FSU to recognize esteemed graduates during homecoming weekend

(From left) Fred Flowers, Jeanne Curtin, Kathy Mears, Peter Collins, Tevin Wooten, Julie Moss, Garit Poire, Fred Tresca, Max Spanier, Vivian De Las Cuevas Diaz, Maura Hayes, Patricia Ragan and Amanda Schell.

Florida State University will recognize 10 distinguished alumni during the annual Alumni Awards event on Friday, Oct. 20, and three Grads Made Good Award recipients at the Homecoming Breakfast on Saturday, Oct. 21.

For the first time, the FSU Alumni Awards will be a combined celebration of recipients of the Reubin O’D. Askew Young Alumni, Inspire, Circle of Gold and the Bernard F. Sliger Awards.

“These incredible alumni inspire us, and it’s a joy to celebrate them during the 75th anniversary of FSU’s Homecoming,” said Julie Decker, president and CEO of the Alumni Association. “They represent the best and brightest of our alumni and demonstrate what is possible with a degree from Florida State University. Homecoming week reminds us of the wonderful traditions and fellowship that bind our hearts to Tallahassee. All alumni, students, parents and friends are invited to join us, wherever you are, in celebrating this momentous occasion in FSU’s history.”

For more information and to register to attend the FSU Alumni Awards and the Homecoming Breakfast, visit gonol.es/alumniawards and gonol.es/hocobreakfast2023, respectively.

Alumni Awards – Friday, Oct. 20

The Reubin O’D. Askew Young Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed upon young alumni by the FSU Alumni Association. The 2023 Askew Award honorees are Garit Poire, Amanda Schell and Max Spanier.

Garit Poire (B.S. ’16, M.S. ’18) 

Garit Poire is a business development engineer for Turner Construction. Poire co-founded the INSPIRE program, a joint venture between the American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE) Tallahassee branch and Florida universities, organizations and companies to promote K-12 STEM outreach for at-risk youth in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The program includes INSPIRE days at the Tallahassee Challenger Learning Center, where students participate in hands-on STEM activities. During ASCE’s 2018 push to get educational toolkits into every U.S. public school, Poire established the Great Give. This crowdfunding campaign raised over $12,000 in just two weeks to secure toolkits for every remaining school in Florida. A decorated engineer, Poire was awarded the Outstanding Young Civil Engineer in the Private Sector Award by the ASCE Eastern Region Younger Member Council and the 2019 New Faces of Civil Engineering. He served FSU as a teaching assistant for the engineering mechanics and senior design course, an Engineering Design Day coordinating committee member and as the graduate adviser to the FAMU-FSU Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Florida Engineering Society and American Concrete Institute.

Amanda Schell (B.S. ’17, M.S. ’18) 

Amanda Schell specializes in applying machine learning models and other artificial intelligence algorithms to inform policymaker decision-making on national security issues. She has presented at conferences for foreign governments, national security practitioners and technical specialists. Due to her transformative work, Schell has received multiple awards recognizing her exceptional analytic tradecraft, collaboration, innovation and mission impact. She previously worked at the Florida Division of Emergency Management, where she served as the youngest Deputy Chief of Staff of a Florida state agency. Through her tenure, she supported the immediate statewide response and long-term recovery efforts to Hurricanes Michael, Irma, Matthew and Hermine. Schell is actively engaged in her community as a Board Member for the Randy Roberts Foundation, Board Chair of Awesome Foundation DC, and Board Member for the Institute of Higher Awesome Studies.

Max Spanier (B.S. ’11) 

Max Spanier is the founder and president of Sloane Staffing, an award-winning international recruitment firm based in South Florida. Previously, Spanier worked in the marketing technology space as a marketing account executive, covering the Southeast for companies with revenue of $1 billion. Since its inception, Sloane Staffing has placed over 600 candidates in jobs and secured over $100 million in salaries. Spanier, alongside his wife and co-founder, Lindsey, is a two-time Seminole 100 honoree, placing in the top 10 for the last two years. Additionally, Sloane Staffing was recognized as one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America. Sloane Staffing has donated more than $50,000 to South Florida charities and annually raises funds for the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, where Spanier’s son is a cardiology patient.

The Inspire Award recognizes graduates who have distinguished themselves as a leader in industry and serve as an inspiration to students and young alumni. The 2023 Inspire Award recipient is Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz.

Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz (B.S. ’97) 

Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz is an attorney and partner at Holland & Knight, headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida. As the firmwide deputy section leader of the real estate section, she oversees their nationwide real estate practice, ensuring its seamless management and success. Diaz served as the past president of the Cuban American Bar Association and the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for the Southern District. She is a volunteer who has served the Coral Gables Community Foundation, Beacon Council, Commercial Real Estate Women of Miami and the Latin Builders Association. She serves Florida State University at the highest level as a member of the Florida State University Board of Trustees and the Real Estate Foundation board of directors.

The Circle of Gold recognizes those whose service and achievements personify Florida State University’s tradition of excellence. The 2023 Circle of Gold inductees are Jeanne Curtin, Fred Flowers, Maura Hayes, Kathy Mears and Fred Tresca.

Jeanne Curtin (B.S. ’92, MBA ’99, J.D. ’01) 

Jeanne Curtin is the policy chief of the water quality, supply and treatment subcommittee for the Florida House of Representatives. She has held positions as deputy general counsel of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and director of its Livable Florida initiative and in private practice. At FSU, she has served as assistant dean for development and professor of legal research and writing and law practice management at the FSU College of Law. Curtin is the current chair of the FSU Alumni Association national board of directors and serves on the College of Law’s board of visitors. She has twice served as a volunteer coach of the law school’s nationally recognized moot court team and as chair of the strategic planning committee for the Women for FSU. Committed to student success, she endowed a scholarship in honor of her late mother, the Roberta “Bobbie” Rusk Clark Endowment for Marching Chiefs, to support clarinetists. She and her husband, Larry, also established the Larry and Jeanne Curtin Endowed Scholarship in the College of Law to recruit top law students to FSU.

Fred Flowers (B.A. ’69, M.S. ’73)

Fred Flowers of Flowers Law LLC is an expert trial attorney who, for over 40 years, has litigated hundreds of cases involving civil rights, personal injuries, wrongful deaths, wills, probate and guardianship. He was notably the first African-American athlete to wear an FSU uniform. Flowers joined the varsity baseball team as a walk-on player and pitched under FSU Hall of Fame coach Fred Hatfield. In addition to his athletic pursuits, Flowers helped create the Black Student Union and was a founding member of the Chi Theta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the first African American Greek-letter organization at FSU. In 2004, he was immortalized in the iconic Integration Statue on FSU’s campus. Flowers has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1981 and has played an active role at Florida State, including establishing the FSU Civil Rights Institute.

Maura Hayes (B.S. ’82) 

Maura Hayes is director of operations for Times Square Studios. Having spent 42 years with The Walt Disney Company, Hayes began her career as a dancer and singer at Walt Disney World in “The Diamond Horseshoe” and the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.” Hayes received Disney’s Partners in Excellence Award for her spirit and commitment to the guest experience. In 1999, Hayes relocated to New York City to oversee operations for the Disney production facility, Times Square Studios. She now leads a team that oversees client and production services for all East Coast properties. She serves on the executive boards of Times Square Alliance and Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. Hayes has turned up the lights on Broadway at Time Squares Studios to welcome FSU alumni for various university events. She served the university on the Alumni Association’s national board of directors and helped found the Young Alumni Council. Hayes is a previous Inspire honoree and an advocate for the CARE program at FSU, giving back to the next generation of students through mentorship.

Kathy Mears (B.S. ’03, MPA ’11) 

Kathy Mears is the assistant commissioner for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. With a career spanning over 25 years in state government, she has held prominent roles in various offices, including the Florida House, Senate and the Office of the Governor. Previously, Mears was the chief lobbyist for Florida State University, where she played a crucial role in securing record funding. She worked closely with President Emeritus John Thrasher and his leadership team to develop strategic legislative priorities and plans that she successfully implemented for three fiscal years. Mears’ involvement extended beyond governmental affairs. She is also involved in the Tallahassee community, serving on FSU Health’s transformational committee and as a member of the board of directors for Capital Health Plan.

Fred Tresca (B.S. ’82) 

Entrepreneur Fred Tresca is the founder and managing director of The Aberdeen Organization, where he is responsible for group operations, investments and strategy. Previously, Tresca was the co-founder, principal and managing director of the Branta Group and a partner at Price Waterhouse, where he was a founding partner of their practice in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Tresca is involved in various boards and committees, including the Bravo! Vail board of directors, Vail Valley Foundation board of directors, Amegy Bank advisory council, Montgomery County Youth Services board of directors, the Woodlands Methodist Church and various social clubs. He gives back to Florida State University through the College of Business, where he has been recognized for his service as a Charles A. Bruning Distinguished Speaker. Tresca is also a member of the Business School Board of Governors and was inducted into the college’s hall of fame in 2015.

