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. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Student Union Ballroom, Building 58W, Room 3703, on campus.
“UNF alumni, over 80,000 strong, continue to achieve greatness in their professions and in contributions to their communities,” said Maxine Cooper, president of the UNF Alumni Association board. “This year’s award recipients continue that example, representing outstanding distinction and success, while being excellent ambassadors of the University.”
Honorees include Rep. Travis Cummings, Florida House District 18; Andrew Rush, Made in Space CEO/president; Shannon Italia, adjunct instructor and director of the Career Management Center in the UNF Coggin College of Business; and Dwight Cooper III, Professional Placement Resources Talent Management Group CEO/co-founder.
Cummings, a Fleming Island 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 and humbled to receive this award. My MBA from UNF has greatly benefited me throughout my career,” said Cummings. “As a lifelong resident of Northeast Florida, I am very aware of the contributions this University makes to our community.”
Cummings’ district mainly includes Clay County residents. He serves on the Clay County Delegation and is a member of the Appropriations Committee, Rules and Policy Committee and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. He previously served a four-year term as the Clay County commissioner for District 3 and two years as County Commission chairman as well as Orange Park mayor and councilman from 2002-08.
Cummings is very involved in the community, including serving as chairman of both the Clay County Charter Review Commission and the Clay County YMCAs. He also serves as president of both the Jacksonville KA Alumni Chapter and Jacksonville Bulldog Club. Additionally, Cummings served on several boards, including the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, the Jacksonville Association of Health Underwriters, the Borland-Groover Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of North Florida and the Orange Park Medical Center.
Rush, a Saint Johns resident, is the recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award, presented for outstanding professional achievement, contributions to the community and exemplary service to the University. His company, Made In Space, is innovating additive manufacturing, like 3-D printing, to work in zero gravity and space environments. Rush is also a patent lawyer and worked for three years as a partner at PCT Law Group. During his time at UNF, he was actively engaged in the Department of Physics, worked closely with his mentor Dr. Lev Gasparov, professor of physics, and was an inspiring role model for students and volunteer.
Italia, a Lakewood resident, 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. In addition to her contributions to Coggin, she has been on the Advisory Board of Rethreaded since March 2014 and is the current chair. She also served on the Advisory Board of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center from 2011-16. Italia is the founder and advisor to the UNF Women in Business Society, an organization that was created to develop female leaders. In August 2013, she was recognized as a Woman of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal.
Cooper, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, is the recipient of the Honorary Alumni Award, given to friends and supporters for exemplary service to the University. For 10 consecutive years, his company, Professional Placement Resources, placed among the Top 25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America by the Great Place to Work Institute, receiving the No. 1 spot in 2013. Cooper was assistant coach of the men’s basketball team for five seasons in the early 90s and then continued as a basketball color analyst for the University. He’s the former chair of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a long-time advocate for the Brooks College of Health, where he serves as the immediate past chair of the Dean’s Leadership Council. The MS Society 2017 Dinner of Champions will honor Cooper, joining a list of Jacksonville’s finest leaders, including Hugh Greene of Baptist Medical Center and UNF President John Delaney.
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. 3. 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.