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UNF Alumni Association proudly recognizes alumni for outstanding service

The University of North Florida Alumni Association will honor several notable graduates for their exemplary service and contributions to UNF during its annual Alumni Recognition Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 17, at the University Center.

Honorees include Ed Jones, president & CEO of Houston Methodist Research Institute, chief business officer of Houston Methodist Academic Institute and senior vice president of Houston Methodist; Vanessa Fluery, development manager at Genspace and founder/director of Carl’s Village; Sichao Ni, commercial diplomat for the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Tony Marinatos, director of Chartwell Capital.

“A true measure of a university’s greatness is grounded in the achievements of its alumni,” says Jessica Cummings, president of the University’s Alumni Association. “Any institutions’ alumni are key to its growth, and our alumni list is truly impressive. Many of them have gained honorable distinction and excelled in their profession and contribution to their communities. We are proud to have these recipients represent our University.”

Headshot of Ed JonesJones is the recipient of the highest honor that a UNF graduate can receive from the Alumni Association, the Distinguished Alumni Award.  This award recognizes alumni who have made a significant contribution to their profession, community and/or society, having consistently maintained the pursuit of excellence as a representative and graduate of the University.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award,” Jones shared. “UNF has provided me with the foundation to be successful by challenging me academically and allowing me to grow personally. UNF provided a unique blend of academic excellence and ‘grit & determination’ that when coupled with the support from family, friends and colleagues, proves that anything is possible.”

In 2005, Jones founded the Houston Methodist Research Institute and under his leadership and more than 25 years of academic biomedical research experience, the Institute has achieved status of a top 20 independent research institute within the first decade of operations. Jones is a member of numerous influential organizations, including the Medstar Health Research Institute Board of Directors, a chairman of MHRI’s Regulatory and Research Integrity Oversight Committee, a member of the External Advisory Board for the University of Texas Medical Branch, and a board member of Texan by Nature. Jones works with academic administrators at UNF to engage undergraduate students studying biological sciences, natural sciences, public health, nursing, and other majors through meaningful internship experiences in research, with intention of providing students with a rich experience in a world class research setting. Together with his wife Sara Lynn, a three-time UNF graduate, they recently established The Edward and Sara Lynn Jones Endowed Scholarship for Nursing, designed to financially support nursing students with a law-enforcement or military affiliation.

Headshot of Vanessa FleuryVanessa Fleury is the recipient of the Alumni Service Award, presented to alumni who have demonstrated continuous outstanding volunteer service to the University and/or meritorious public service. Vanessa’s professional years of service started with two years in AmeriCorps, where she was awarded the City of Miami Mayor’s Service Award. Upon relocating to New York, she served with Friends of Firefighters to provide free mental health and wellness services to the FDNY community. She now works for Genspace NYC, a community biology lab that provides access to all. In addition, she has created her own nonprofit organization, Carl’s Village, as a tribute to her grandfather, which provides tutoring and after school programs for primary and secondary school children in Haiti. Over the last three years, her organization has provided over 700 tutoring hours, 12,00 meals, and 2,000 school supplies. Fleury stays connected to UNF through the Black Alumni Association, through which she has worked to plan networking forums and Black alumni achievement awards.

Headshot of Sichao NiSichao Ni is the recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award, presented for outstanding professional achievement, contributions to the community and exemplary service to the University. Ni in an American commercial diplomat and represents the United States at the nexus of international business and international relations. Ni earned his MBA and dual BBAs in economics and international business with dual minors in finance and public administration from UNF. In addition, he has a MA in international relations from American University with a concentration in U.S. foreign policy and national security. For seven years, Ni worked in the medical technology industry, holding various commercial and regulatory roles with Medtronic. He has also served as a member of the United States Foreign Service with the U.S. Department of State in Guangzhou, China. Ni meets regularly with UNF students who are interested in applying the U.S. Foreign Service. He was recently invited to speak at the UNF Global Engagement event, where he spoke with students about bilateral tensions between the U.S. and China created by the pandemic.

Headshot of Tony MarinatosTony Marinatos is the recipient of the Honorary Alumni award, given to friends and supporters for exemplary service to the University. Marinatos serves on the Foundation Board of Directors as well as being a member of the Audit, Finance, and Investment Committees, the Executive Committee, the Osprey Club and the ITS Board. His involvement with UNF began when his oldest son John graduated from UNF in 2002 and grew when his youngest son Derek was hired as the University’s men’s soccer coach in 2010. Tony is a contributor whose gifts span across a variety of campus initiatives, including Osprey men’s soccer, the annual Fore Scholarships Golf Classic, the UNF Foundation, the Osprey Club, and most recently in support of UNF’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Since making his first contribution over a decade ago, Tony has given nearly 80 separate gifts to UNF. In addition to his influential roles at the University, Marinatos is also a dedicated community volunteer, who serves on the boards for Seven Bridges Radio and the Association for Corporate Growth.