The Bernard F. Sliger Award is the highest honor given by the FSU Alumni Association. Named for the 10th president of Florida State University, this award recognizes an individual who has made a major contribution toward the fulfillment of the mission of Florida State University. The 2023 honoree is Peter Collins.

Peter Collins (B.S. ’92, MBA ’97)   

Peter Collins is co-founder and managing principal of Forge Capital Partners LLC, a diversified real estate investment management company in the Southeast United States. Collins directs all private equity activities for Forge and is the CEO of Forge’s real estate private equity fund business. Over the last 20 years, Collins has overseen more than $1.5 billion of real estate and corporate transactions, including over 8 million square feet of commercial and residential development, acquisitions and dispositions. Collins is the chair of the Florida State University Board of Trustees. Previously, he was a trustee of the Florida State University Foundation, chair of the FSU Endowment and member of the FSU College of Business Board of Governors’ executive committee. Collins is the longest-serving member of the State of Florida Pension Investment Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Florida Council and is active with the Urban Land Institute, the Southern Region Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and is president of the Tampa Bay area council. An Eagle Scout, Collins has served as the Area 4 (Florida) president and is a past member of the BSA National Foundation board of directors and former chair of the BSA National Foundation’s investment committee. Collin also received BSA’s Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope and National Outstanding Eagle Scout awards.

Homecoming Breakfast – Saturday, Oct. 21

The Grads Made Good Award celebrates alumni who have made a significant difference through outstanding success in their fields. The 2023 Grads Made Good Award recipients are Julie Kim Moss, Patricia Ragan and Tevin Wooten.

Commander Julie Kim Moss (B.S. ’88) 

Commander Julie K. Moss is a decorated servicewoman. After FSU, Moss graduated as the top student out of 262 in the Naval War College’s fleet seminar program. She was awarded the Naval War College McGinnis Family Award for leadership and outstanding performance in non-resident education. Additionally, Moss has won several unit, service and achievement awards, including the 2014 Association of the United States Navy Junior Officer of the Year and the 2007 SELRES Junior Officer of the Year for NOSC Pensacola. Moss is a past FSU Veteran’s Advisory Board member, president-elect for the FSU Committee of 30, past member of the Seminole Boosters national board of directors, Pace Center for Girls board of directors, United Way of the Big Bend leadership team, Learn to Read of NW Florida board of directors, Gulf Coast Economics Club and a 2001 graduate of Leadership Pensacola.

Patricia Ragan (B.S. ’70) 

Patricia Ragan is president and founder of the Center for Great Apes, or CGA, a 120-acre sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida, that houses over 50 chimpanzees and orangutans. This year, CGA celebrates 30 years of providing lifetime care for chimpanzees and orangutans rescued or retired from research, the entertainment industry or the exotic pet trade. It is the only accredited orangutan sanctuary in the U.S. and one of only a few accredited chimpanzee sanctuaries worldwide. Ragan engages FSU graduates and students, encouraging them to volunteer, raise funds and partake in educational tours of the sanctuary. Ragan’s advocacy also extends to serving on various boards and committees, including the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, Hardee County Animal Refuge Center and Zoo Miami.

Tevin Wooten (B.S. ’18) 

Tevin Wooten is an Emmy award-winning meteorologist for NBC10 Boston. Previously, Wooten spent four years as an on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel in Atlanta, forecasting in studio and from the frontlines for major weather events including hurricanes Florence, Michael, Laura and Delta, winter storms and tornadoes. Wooten holds the certified broadcast meteorologist seal of approval from the American Meteorological Society, (AMS). He advocates for bringing diversity to the STEM discipline and providing communities of color with access to and awareness of broadcast meteorology. Wooten is a member of AMS and the National Association of Black Journalists. He also serves as a culture and inclusion cabinet member with AMS and as a member of the FSU Pride alumni network board of directors. Wooten was named to the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for his work launching “America’s Science Lab,” a series of physics and weather experiments for elementary school students.

About The FSU Alumni Association

The FSU Alumni Association works to create meaningful connections between alumni and Florida State University, strengthening the alumni network and supporting students on campus every day. All graduates of FSU are members of the FSU Alumni Association; no dues are required. Alumni are encouraged to stay connected through the Alumni Association’s career resources, networking opportunities, mentorship programs, travel benefits and more. Learn more at alumni.fsu.edu.