For the past 34 years, the UCF Alumni Association has been honoring Knights who “Reach for the Stars.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of this year’s recipients, who will be presented with their Knighty statues (as seen above) at the 2014 Black & Gold Gala on Thursday, Oct. 23.

The Distinguished Alumnus/a award is the association’s top award, given to someone who has risen in his/her profession to a national level. The Distinguished Student award is given to a current undergraduate student who is active on campus and in the community, and has displayed leadership and academic success. The Service to UCF award is given to an alumnus/a who has served UCF over a number of years either as a volunteer or lifetime employee. The Professional Achievement award winners are selected by each individual college and are given to alumni who are standouts in their respective fields.

Check out this year’s awardees:


Distinguished Alumna | Lesa Roe, ’91

Deputy Associate Administrator, NASA

Distinguished Student | Cynthia Florentino, ’14

Google Policy Fellow, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Service to UCF | Melanie Fernandez, ’86

Partner, Cross, Fernandez & Riley LLP


The Burnett Honors College | David Huffaker, ’97

Senior Researcher, Google Inc.

College of Arts and Humanities | Rob Schaer, ’02

Musician, self-employed

College of Business Administration | Mary Merrell Bailey, ’85

Managing Partner, Your Caring Law Firm

College of Education and Human Performance | Pam Stewart, ’85

Commissioner of Education, Florida Department of Education

College of Engineering and Computer Science | Vinod Philip, ’00

CEO (Generators Business Segment), Siemens Energy Inc.

College of Health and Public Affairs | Jean-Marc Chanoine, ’07

Navy Judge Advocate Corps, U.S. Navy

College of Medicine | James Norman, ’82

Senior Surgeon, Norman Parathyroid Center

College of Nursing | Patricia Celano, ’10

CNO/Vice President, Florida Hospital Orlando

College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) | Michael Mielke, ’00

Chief Scientist, Raydiance

College of Sciences | Gwen Griffin, ’85

CEO, Griffin Communications Group

Rosen College of Hospitality Management | Stuart Newmark, ’08

Executive Vice President/COO, Yedla Management Company

Stay tuned for more about these ambitious Knights at

  • Week of Oct. 27 — Lesa, Cynthia and Melanie
  • Week of Nov. 3 — David, Rob, Mary, Pam, Vinod and Jean-Marc
  • Week of Nov. 10 — James, Patricia, Michael, Gwen and Stuart