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UNF Strategic Communications Director Mary Kelli Palka awarded Equal Justice Award

Mary Kelli Palka HeadshotMary Kelli Palka, University of North Florida’s director of strategic communications, was honored at the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s (JALA) 21st Equal Justice Awards ceremony this week.  

Palka received the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award, named for a former JALA board member and dedicated supporter. The award recognizes a person or organization who has notably promoted the cause of equal justice for low-income residents of Northeast Florida. This year’s other award recipient was Gunster Jacksonville shareholder Mike Freed.  

Prior to joining UNF, Palka served as executive editor of The Florida Times-Union from 2017 to 2022. The first woman and first Jacksonville native to lead the Times-Union, she spent nearly two decades at the paper, which she joined in 2003 as a news reporter. Palka served as Gannett’s market leader for Jacksonville and deputy regional editor in Florida, overseeing newsrooms in Daytona Beach, Gainesville, St. Augustine, Ocala and Leesburg, as well as Jacksonville. 

“Mary Kelli Palka has served our community for decades as a journalist and media executive whose roots in Jacksonville made her a passionate advocate for those whose stories often revealed the failures of our institutions, including the justice system,” said JALA CEO Jim Kowalski, who shared his gratitude for her pursuit of the truth.  

Palka’s honor is one among many. She was the recipient of the inaugural Mark Landen Memorial Award – Journalism for Democracy from Read USA in 2020, recognized as a Girl Scouts of Gateway Council Women of Distinction honoree in 2018, named GateHouse Media’s Editor of the Year for 2017 and was recipient of the William S. Morris III Dedication Award from the Morris Publishing Group in 2015.