'Most Powerful' List Features Many With UCF Ties

‘Most Powerful’ List Features Many With UCF Ties

Orlando magazine’s 2016 list of the region’s 50 most powerful people recognized several University of Central Florida leaders and alumni this week.

The July edition of the magazine for the first time divides the 13th-annual list into categories, ranging from government and politics to philanthropy and community voices.

In the EDUCATION category, the top spot on the list is held by UCF President John C. Hitt, while second on the list is Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, a UCF alumna.

Orlando magazine noted that Hitt, UCF’s president since 1992, recently gained state approval for the university to build a downtown campus that will serve about 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students. Also within the past year, he was ranked in the top 10 of America’s Most Innovative College Presidents by Washington Monthly, and the university was selected as one of the most innovative institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Jenkins, who has three education degrees from UCF, including her doctorate in ’96, is entering her fifth year as superintendent of the nation’s 10th largest public school district. Seven of the district’s schools were named to U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools for 2016. The Florida Diversity Council also named Jenkins as 2016’s Most Powerful and Influential Woman.

At No. 5 on the list is Tom Kuntz, chair of the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities. The retired SunTrust Bank executive is active in several other civic boards.

Listed at No. 7 is Sean Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness in the College of Business Administration. Snaith is a widely recognized economist in business and economic forecasting, the housing market, consumer issues and federal economic policy.

In GOVERNMENT and POLITICS, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner is listed at No. 6, and Marcos Marchena, chairman of UCF’s Board of Trustees, is No. 7.

Orlando magazine noted that under Gardiner’s watch, legislators approved the UCF Downtown campus. He also was instrumental in leading state legislation that helped create the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, which is housed at UCF. Gardiner is senior vice president of Orlando Health.

Marchena, as chairman of the trustees, worked diligently to win state approval for the UCF Downtown project. He is managing shareholder in Marchena and Graham and is general counsel for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Also, Patty Sheehan, who graduated with an art degree in ’87, has been an Orlando city commissioner since 2000.

In TOURISM and TRANSPORTATION, hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen and Walt Disney World president George A. Kalogridis hold the top two spots.

Rosen, founder of Rosen Hotels & Resorts and owner of seven hotels, was instrumental in the creation of UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The college was developed in part through his initial donation of $18 million in money and land for the campus that opened in 2004. Rosen also is a former member of the UCF Board of Trustees.

Kalogridis, a ’76 sciences graduate at UCF, leads the largest single-site employer in the country with 74,000 cast members. Disney World helped local causes last year by contributing $5.6 million as well as $38 million of in-kind support.

Also, at No. 7 is Rich Maladecki, president/CEO of the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association and a UCF adjunct faculty member in the College of Health and Public Affairs.

In ENTERTAINMENT and THE ARTS, UCF alumnus and Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins is listed at No. 2. Martins, who earned an MBA from UCF in 2001, also sits on the UCF Board of Trustees. He is in the College of Business Administration’s Hall of Fame and serves on the Dean’s Executive Council.

In BUSINESS, UCF alumnus and Tavistock Group senior managing director Rasesh Thakkar is listed at No. 2. Thakkar earned his business administration degree in ’84. Tavistock’s development projects in Lake Nona include construction of the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus, which will be the eventual home of UCF’s tennis teams.

In PHILANTHROPY and COMMUNITY VOICES, former Florida Rep. Dick J. Batchelor, a ’71 graduate in sciences, is actively involved in numerous social causes, including homelessness, domestic violence and children.

Orlando magazine also named 15 PEOPLE TO WATCH in Central Florida, including five with UCF ties:

  • Joe Kilsheimer, a ’79 journalism graduate, is mayor of Apopka, Orange County’s second-largest city.
  • Albert Manero, a UCF engineering graduate student and founder of Limbitless Solutions, received the governor’s top volunteer award in December. Limbitless is a nonprofit team of students and alumni working on next-generation bionics, such as the 3-D printed bioinic arms they have provided to children around the world.
  • Cole NeSmith, a ’07 graduate in interdisciplinary studies and pastor of the nondenominational City Beautiful Church, is the driving force behind the Creative City Project, an annual showcase of art and performances downtown.
  • Ken Robinson is president of Dr. Phillips Charities, which donated $3 million for the UCF Downtown campus.
  • Thad Seymour, named in May as vice provost for UCF Downtown, initially joined UCF last year as senior advisor to the Collective Impact Strategic Planning process, which will help set the university’s trajectory for the next two decades. Previously, Seymour was senior vice president at Tavistock Development Co.