Florida State University’s Faculty Senate presented five members of the FSU community with Torch Awards for their contributions to further the academic excellence of the university.
The awards were presented Thursday, Nov. 21, during the annual reception and dinner.
Named for the trio of 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.
“Each of these honorees have contributed to the academic excellence of this university,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “They have donated their time, talent and treasure because they believe strongly in our mission and because they care deeply about our faculty, staff and students. They do it, quite simply, because they love Florida State University.”
This year, the Faculty Senate conferred one Vires, one Mores and two Artes awards. The winners are:
Sean Pittman (Vires), College of Law alumnus and former Student Body President, received the Vires Award for his commitment to helping students at Florida State both during his time as a student and alumnus. Pittman, who earned his J.D. from FSU’s College of Law in 1994, currently serves as senior attorney and CEO of Pittman Law Group, P.L.
In 2010, he established the Sean Pittman Scholarship for minority students in the Florida State University College of Law. The income from this endowment is used to award at least one scholarship each year to a minority student who will assist the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators as a law clerk and a policy adviser.
In addition, he is the namesake for the Sean A. Pittman Award at FSU — given to a student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and dedication to the student body, the university, and the community with an emphasis on support of and contributions to African-American students.
Pittman also proved instrumental in securing the $1.5 million funding from the Florida Legislature for the construction of the Black Student Union building on campus, which opened in 2018.
Howard Tibbals (Artes), philanthropist and circus historian, received the Artes Award for his passion, vision and leadership in transforming The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Located in Sarasota, The Ringling was placed under the stewardship of Florida State University in 2000, and both parties work to provide educational opportunities for students, faculty and the public. Tibbals’ various donations to the museum have opened the study of circus history to a new generation of scholars.
Since 2000, Tibbals has donated $7 million to The Ringling toward building, and later expanding, the Tibbals Learning Center, which opened in 2006. The center hosts a variety of galleries, including The Howard Bros. Circus Model and the Tibbals Circus Collection. Tibbals assembled this unparalleled collection over more than 60 years. It serves scholars from all over the world and is a promised gift to The Ringling.
Tibbals and his wife, Janice, also established the Tibbals Endowment for The Ringling, donating an additional $3.5 million to assure the ongoing growth and care of the circus collections, exhibitions and educational programs. Tibbals continues to dedicate a great deal of time to the museum in various ways, from visiting guests at galleries to serving on The Ringling’s Board of Directors.
Charles E. and Persis E. Rockwood (Artes), emeritus professors, received the Artes Award for their continued impact on the university as both academic leaders and philanthropists. Charles taught as a professor of economics for more than 30 years (1960-1991) and Persis was a trailblazer at FSU as the first woman promoted to full professor of marketing in 1973. She also chaired a university committee that worked to create a policy on gender equity in faculty salaries, while teaching marketing and management until her retirement in 1989.
The Rockwoods recently donated $2.2 million to the College of Music to build a custom pipe organ, which will enhance both FSU’s organ and sacred music programs while elevating the prestige of the university as a whole. The Rockwoods also established significant scholarship endowments within the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, College of Business and College of Music. The Rockwoods’ financial commitment to the university totals $5 million.
Valliere Richard Auzenne (Mores), received the Mores Award for her continuous contributions to the larger international human rights movement and dedication to the university both in and out of the classroom. More commonly known as “Dr. Vall,” she taught in the College of Motion Picture Arts for 30 years and served on various committees across the university.
Auzenne taught every undergraduate film student since the film school’s inception in 1989 until her retirement in 2019, and she remains in touch with many of her students working in the industry. She was awarded an international fellowship to teach documentary filmmaking at the Siberian Federal University in Russia as part of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2017.
During her time at FSU, Auzenne used her teaching and film know-how to provide testimony to human rights film projects. She worked closely with the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights to document how a group of torture survivors from more than 50 countries found healing among fellow survivors. These interviews turned into the 2007 documentary, “Breaking the Silence: Torture Survivors Speak Out,” which has gained international recognition and was even shown several times in U.S. Congressional hearings.
Auzenne recently worked on the film “40 Years Searching For Truth,” which tells the story of Joyce Horman’s decades-long search to discover who was responsible for her husband Charles Horman’s 1973 murder at the hands of the Pinochet regime in Chile. The film proved a testimony not only to Auzenne’s filmmaking skills and also to her empathy for those who have undergone unthinkable pain.
Established in 1996, the Torch Awards allow FSU faculty members to honor friends of the university who have contributed significantly to its ability to realize its academic mission. Nominations are submitted by faculty members to an awards committee. The committee, in turn, makes recommendations to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee for approval.