The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences honored some of its most ardent supporters at its annual Dinner of Distinction, held recently.
This was the fifth year for the awards banquet that recognizes individuals and organizations that support and advance UF/IFAS in its research, teaching and Extension efforts.
“Land-grant universities are special places, and the agriculture and natural resource branches of these universities are the most visible stewards of their teaching, research and Extension mission,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We at UF/IFAS can dream because our alumni and stakeholders dream, too. The Dinner of Distinction honorees help us convert challenge to opportunity. They make it possible for so many to achieve dreams, and in so doing, they achieve their own dreams of making a difference.”
The 2017 Dinner of Distinction award recipients include:
George H. Wedgworth was a pioneer in developing the sugar industry in the Everglades region during the 1950s. As president of Wedgworth Farms, Inc., he committed $1 million for endowments and facilities at the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade.
He was instrumental in the formation and operation of the Florida Sugar Cane League (FSCL) and other trade and marketing associations relating to sugar, celery, and sweet corn, serving in leadership roles of numerous organizations for many years.
For more than 20 years, Wedgworth served as chairman of the FSCL’s Environmental Quality Committee, which dealt with water and air quality matters relating to agricultural producers in the Everglades Agricultural Area. He contributed greatly to the viability and growth of the vegetable and sugar industries in the Everglades agricultural area.
Because of his support, more than 300 agricultural leaders have received valuable training through the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, prompting them to take on more active industry, civic, and political roles.
CALS Alumni and Friends Award of Distinction
Throughout his lengthy and distinguished legal career, Michael Minton has never forgotten his UF/IFAS roots and has made a personal commitment to give back to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the University of Florida.
A triple Gator, Minton grew up in Fort Pierce working in the family citrus and cattle businesses. While at UF he gravitated to IFAS/CALS and studied under professor Jim Wershow, who peaked his interest in a career and profession as an attorney representing Florida agriculture clients.
Today, Minton is the past-president of Dean Mead and serves as the firm’s chair of the Agribusiness Industry and Solar Team. He represents family businesses with an emphasis on generationally-owned agricultural businesses. He also served as a Governing Board member of the South Florida Water Management District.
His contributions to UF include significant gifts to the UF/IFAS Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law. Michael’s volunteer efforts range from providing legal advice to the Treasure Coast Agricultural Research Foundation, Inc., and guest lecturing in agricultural law classes at UF to service on the University of Florida Foundation Board of Directors.
CALS Alumni and Friends Horizon Award
Juan David Castro-Anzola and Yael Spektor are two of the youngest scholarship donors to the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree at UF in food and resource economics, Castro-Anzola represented the department on a quiz bowl team that won the annual North American Academic Quiz Bowl competition. He also represented food resources and economics on a championship-winning National AgriMarketing Association team.
Castro-Anzola has worked for Prudential Agricultural Investments, a business unit of Prudential Financial, since 2006. In 2017, he began his current role as director of Prudential Agricultural Investments for the Eastern Region.
Spektor earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science and human nutrition. During her time at UF, she was actively involved in her department by being treasurer and Florida Section of the Institute of Food Technologists Ambassador of the Food Science and Human Nutrition club. She was also the team leader of IFT’s product development competition and member of the College Bowl team.
Spektor worked for The Father’s Table in Sanford for five years before joining The Coca-Cola Company in 2015 as a product developer for juices. After graduation, she became chair of the Florida Section IFT where she created student sponsorships for industry meetings and implemented two travel/research grants, awarding more than $7,000 in scholarships. Later as Supplier’s Night chair for Florida Section IFT, she helped raise more than $20,000 in funds for scholarships for the food science and human nutrition department. She received the Florida Section IFT Outstanding Volunteer recognition in 2014.
SHARE Council Volunteer of the Year
Born in Vero Beach, Jeff Bass is a third generation Floridian. He grew up on his father’s beef cattle and sugar cane farm and began working on the farm at 13. He graduated from UF with a master’s in business administration, and a few years later joined the family’s citrus operation, the Graves Brothers Company. The company remains the oldest, continuously family-run business in Indian River County. In 2004, he took over as president and CEO.
Over the years, Bass, his family, and Graves Brothers have supported UF through their giving to Gator Boosters, and through gifts to UF/IFAS, including to the IFAS Florida Excellence Endowment. He became a member of the UF/IFAS SHARE council in 2001 and served on its executive committee for seven years. Through his alliance, Graves Brothers have committed significant gifts to support students, research and Extension programs. The largest contribution being the establishment of the Mr. and Mrs. J. R. (Rip) Graves Eminent Scholar Chair in Biotechnology by his grandparents, Addie and J.R. “Rip” Graves, because of their strong interest in citrus research and enhancing the citrus industry.
UF/IFAS Extension Florida 4-H Outstanding Alumni Award
At 8 years old, Tiffany B. Southwell began a lifetime commitment to Florida 4-H by joining the club in St. Johns County. She held leadership positions in the county, district and state levels. Southwell attended the Citizenship Short Course in Washington, D.C., and served as speaker of the house at the 4-H mock legislative session in Tallahassee, Florida.
While in college at UF, Southwell returned to the St. John’s County 4-H chapter to assist with summer programming. After graduating with a bachelor’s in food and resource economics and a master’s in agribusiness, she went to work for 4-H developing curriculum for state activities.
Southwell attributes much of her success in life to skills learned in 4-H. She also credits the organization for helping her develop lifelong personal and professional relationships.
4-H Lifetime Achievement Award
Siblings Benita S. and Jimmy Boyd are second generation Floridians, born and raised in Jacksonville, where they still reside, together, in the home built by their parents.
Benita attended the University of Kentucky and later the University of Florida. She retired from BellSouth Advertising and Publishing after 32 years. An ardent gardener and member of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, she routinely volunteers to arrange flowers in the foyer.
Jimmy managed an electric company of 150 employees that specialized in commercial and heavy industrial contracting, and later assumed the presidency of the family-owned Jacksonville Baseball Exhibition Company, which had become a land-holding company.
Jimmy and Benita have traveled extensively through five continents and developed an interest in land management and preservation. They became aware of 4-H through high school friends. Their friendship with St. Johns County forester Greg Dunn, who is actively involved in 4-H, led to their involvement in the organization.
Today, their estate planning includes 4-H and it is their wish that one day, the “Jimmy and Benita S. Boyd St. Johns County 4-H Endowment” will provide much-needed support to the St. Johns County 4-H Program for youth development where their legacy to Florida 4-H will continue for future generations.
IFAS Industry Partner Award
The Florida State Beekeepers Association started in Gainesville in 1920 with just 100 members and the goal of providing rapid improvement in the Florida beekeeping industry. Today, with more than 800 members from across the state, the association remains dedicated to keeping Florida apiculture strong and healthy.
In an effort to find solutions to the challenges facing honeybees and other pollinators, the Florida State Beekeepers Association is working to bring a world-class Honey Bee Research and Education Lab to UF/IFAS. Members raised $3.2 million for the Bee Lab through extraordinary fundraising efforts and by lobbying the Florida legislature. Together, the Bee Lab and the Florida State Beekeepers Association will ensure that Florida’s beekeeping industry continues to rank among the best in the nation today and for future generations.
by Beverly James, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences