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Press Release for Thursday, October 11, 2012

UNF Alumni Association Recognizes Exceptional Alums

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director 

Department of Public Relations 

(904) 620-2102 




The University of North Florida Alumni Association will recognize several exceptional alums and friends for their exemplary service and contributions to UNF during its annual Alumni Recognition Dinner at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Adam W. Herbert University Center on campus.  


The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award will be presented to Dr. Robert Graham, executive director of the Children’s Resiliency Project in Ashburton, South Africa. The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is the highest award given to a UNF graduate by the Alumni Association and recognizes alumni who have made a significant contribution to his or her profession, community and/or society, having consistently maintained the pursuit of excellence as a representative and graduate of the University. 


“I’m grateful to have been chosen to receive this achievement award from the University. Though I do not feel worthy to be among the most distinguished alumni of this great institution, I trust that I can serve as a good representative of all graduates who have accomplished great things for the communities in which they reside,” said Graham. 


Graham has dedicated his life to serving others and heads the Children’s Resiliency Project, a researched-based, non-profit foundation that he founded in 2005. The project exists to improve the quality of life for children orphaned from the AIDS epidemic. He maintains offices in both South Africa and Jacksonville. 


In 2006, Graham moved his family to South Africa to help the country with its massive orphan population, currently 1.9 million. Two years later, he started the Children’s Resiliency Project, which coordinates education, social services and religious education needs of children, as well as provides a safe and caring environment that promotes their growth and development as productive citizens. Today, there is a children’s village consisting of nine homes that house six children each. African parents or grandparents are placed into the village homes to raise the children in a family setting.  


The 2012 Honorary Alumni Awards will also be presented during the recognition dinner. This year’s recipients include Douglas Baer, Gilchrist Berg and Robert Tonsfeldt. 


 Baer has been a supporter of UNF and the Brooks College of Health for more than 15 years. He serves as president and CEO of Brooks Health System and in 2006, the Brooks Foundation made a multi-million dollar gift to name the Brooks College of Health at the University. This generous gift established six endowments, the earnings of which support nursing and physical therapy education at UNF in perpetuity. The gift also includes scholarships for students and faculty research professorships. He continues to provide clinical internships, which provide students with real-life experiences. Baer has also been a member of the Dean’s Council in the Brooks College of Health for more than eight years, serving as chair for the past two years.  


Berg has demonstrated a deep sense of commitment to UNF through his philanthropic giving and long-term commitment to the teaching profession. In 1998, he approached the UNF College of Education and Human Services about creating awards that would recognize outstanding educators. Berg then developed two programs: the Gladys Prior Award for demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching over an entire career and the Gladys Roddenberry Fellowships, which provide graduate fellowships to teachers in the early years of their careers. Berg has also been instrumental in regular support of the World Affairs Council lecture series, a vehicle by which UNF partners with community leaders to engage citizens. 


Tonsfeldt is a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council in the UNF College of Arts and Sciences and has also served as a member of the Fine Arts Center board. He has made a significant financial investment in the Music Flagship Program and has provided ongoing support of UNF’s opera program. He also created the Tonsfeldt Music Scholarship, which supports UNF students pursuing a degree in classical music. Additionally, through Tonsfeldt’s gift to the Gerson Yessin Distinguished Professorship in Classic Studies, he has enabled outstanding music faculty members to bring renowned guest artists to campus to teach master classes and to perform. 


Additional awards to be presented are the Young Alumni Award and Outstanding Alumni Awards. UNF alumna Naomi Kouri will receive the Young Alumni Award, while six graduates will receive the Outstanding Alumni Awards. The recipients are as follows: 


Brooks College of Health: Ann Sabbag 

Coggin College of Business: Nathaniel Herring 

College of Arts and Sciences: Honorable Dawn Hudson 

College of Computing, Engineering and Construction: Glenn Layton 

College of Education and Human Services: Timothy Kenney 

Student Affairs: Deborah Johnson