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Distinguished Alumni Award

Each year at Homecoming, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy presents its Distinguished Alumni Award for professional achievements, contributions to society, and support of the university.

2016: Susan MacManus

For Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida and this year’s recipient of the college’s Distinguished Alumna Award, Florida State was the university so nice she came here twice! The choice was really a no-brainer for someone with such deep FSU and native Floridian roots. Her mother and two aunts attended here when it was still Florida State College for Women, and Susan lives in the home once belonging to her grandfather, a German immigrant, citrus industry pioneer, and the first permanent settler of Lutz.

After receiving her B.A. with honors at FSU in 1968, in what was then known as government (now political science), she went on to get her master’s in the discipline a year later at the University of Michigan. She then took a position teaching at Valencia Community College in Orlando. That school had a program to fund summer studies for faculty members to expand the knowledge they brought back to the classroom, allowing Susan to take courses in urban planning and political science research methods at FSU. During that time, she met the mentor who would change her life. Political Science Professor Thomas Dye was impressed with her work and scholarship and the following year asked her to come back as his research assistant. She stayed on to earn her doctorate in 1975.

“Over my professional career, no one has been more of an influence than Dr. Dye, a phenomenal professor who pushed each of us to expand our thinking and quantitative skills,” she says. “He and I have since co-authored several leading textbooks, and to this day, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study with him.”

What Dr. MacManus has done with that brilliant start is the substance of a distinguished career that makes her our choice for this year’s honor: an award-winning teacher and holder of a distinguished professorship at USF; Fulbright Research Scholar; expert witness before the U.S. Supreme Court on redistricting cases; author of numerous books and articles, including two local histories she wrote with her mother about Pasco County, where she grew up; and an in-demand political analyst and commentator, a skill that has kept her very busy this election year.

Her interest in the American political process began early; as a young girl she was enthralled by televised political conventions. Her parents were avid newspaper readers, and the family frequently had dinner table discussions – often heated – about politics and current events. When she came to FSU, there was never any doubt in her mind what she would study.

The university’s location in the capital city also made a big difference. She often soaked in the atmosphere and activities of Tallahassee’s government complex and once rented an apartment from Leila Cofield, a longtime state employee who drafted numerous resolutions, proclamations, and other documents for the Florida Senate. Years later, MacManus dedicated a book to Cofield and another influential political science professor, Daisy Parker Flory. It was only then that she found out Cofield had never gone beyond high school.

“I was stunned,” she says. “But it taught me the importance of loving what you do and continuing to educate yourself throughout your life.”

Starting her education here the first year FSU was racially integrated, she also got her first insights into the racial and ethnic politics that have been such an important part of Florida history and a focus of much of her research.

“Today, there is no better state in which to study the nation’s changing demographics than Florida,” says Susan, who recently completed a book on Florida’s Minority Trailblazers (University of Florida Press, 2016). “It was my privilege to interview nearly 50 of these trailblazers in state and national politics dating from the 1960s – the era of the civil rights movement and the court-imposed redistricting principle of one person, one vote – to the present.”

Her student years weren’t only about hitting the books. Susan loved her time in the Marching Chiefs. “I never had to worry about where to sit or what to wear to the games,” she jokes. But she has no doubt that her career and life would not have been what it has without the education she received at FSU.

“Every time I return to Tallahassee for political-related purposes, I still drive around campus and fondly remember my days as a student. Back home, my goal is to try to give my USF students the same high quality of teaching and mentoring that my FSU professors gave to me. Once a Nole, always a Nole!”


2015: Ed Moore (M.S. Public Administration '76, Ph.D. Public Administration '07): President, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida; former president and CEO, James Madison Institute; former executive director, Broward County Community Mental Health Board; Fulbright SpecialistFlorida Advisory Council for U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

2014: Gordon Gaster (B.S. Economics '58): Financial consultant, Florida State University Foundation trustee and vice chair, FSU Alumni Association president, founder of the Gordon D. Gaster Endowment Fund supporting the Gus Stavros Center for Economic Education and its Economic Literacy Initiative, 2010 Circle of Gold honoree

2013: Mark Ellis (B.A. Economics '79): Executive Director of International Bar Association, director of American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, Fulbright Scholar, media commentator, author

