Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Each year at Homecoming, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy presents its Distinguished Alumni Award. Listed below are previous winners along with a short description of their achievements.
Although his life and work are truly international in scope, this year’s Distinguished Alumnus, Mark Ellis, still finds time to share his wealth of knowledge and experience with students back here at his alma mater. A 1979 graduate of the College of Social Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mark earned his J.D. degree from the FSU College of Law in 1984. His work has taken him all over the world since then, but he still team teaches a course in International Human Rights Law at the FSU College of Law.
As executive director of the International Bar Association (IBA) in London, Mark leads the foremost international organization of bar associations, law firms and individual lawyers in the world. Prior to that, he was the director of the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative. The two-time Fulbright Scholar is a frequent speaker and media commentator on international legal issues, appearing regularly on CNN International, Al Jazeera and the BBC. He has published extensively in the areas of international humanitarian law, war crimes tribunals, and the development of the rule of law. His op-eds have appeared in newspapers throughout the world. His most recent book, Sovereignty and Justice: Creating Domestic War Crimes Courts within the Principle of Complementarity, will be released this year.
Mark draws on this impressive background to deliver excellent lectures—either in person or via Skype—to the survey course he teaches, augmented by his personal experiences as well as his high reputation as a scholar focused on international criminal courts. And it’s not only FSU law students who benefit from his expertise. The course also attracts College of Social Science graduate students and law students from around the world, recruited and supported by the IBA, thanks to Mark’s initiative. This mix has greatly enriched the learning experience by fostering exchanges between students of different nations and cultures, according to his teaching partner, FSU President Emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte.
“Mark Ellis has provided great leadership in human rights education,” says Dr. D’Alemberte. “The work he did in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, developing material for the education of lawyers and judges, provided a basic text on human rights that has facilitated the development of other courses beyond the one taught at FSU.”
Mark is currently at work on an exciting new project that significantly impacts the way human rights abuses and atrocities and other such international crimes are documented for more secure and verifiable use by media outlets and courts. Social media and smartphone technology have become important new tools for sharing real-time news and first-hand accounts of world events, but because uploaded photos and videos are rarely attributed and verifiable and do not include information such as the date, time, geographical coordinates, participants, etc., they are likely to be rejected or given little weight in courts. The IBA iWitness Project aims to provide a solution to this challenge with a user-friendly app easily downloaded to smartphones and designed specifically to record and transmit evidence of international crimes while securely protecting the identity of the person recording. The material is then securely sent to an iWitness database and reviewed by a professional legal team.
We’re proud to note that a career of such high accomplishment got its start here at the College, and we welcome Mark to our honor roll of distinguished alumni.
Steven Lawry accepted a Peace Corps assignment to Botswana after receiving his B.S. (Political Science ’73) and master’s degree (Urban and Regional Planning ‘75). He could not know how that decision would ultimately transform him into a citizen of the world.
Steve earned a Ph.D. (’88) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Steve is a specialist in land tenure and property rights issues. He is particularly concerned with how property rights arrangements affect income distribution, economic growth, and patterns of investment in agriculture and good land stewardship. During his career Steve alternated between academic and research appointments and leadership positions in government, nonprofit and private sector development organizations. He has lived and worked overseas for 16 years on long-term postings and performed many short-term consulting assignments in developing countries.
In 1988 he became associate director for Africa programs at the University of Wisconsin’s Land Tenure Center. From 1992 until 2005 he held three senior positions at the Ford Foundation, including head of Ford’s office in Namibia, from where he directed grant support for South Africa’s post-apartheid land reform initiatives. He subsequently headed the foundation’s Office for the Middle East and North Africa in Cairo, and directed Ford’s Office of Management Services at its New York headquarters.
Steve served as President of Antioch College (2006-07) and joined the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as Senior Research Fellow in 2008. In 2010 he headed the USAID-funded Sudan Property Rights Program. Based in Juba, this project helped the new nation of South Sudan develop a national land policy. He currently manages the Land Tenure and Property Rights program at Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a consulting group based in Bethesda, MD, and continues to maintain a part-time appointment at the Kennedy School, where he helps manage a research program on civil society in the Middle East.
