the Bel Canto singers. He also is a soloist in the choir at First Baptist Church of DeLand and is president of the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club. Meadows has three grown children and lives in Debary with his wife, Gail Kadlec Meadows.
2000 - Dennis C. McNamara '44
Dr. Dennis C. McNamara Sr., Class of 1944, received a Distinguished Service Award from Stetson University. McNamara served as chairman of the Operating Gifts Division of the successful Stetson University $50 Million Campaign and, through a major gift, established the McNamara Chair of Marketing in the School of Business Administration.
A member of the Stetson University Board of Trustees from 1984 until 1999, he served as both vice chair of the Board and as chairman of the Development Committee during the $200 Million Campaign, and was named Trustee Emeritus in 1999. McNamara and his family named a tennis court in the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center in memory of his late wife, Mary Estella Palmer McNamara, Class of 1944, and made a contribution to the new baseball stadium, Melching Field at Conrad Park. He has provided scholarship assistance to deserving students through the Dennis McNamara Scholarship Fund, which he created in 1985, and through the Trustee Challenge Gift Scholarship Program, in which he has participated since 1988.
The first recipient of an Honorary Diploma in 1982, McNamara received the Honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree in 1986 and was a recipient of the University's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993. He was named a Champion of Higher Independent Education in Florida (CHIEF) in 1986 by the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.
1990 - 1999
- 1999 - Joseph J. Master* '58
- 1998 - Lowell Edwin Renfroe
- 1997 - Glenn N. Wilkes '81
- 1996 - Sandra BeVille Furches '72 and John W. Furches '70
- 1995 - Janelle Bozard Latour '78
- 1994 - Gloria Hall Edmondson '80 and Graves Edmondson, Jr. '50
- 1993 - Thomas P. Prince '67
- 1992 - Mark C. Hollis* '56
- 1991 - William M. Roberts III '66
- 1990 - Wendell N. Jarrard, Sr.*
1976 - 1989
- 1989 - George R. Williams, Sr.*, MA '64
- 1988 - Sally Igo Gillespie, MA '65
- 1987 - Margaret Flexer Duncan* and Pope A. Duncan*, Hon '87
- 1986 - Paul E. Raymond*, Hon '82
- 1985 - Marie Dawson*
- 1983 - B. Frank Wheeler, Jr.*, BA '43, Hon '83
- 1982 - Barbara Rowe*, MA '42 and Etter McTeer Turner*, BA '35, MA '36, Hon '83
- 1981 - John L. Pelham*, BA '50, Hon '76
- 1980 - Kenneth P. Kirchman*, BS '58, Hon '80
- 1976 - Margaret Linzel Walker*, BA '42