2012: Stephen Lawry (B.S. Political Science '73, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '75): Global Practice Lead for Land Tenure and Property Rights at consulting group Development Alternatives, Inc., president Antioch College, associate director for Africa programs at University of Wisconsin Land Tenure Center, director Ford Foundation Office of Management Services

2011: Lettie Bien (B.S. Political Science '76): Retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, Senior Adviser to Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals, South Florida Area Coordinator for Admissions at West Point, recipient of Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award

2010: Harry Lerner (B.S. Economics '82, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '84): President of Maxcy Development Group, Inc., member of Association of Florida Community Developers and Urban Land Institute, City of Jacksonville planner, planning project manager for private firms

2009: Victor Holcomb (B.S. Economics '76): Senior principal Holcomb & Mayts law firm, trustee Kaul Foundation; and John Holcomb (B.S. Political Science '77): Partner with Hill, Ward, & Henderson law firm, National President of American Board of Trial Advocates, trustee Kaul Foundation

2008: Clyda S. Rent (B.A. Sociology '64, M.S. Sociology '66, Ph.D. Sociology '68): President Emerita of Mississippi University for Women; and George Rent (Ph.D. Sociology '68): Associate Provost at Mississippi State University; faculty at University of North Carolina at Charlotte; consultant to U.S. Office of Higher Education, National Science Foundation, and United Family Services

2007: Laird Anderson (B.S. International Affairs '58): Professor Emeritus of Journalism, School of Communication, American University; retired Colonel, US Army Reserves; reporter for Wall Street Journal, Chicago and Washington bureaus; Tallahassee bureau chief, Miami News and Palm Beach Times; international lecturer U.S. State Department

2006: Thomas M. Culligan (B.S. Political Science '73, M.P.A. Public Administration '77), M.S. Public Administration): Executive Vice President of Business Development for Raytheon Company, CEO of Raytheon International, Inc.

2005: Janice Kaminis Platt (B.S. Political Science '58): Hillsborough County Commissioner

2004: Mark Filteau (M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '76): President, Facilities Division, Johnson Controls

2003: Manuel H. Johnson (M.S. Economics '75, Ph.D. Economics '77): Senior Partner Johnson Smick International; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (1982-86); vice chair Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System (1986-90);

2002: Carl Blackwell (B.S. Education '58, M.S. Political Science '59): Interim Chancellor of Florida Board of Education, Associate Vice Chancellor of of Planning and Budgeting of Florida Board of Regents, Associate State Budget Director and Chief of Bureau of Budgeting in Department of Administration

2001: Barbara W. White (B.A. Geography '65): Dean of School of Social Work,University of Texas (Austin); Associate Dean School of Social Work, Florida State University

2000: Alan Sundberg (B.S. Political Science '55): Florida Supreme Court Justice 1975-1982, Chief Justice 1980-82.

1999: Arnold Greenfield (B.S. Social Sciences '58): Investment banker, managing director of Lehman Brothers, Chair of Florida Preservation Advisory Council

1998: Barby Barone (B.S. Political Science '69, M.S. Political Science '70): Founder of Biltmore Advisers Inc., strategic investment management and financial planning

1997: Melvin Magidson (B.S. Economics '48, M.S. Economics '49): President and CEO of MCM Financial Corp.; and Lynda Keever (B.S. Political Science '69): Publisher of Florida Trend magazine; board member of Florida Chamber of Commerce, Leroy Collins Center, Florida Education Foundation, Florida Council on Economic Education; Board of Trustees Florida State University and Leadership Florida

1996: Peter F. Romero (M.A. International Affairs '72): CEO Experior Advisory, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, Chief of Mission for U.S. Embassy in San Salvador

1995: James Ammons (M.S. Political Science '75, Ph.D. Political Science '77): President of Florida A&M University, Chancellor of North Carolina Central University

1994: Alan Bayer (M.S. Sociology '63, Ph.D. Sociology '65): Professor Emeritus Virgina Tech; and Reuben O’D. Askew (B.S. Public Administration '51): 37th Governor of Florida (1971-79)

1993: Parris Glendening (B.A. Political Science '64, M.A. Political Science '65, Ph.D. Political Sceince '67): 59th Governor of Maryland

1992: David Coburn (B.S. Political Science '73, M.S. Urban and Regional Planning '77): Chief of staff in Florida House and Senate; staff director of Senate Rules Committee, Senate Ways and Means Committee, House Appropriations Committee