The College’s mission statement says that, “We prepare our students for meaningful careers, advanced professional training, and an active role in public life.” Steve’s career clearly reflects these values. We welcome him to the College’s honor roll of distinguished alumni.
Col. Lettie Bien is a truly a distinguished alum. After earning her B.S degree in political science, her career has been characterized by service to our country, continuous professional development , and engagement in her community. Ms. Bien retired in 2007 as an Army Colonel (USAR); a civil affairs officer who completed her career assigned to a policy office in the Pentagon. During her 30 years of combined active duty and reserve service, COL Bien served for almost a year as the US Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals in Baghdad, Iraq. During her service there she served as a civilian Highly Qualified Expert for the Commander of Multi-National Corps- Iraq. As Special Advisor, her portfolio included the issues of Economic Development, Rule of Law and Women’s Initiatives. Other military positions held during her career include Battalion Commander, Assistant Inspector General- 82nd Airborne Division, South Florida Area Coordinator for Admissions at West Point and a special active duty assignment as the Relocation Director for the move of the US Southern Command from the Republic of Panama to Miami. She is a lifetime and active member of numerous professional military and Veteran organizations. She has received the Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
Lettie’s distinguished career includes advanced degrees, civilian employment and active service to her community. She has earned an M.S. in Public Administration and Management from Webster University and a J.D. from the University of Miami. A process improvement advocate, she has her Six Sigma Green Belt certification from Villanova University. She was the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Investor Solutions, an independent, fee-only investment management firm in Miami and has practiced law with a major law firm and her own private practice. She held the position of President/CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce She currently is a project consultant for various private and public sector entities.
Lettie has served as the past chairman of the Military Affairs Council of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and is a founding member of the Miami-Dade Defense Alliance, an organization that obtains funding for military projects in Miami-Dade County. Ms. Bien is a frequent speaker on the topic of community economic development, privatization of foreign state controlled enterprises and US military and Veterans issues. She has been an active member of numerous organizations which include the International Women’s Forum, the DISCOVER Orange Bowl Committee, and Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
She is married to Dr. David Schmitt, an Internist/Infectious Disease Specialist. Their daughter, Maggie, lives in Madrid, Spain.
Harry Lerner is in the midst of a distinguished career in real estate development that began with a BS degree in Economics (1982) and an MS in Urban and Regional Planning (1984).
After graduating from FSU, Harry went to work as a planner for the City of Jacksonville where he was responsible for generating demographic information and monitoring development trends in the region. In 1986 he moved to the private sector where he served as a Planning Project Manager for a number of firms engaged in single-use and mixed use development throughout Florida. Subsequent experience in large scale residential projects, land development operations, and commercial property sales led to his appointment as President of the Maxcy Development Group, Inc. of Tampa.
He is now is responsible for providing asset management services to over $300 million in real estate assets that include over 12,000 home sites in 15 different communities and over 200 acres of commercial property, multifamily, and office developments. He has been active in the Association of Florida Community Developers and the Urban Land Institute.
Department chair Tim Chapin says that “Harry has been one of Urban and Regional Planning’s most successful graduates in the area of real estate development and community building. Beyond working to create attractive, well-planned, sustainable new communities in different areas of the state, Harry has been an innovator in the area of real estate finance, helping many projects weather the recent economic recession. Harry has also been a great friend of the Department, always willing to meet with faculty and share his expertise with students.”
Currently, senior principal in the law firm of Holcomb & Mayts in Tampa. Along with brother John and mother Virginia Holcomb Kaul he serves as a Trustee of The Kaul Foundation, which was established in 1995 to continue the legacy of Ralph Kaul one of the principal developers of Tampa for nearly 40 years after World War 11.
Currently, a partner with the law firm of Hill, Ward, & Henderson in Tampa. He also currently serves as the National President of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). With brother Vic and mother Virginia Holcomb Kaul he serves as a Trustee of The Kaul Foundation.
Clyda & George Rent
Clyda S. Rent spent 17 years at Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina and is now President Emerita of Mississippi University for Women, serving from 1989 to 2001. George S. Rent was on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Associate Provost at Mississippi State University, and has been a consultant to the U.S. Office of Higher Education, the National Science Foundation, and United Family Services in Charlotte. Clyda and George are now the principals of the Rent Consulting Group, dedicated to assisting in the processes of discovering and fulfilling the potential of organizations and individuals.
