Florida State faculty honors three with Torch Awards

Torch Award winners, from left, Betty Lou Joanos, JoAnn
Blackwell and Cliff Hinkle (photo: Bill Lax)

The Florida State University Faculty Senate has honored three individuals — investment banker Clifford Hinkle, quintessential Florida State ambassador Betty Lou Joanos, and talented administrator Jo Ann Blackwell — with Torch Awards for their contributions to excellence at the university.

The Torch Awards were established in 1996 as a way for faculty to honor those friends of Florida State who have contributed significantly to FSU’s ability to fulfill its academic mission.

Faculty Senate President Jayne Standley presented the awards during the Fall Meeting of the General Faculty, at which FSU President T.K. Wetherell made brief remarks about the "State of the University."

The VIRES Torch Award, symbolizing moral, physical and intellectual strength, went to Clifford R. Hinkle, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Flagler Holdings Inc., a merchant banking investment firm in Tallahassee. Hinkle has been the CEO or president of several other successful companies and has served on the boards of numerous national companies, foundations and other organizations.

After graduating from the Florida State College of Business in 1971, he went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

As the executive director and chief investment officer for the Florida Retirement System pension funds from 1987 to 1991, Hinkle created and implemented a set of investment protection principles, more than doubling the funds under his management. Those principles have led to Florida’s pension fund becoming the fourth largest retirement portfolio in the country and to a strategy that has largely insulated it from the major upheavals of today’s financial markets.

Hinkle has always been close to Florida State. He and his wife, Lee, who is FSU’s vice president for University Relations and Advancement, his brothers and their wives, and his father are all Florida State graduates. His mother attended Florida State until she began raising a family, and his grandmother was a graduate of the Florida State College for Women. For many years, Hinkle has shared his sage advice with FSU, volunteering his time and knowledge on its behalf.

He has served on the Florida State University Foundation Board of Trustees since 1992 and was the chair from 1999 to 2001. He also has chaired the Foundation’s Investment Committee and its Nominating Committee, and served on its Executive Committee for a decade, from 1993 to 2003, helping develop two major capital campaigns.

Hinkle also served as a director of the Florida State University Research Foundation for more than 10 years. He served on the Board of Seminole Boosters Inc. and the FSU Alumni Association has recognized his service and achievements with its Circle of Gold Award.

He has been an outstanding contributor to the academic programs of Florida State, serving as a visiting professor for the Collins Center for Public Policy, as an adjunct professor in the School of Public Administration and Policy, and as a guest lecturer in the College of Business, where he served on the Dean Search Committee in 2005.

The MORES Torch Award, which honors respect for customs, character and tradition, was presented to a singularly creative and energetic administrator, JoAnn Blackwell. She began at FSU in 1965 as a bookkeeper and receptionist in the College of Education. Stanley Marshall, then associate dean of the school, had received a sizeable grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct an education project in Turkey. While he was away, Blackwell had the job of keeping the books. She received a great deal of information on Dictaphone tapes, dictated from Marshall’s office in Turkey or from airplanes during his flights back and forth.

Financial management in those days was primitive by present-day standards and more difficult and time-consuming. Blackwell sorted through receipts from various Turkish vendors one shoebox as a time and then processed them and returned them to Turkey — which took tremendous patience because the record keeping on the other end was a challenge.

When Talbot "Sandy" D’Alemberte became the dean of the FSU College of Law, he quickly began the search for an administrator. He wanted to know who was the best on campus. Blackwell, he learned, was that person, and he hired her. At the law school, she supervised the Village Green project and the expansion of the law school faculty. D’Alemberte became so dependent on her that when he later became president of FSU, he asked her to come out of retirement to run the President’s Office.

Throughout her tenure at Florida State, it was Blackwell’s knowledge of the university and the people that guided her in helping others to uphold the customs and traditions of FSU — and she didn’t hesitate to remind other administrators it was also their job. She always considered the ramifications of an issue and made sure that Florida State was presented in the best possible light.

Also receiving a MORES Torch Award was Betty Lou Joanos. Over the past 50 years, Joanos has been many things to Florida State. In 1954, she came to Tallahassee as a student, and in 1957 became a proud alumna. After many years, she came back as a faculty member and then moved on to become the associate director of the Alumni Association. Today she continues to be a valued volunteer and an all-around friend to Florida State.

Joanos held her post at the Alumni Association under Jim Melton, and for her tireless service and her contributions, one of the Alumni Center’s conference rooms was named in her honor. In addition, she is a recipient of the Circle of Gold award.

She has never forgotten that Florida State’s foundation is based upon its predecessor institutions, especially the Florida State College for Women and the values that those women stood for. She is a walking encyclopedia of stories about the history of the school.

Joanos has dedicated years of service to keeping the Florida State College for Women alumnae connected to the university and has been instrumental in keeping their traditions and values alive. Over the years she has continued to connect with these women and draw them back to a newer version of the university they once knew.

She and her husband, Jim, have provided leadership in the planning and publicizing of the Westcott Lakes retirement community, and she is currently the director of Alumni Relations for Westcott Lakes.

Joanos also has been very active in organizations and on boards throughout the university community and Tallahassee. With her love and dedication for Florida State, as well as her knowledge about FSU, she is known as its biggest ambassador for its customs, character and traditions.

Her friends and colleagues are fond of saying they learned from her "what it really means to be a Seminole."