With over 60,000 alumni scattered throughout the globe, the Florida Tech Alumni Association has made it a priority to honor and recognize the legacy past students have left behind.
On Oct. 26, more than 500 people—including professors, faculty, alumni, and organizations that play a vital role in providing aid to Florida Tech—gathered at the 2019 Alumni Awards Gala to recognize outstanding alumni in various majors.
Award recipients included those with vast experience in their career fields as well as a continuous commitment to their alma mater.
Bino Campanini, vice president for Alumni Affairs, served as master of ceremonies and introduced the especially distinguished alumni of the evening.
“This event is a fantastic opportunity to catch up with colleagues, and a brilliant way to instill the spirit of the school and reinvigorate interest in each program,” said Robert Salonen, a 2019 Florida Tech graduate and the current director of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at the university.
Others in the crowd agreed with Salonen that this was a special night that allowed individuals to return proudly to their alma mater and reminisce on past memories, but also learn about the future of the school and the growth it has seen in recent years.
After cocktails, photoops and dinner, Campanini continued as MC with lighthearted jokes as he welcomed each award recipient to the stage.
The first of five recipients was Jason Terreri, a 2001 Florida Tech undergraduate, awarded on behalf of the College of Aeronautics.
“The best advice I can give is to find someone who has the same desire and passion for your industry, and take them under your wing,” said the previous senior executive director of Syracuse Hancock International Airport. “Become a mentor, and give them an opportunity to be successful.”
While all award recipients mentioned how honored they were to be given recognition for their work and thanked the university for what it provided to them, each took on their own unique twist for their speeches.
One of the quirkier speeches came from the College of Engineering and Science awardee, Don Woodrow.
Woodrow is a distinguished 1986 Florida Tech undergraduate who is the president of Woodrow Construction LLC and also an advisory board member of civil engineering and construction advisory board at Florida Tech.
After cracking jokes about Bill Jurgens’ gray hair and poking fun at Campanini for his British accent, Woodrow concluded by asking the audience to stand up, enjoy the night and give their best impersonation of Elaine dancing from Seinfeld.
Others that received awards at the alumni gala were Monique Picou on behalf of the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business, Sherri Acanfora Ruohomaki on behalf of the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts and Gretchen L. Kelly on behalf of the College of Engineering and Science.
Picou, the senior vice president of flow and fashion for Walmart, compared Florida Tech to an ivy league university, and put emphasis on the fact that “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Acanfora Ruohomaki, a former Florida Tech cheerleader and now the owner of K9 Kampus—a luxury dog daycare and boarding facility—concluded her speech with words of reflection: “Look at the growth and development that Dr. T. Dwayne McCay, and previously Dr. Catanese, have cultivated,” Acanfora Ruohomaki said. “It makes me want to come back here as a young collegiate and enjoy all the amenities that they have now that we didn’t have before.”
President T. Dwayne McCay stated that the alumni are “our strength” and “prove that the university did a good job.”
“Florida Tech teaches our students to work with people in teams, and in collaboration,” T. Dwayne McCay said. “Curriculum such as the senior design prepares our students to enter the workforce after graduation in a few weeks, whereas at other schools, it’s six months.”
The ceremony came to a close with the presentation of the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest award bestowed upon by the Alumni Association.
Honored with such an award that remarks a reflection of a legacy of excellence was Chip Perry.
A former design engineer for Texas Instrument and founder of a top tier internet streaming service later bought out by Yahoo!
Perry was portrayed as a highly successful and memorable student from Florida Tech.
He took the guests down memory lane and recapped his journey from Florida Tech to where he is now.
Perry gave a special thanks to Ed Jonas, the designer of the Keuper statue in front of the President’s Office as well as the designer of all of the gala awards for the past five years.
“It was a true honor for Florida Tech to involve me in the design process,” Jonas said. “Although I am not a Florida Tech alumni, Brevard will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the hometown of the love of my life and it was one of the places where the last thing my father saw me accomplish was the sculpting of the Keuper statue.”
The night wrapped up with dancing and a continuation of celebrating Panther pride.