Professor Emeritus of Journalism, School of Communication, American University. Professional Journalist, Author, and Retired Colonel, US Army Reserves. Professional background includes: reporter, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago and Washington bureaus; reporter, Gainesville (GA) Times; Tallahassee bureau chief, Miami News and Palm Beach Times; international lecturer U.S. State Department; co-editor, Reporting on Business and the Economy; producing Pulitzer Prize Editorials: America's Best Editorial Writing, 1917-1993, The Economics of the American Newspaper; and contributor Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, Journalism Educator.
Thomas M. Culligan
Executive vice president of Business Development for Raytheon Company and CEO of Raytheon International, Inc. Culligan earned a bachelor’s degree in government and a master’s degree in public administration at Florida State University./span>
Janice Kaminis Platt
Hillsborough County Commissioner for 24 years. Among her many interests, Jan K. Platt is a fervent advocate for libraries and the environment. FSU Graduate (1958) with a degree in Political Science. While here she was Student V.P., Pres. of the Student Senate, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Kappa, Garnet Key, Mortar Board, Hall of Fame, and Outstanding Senior Woman. Her career has epitomized integrity in public service.
Former President, Facilities Division, Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls provides automotive interiors, products and services that optimize energy usage in buildings and batteries for automobiles and hybrid electric vehicles, along with related systems engineering, marketing and service expertise. The Company operates in three businesses: building efficiency, automotive experience and power solutions.
Manuel H. Johnson
Senior Partner Johnson Smick International, Former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1986-90), Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (1982-86).
Dr. Carl Blackwell
Formerly, Interim Chancellor of the Florida Board of Education, Division of Colleges and Universities, Dr. Blackwell joined the staff of the Florida Board of Regents as Associate Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budgeting in 1979. He became Vice Chancellor in 1984, and was named Executive Vice Chancellor in 2001. Former Associate State Budget Director and Chief of the Bureau of Budgeting in the Department of Administration.
Barbara W. White
Dean of the School of Social Work. University of Texas (Austin). Former Associate Dean School of Social Work Florida State University
Photo by State Archives of Florida
Alan Sundberg was born in Jacksonville and graduated from FSU in 1955. He practiced law in St. Petersburg for 17 years before Governor Reubin Askew appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1975. Sundberg served until 1982 and was chief justice from 1980-82. He was a member of the FSU Board of Trustees and one of the most highly regarded appellate lawyers in the state. He was a positive force for the court, the state, and the nation, and his life was dedicated to service to others.
Investment banker for 18 years, serving as Managing Director of Lehman Brothers. Mr.Greenfield served as: Chairman, State of Florida Preservation Advisory Council; President, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation; and President, Florida Education Foundation, Board of Trustees, Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota); and Board of Directors, Bonnet House Museum (Ft. Lauderdale.)
Founder of Biltmore Advisors, Inc. and independent investment advisory firm. She has more than 25 years of experience in strategic investment management and financial planning.
Former President and CEO of MCM Financial Corp. and the Benefit Marketing Group.
Former Publisher of Florida Trend magazine, one of the oldest and most respected regional business publications in North America, Lynda Keever is the only woman to serve in that position in the magazine's 43-year history. She currently serves as a board member of Enterprise Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Collins Center for Public Policy, the Florida Education Foundation and the Florida Council on Economic Education. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the Florida State University Foundation and Leadership Florida, and is a member of the Florida Economic Development Council.
Peter F. Romero
CEO of Experior Advisory, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Former Assistant Secretary of State of the new Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, Former Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador.
President of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Former Chancellor North Carolina Central University.
Professor Emeritus Virginia Tech
Reubin O'D. Askew
37th Governor of the State of Florida (1971-79), Former U.S. Trade Representative under President Jimmy Carter, Elected to the Florida House of Representatives (1958), Elected to the Florida Senate (1962).
59th Governor of the State of Maryland., 4th Prince George’s County Executive (1983-94).
Currently staff director for the Senate Rules committee. Formerly, chief of staff in both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives. Formerly, staff director of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. He served as staff director of the Rules Committee in both chambers of the Legislature. He served in the executive branch as the Governor’s director of the Office of Planning and Budgeting.