FSU Faculty Senate recognizes three with Torch Awards

The Florida State Faculty Senate’s 2016 Torch Award recipients from left, David Warmath, Paula Fortunas and Davis Gaines, pose with President John Thrasher and Provost Sally McRorie.

The Florida State University Faculty Senate has honored three individuals with Torch Awards, an annual recognition of contributions to the university’s academic excellence.

Named for the three torches depicted in the university’s seal, the three categories of Torch Awards are: Vires, symbolizing moral, physical and intellectual strength; Artes, symbolizing an appreciation of aesthetics and the beauty of intellectual pursuits; and Mores, symbolizing respect for customs, character and tradition.

The awards were presented Dec. 6 during a reception and dinner hosted by FSU President John Thrasher.

Faculty Senate President Susan Fiorito praised this year’s recipients for their commitment to the university.

“The FSU Faculty Senate was honored to present this year’s Torch Awards to three remarkable individuals who exemplify the ideals of strength, skill and character,” she said. “Each are very special to the faculty and have a long, accomplished relationship with FSU. Through their tireless efforts, these dedicated individuals have made this university a better place for us all.”

Paula Fortunas, retired Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) Foundation CEO and former FSU Foundation CFO, received the Vires award for her successes in forging connections between FSU and the Tallahassee community.

In addition to her work with TMH, Fortunas has served in an executive capacity in organizations such as the College of Nursing Community Advisory Board, the College of Medicine Dean’s Advisory Council and the University Center Club Board of Governors.

Fortunas has a long and significant history of generously devoting time and resources to the fulfillment of FSU’s core academic mission. She was among the first alumni to be inducted into the university’s Circle of Gold, which recognizes worthy individuals who personify the university’s tradition of excellence, and has been awarded the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her positive contributions to the work of improving the quality and scope of education at FSU.

Davis Gaines, stage actor and acclaimed Broadway star, received the Artes award for his work as a committed patron of the arts at Florida State University.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the FSU’s School of Theatre, Gaines went on to perform the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” where he logged almost 900 performances during his run on Broadway and more than 2,000 cumulative performances including stints in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Additionally, Gaines has performed the lead role in famous plays like “Sweeny Todd” and “Camelot,” and has worked extensively in television including appearances in “Charmed,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

In 1996, Gaines established the Davis Gaines Endowed Scholarship in Music Theater, which affords substantial support to a select handful of musical theater students each year. In between national tours and Broadway runs, Gaines often returns to FSU to perform in fundraiser and benefit concerts and to conduct workshops and master classes for theater students.

David Stanford “Stan” Warmath, a retired FSU faculty member who spent decades working in service of the Department of Psychology, received the Mores award in recognition of his untiring reverence for the customs that distinguish our university.

Warmath, who received both his bachelor’s and master’s in psychology from FSU, worked almost continuously in the department from 1970, when he was hired to teach a laboratory course, until his retirement a few years ago. In 1982, Warmath was hired by the department as facilities manager, and it was in this role that he helped oversee the construction of the state-of-the-art Psychology Department Building, completed in 2008.

As a part of the grand opening of the new facility, FSU officials demonstrated their appreciation to Warmath and his wife, Paula, by dedicating the Stan and Paula Warmath Courtyard. Nestled in the heart of the Psychology Building complex, the Warmath Courtyard is a quiet, bricked space with mossy trees, landscaped gardens and legacy benches which honor past department chairs.

In a gesture that underscores his regard for custom, Warmath set aside an area of the courtyard for a classic FSU tradition: the laying of engraved bricks by graduating students as a commemorative symbol that they are forever a part of Florida State University.

The Torch Awards were established in 1996 to allow FSU faculty members to honor friends of the university who have contributed significantly to its ability to realize its academic mission. Faculty members make nominations to an awards committee that in turn makes recommendations to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee for approval.