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Press Release for Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Best of the Best UNF Alums Recognized During Annual Awards Ceremony

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director

Department of Public Relations

(904) 620-2102

The University of North Florida Alumni Association announces the recipients of its alumni awards, honoring several notable graduates for exemplary service and contributions to the University during its annual Alumni Recognition Dinner and Awards Ceremony, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the Adam W. Herbert University Center, Board of Trustees Room, Room 1058, on campus.


"The UNF Alumni Association is proud of the 80,000 alumni worldwide who continue to achieve great success in their professions while supporting the communities they serve," said Greg Corcoran, president of the UNF Alumni Association Board. "Our current recipients continue that tradition by setting examples that reflect most favorably on our University and its graduates."


Honorees include Dr. Debra Harrison, assistant professor of nursing for Mayo Clinic's College of Medicine; Tyler Morris, Independent Living Resource Center director; Judith Eisen, retired human resources professional; Dr. Walter Graham Jr., retired dermatologist; and Gerald Hurst, owner of Awards Unlimited Inc.


Harrison, a Southside resident, is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, the highest award given to a UNF graduate by the Alumni Association. 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 honored to be receiving this prestigious award from the Alumni Association. UNF, the faculty, staff and colleagues have all played an important part in my life both professionally and personally," she said. "I value the long-term relationships I have developed because of that and so appreciate what a special place it is."


Harrison has spent nearly 40 years with the Mayo Clinic organization, serving as chief nursing officer for the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville campus from 2006-2016, where she led Mayo Clinic Florida to achieve the nationally acclaimed designation of Magnet Status. Recognized as an expert in the field of nursing, Harrison's commitment to community is reflected in the educational and informative presentations she has given over the years in various community settings, contributions to research studies and keynote addresses. She's received several awards, including the Nursing Excellence in Leadership award from the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and Great 100 Nurses of Florida and Northeast Florida.


UNF nursing students at all levels have benefitted from clinical site opportunities made available through Harrison's efforts, relationships and renowned career. Her further commitment to the University is illustrated in her role as an adjunct assistant professor and guest lecturer for nursing and health administration graduate students in the Brooks College of Health.


Morris, who lives in Riverside, is the recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award, presented for outstanding professional achievement, contributions to the community and exemplary service to the University. He began assisting people with disabilities in 1996 at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf. Morris has served on several community boards, including as chairperson for the Mayor's Disability Council, president of the American Advertising Federation - Jacksonville Chapter and marketing chair of Riverside Avondale Preservation. He's received several awards, such as the 2017 EverBank Builds Community Champion and the 2014 City of Jacksonville's Community Service and Leadership Award.


Eisen, a resident on the Southside, 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. She serves on the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville Board of Trustees and UNF College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Leadership Council. Eisen's impact has been felt by students through her support of the Department of Art and Design in the form of guest lectures, print/painting donations and creating new opportunities. As a long-serving member of the Dean's Leadership Council, she has provided guidance and supported students. Eisen was also instrumental in the COAS dean search process during the 2016-17 academic year.


Graham, an Atlantic Beach resident, is a recipient of the Honorary Alumni Award, given to friends and supporters for exemplary service to the University. He was one of the founding members of the Thomas G. Carpenter Library Dean's Leadership Council. Since 2007, Graham and his wife, Cynthia, have been actively involved with the Library, where they've contributed generously to several enhancements. The couple named a reading alcove on the second floor, two study rooms and a graduate carrel. Combining their love for art and the Library, they funded a student sculpture installation and, most recently, a student art gallery.


Hurst, who lives in St. Augustine, is also a recipient of the Honorary Alumni Award. He was one of five people who founded the Osprey Club in 1982 and has supported the Club as a member for 35 years. Hurst was selected to the UNF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008 and is an honorary UNF Athletics letter winner. He was instrumental in leading the funding for the construction of Harmon Stadium, the Dusty Rhodes Batting Facility and the UNF Tennis Complex. Additionally, he established the Gerry Hurst Endowed Athletic Scholarship and has made other significant gifts to numerous UNF endowed scholarships, all of which are still in effect today.


Tickets to the Alumni Recognition Dinner and Awards Ceremony are $35 each and are available online. The last day to purchase tickets is Friday, Feb. 2. The UNF Alumni Association's purpose is to foster, maintain and support a mutually beneficial relationship between alumni and the University.


UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.