2016-17 WLP Annual Report

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Since its founding, USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy

has sought to encourage and develop the intellectual and leadership

potential of women in the Tampa Bay Area. As a proud USF

alumna, it has been my honor to serve as chairman as we continue

to grow the program and its mission. At the recent 2017 WLP Fall

Symposium, we were treated to an inspiring message from a fellow

USF alumna Grace Gealey Byers, USF Honors College theatre

grad and star of the popular Fox series “Empire”, who challenged

us to know our worth and the value of relationships. My time as

your chairman has given me moments of clarity and purpose in the

stewardship of the people and programs of WLP, and has further

strengthened my commitment to give my all to advance both the

strategic goals of WLP and of my alma mater, the University of

South Florida.

Our organization is well known for our highly impactful scholarship,

mentorship, and faculty research awards programs, but it is

important to recognize and appreciate that by working together

to advance these objectives, our collective engagement creates

opportunities to strengthen the skills we need to compete, to thrive,

and to be successful in our life journey. Our overall success depends

upon the participation of all of our members - founding, lifetime,

individual and corporate – giving generously of their time, talent

and treasure in pursuit of our mutually-shared values and goals. I

commend our outstanding WLP staff and impactful committees

for the tremendous contributions they have made to the success of

our programs, events, student engagement and overall progress.

Over the last year, we have witnessed the power and impact that

the collective contributions of our 300-plus members can generate.

Once again, WLP continued its trajectory of tremendous growth

and excellence, enjoyed a

record-setting 22% increase

in membership; an almost

100% increase in the principal

of the WLP Endowed Scholarship

fund; and a remarkable 537% increase

in the dollars dispersed by our WLP

First Generation Scholarship fund. Add that

to another sold-out WLP Fall Symposium and the successful

launch of our WLP W.I.S.E. (Women Who Ignite Student

Engagement) student leadership initiative, and I think we can all

agree that we have a tremendous reason to be proud of our organization.

If you aren’t already involved, I encourage you to “step up” your

membership engagement and join a committee in the coming year.

We need your talent, skills, passion and influence to continue on

this path. Harnessing the power of our collective skills and experiences

is necessary if we hope to continue our admirable trajectory

of success.

As an USF alumna and first generation college graduate it gives

me pleasure to support and represent USF and women making a

difference in their communities. Thank you for this privilege to

serve and for making this world a better place for women.


Carolyn House Stewart ‘74



The mission of the USF System Women in Leadership &

Philanthropy program is to engage and educate visionary

leaders and philanthropists to make a difference for women

throughout the USF System and the community.


The structure and function of the USF WLP program

requires a consistent source of spendable income. Because

the majority of individual gifts to WLP are made to restricted

endowed funds, our primary sources of operating income

include annual membership contributions, corporate

memberships, sponsorships and ticket sales from the Annual

Fall Symposium and other WLP events, and contributions

from the USF Faculty & Staff Campaign. WLP also benefits

from the investment of staff salary and budgetary support

provided by the USF Foundation.


USF WLP’s groundwork was established over a decade ago

by our founding members whose initial investments created

a firm foundation for the fulfillment of WLP’s mission.

By establishing individual endowed scholarship funds,

contributing to the WLP endowed scholarship, and building

the program endowment, our Founding, Lifetime, Individual

and Corporate members provide WLP the strong basis for

the tremendous growth and impact that distinguishes the

program today.


Founded in 2005 by a small group of individuals and a

handful of Tampa Bay area corporations, WLP advanced a

vision shared by noted philanthropist Carol Morsani and USF

System President Judy Genshaft to create the first women’s

philanthropic organization in the Tampa Bay region focused

on developing the intellectual and leadership potential of

women through the promotion of mentorship, philanthropy,

community engagement and scholarly excellence. Fast forward

12 years and WLP - now numbering more than 300 individual

and 19 corporate members strong - has helped stimulate

numerous transformational gifts to benefit the USF System; has

directly raised well over $3 million; and has invested more than

$1 million in grants, scholarships, and programmatic funding

to assist female students, faculty members, and women in the

Tampa Bay region. These achievements are a clear sign that

USF WLP is a trailblazer in advancing women’s leadership

and philanthropy in our communities and is fulfilling the

vision of our founding members.

Throughout the past decade, WLP has awarded over

$1 million in scholarships, devoted mentoring hours to over

430 students, and has provided research awards to 23 female

faculty members. WLP presents a wide variety of educational

and leadership development programs annually at all three

USF System institutions and in our surrounding communities,

and has formed formal mentoring partnerships with USF’s

Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement, Office of Veteran

Success, Athletics, Transitional Advising Center, the Honors

College, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee.

In 2016, in partnership with USAmeriBank, WLP formed

the WISE (Women Who Ignite Student Engagement)

Advisory Council. Together with the WLP Mentoring and

Program Committees and with the WLP/WISE Advisory

Council, we developed and launched the USF System’s

first student-led leadership symposium in spring 2017,

and are in the planning stages for another successful

WISE Student Symposium in March 2018.

The continued success of WLP is the result of the collective

generosity of all of our members, who lend their time, talent,

and treasure to make WLP the impactful organization that

it has become. We thank our Founding, Lifetime, Corporate,

and Individual members for their engagement and continued

leadership and support.




Retired Math Professor Liana Fernandez Fox

Offers a Window on USF, Old Tampa and a

New WLP Scholarship

By Dave Scheiber

Liana Fernandez Fox looks outside a first-floor window of the

Marshall Student Center on a sun-splashed afternoon and marvels

at the sight. She sees more than a steady wave of young people

walking to and from class, more than the tree-lined landscape and

the large bronze bulls overlooking the MLK plaza in the distance.

She sees a scene that holds her own story – from the wide-eyed

Ybor City teen whose life was changed by USF to the career

educator whose passion and boundless energy have helped the

lives of so many others.

In her mind’s eye, she has a clear view through the decades –

picturing the campus as it was in the mid-1960s, covered with

more sand than sidewalks and barren patches devoid of greenery.

“We used to joke that our logo should have sandspurs – it was

really nasty walking around back then,” she says, punctuating the

memory with one of her infectious laughs.

“And all these trees you see now? There might have been one or two

back then I think. I was president of the Alumni Association when

we celebrated the completion of MLK Plaza in 1997. And I thought,

‘We were so busy surviving, just going from day to day and trying

to pass, we didn’t realize we were part of history.’ We were living it.”

Fox lived it fully as a member of one of USF’s early classes,

the daughter of loving, hard-working and highly protective

parents of Hispanic and Sicilian descent. Back then, the relatively

new university offered local high school students a viable option

that hadn’t existed before: a chance to attend a four-year public

institution in Tampa Bay without having to leave home, since

USF provided the much needed access and affordability of a

higher education.

“If this university hadn’t been built when and where it was,” she

says, “an entire generation – especially Latin females – wouldn’t

have gone to college.”

USF became a formative stop for her in a journey that would

entwine many chapters – falling in love, marrying and raising

a family with her hometown sweetheart, Bob Fox; becoming a

fixture as a mathematics professor at Hillsborough Community

College for 33 years – and simultaneously at USF for nearly half

that span; returning to earn her master’s and PhD at USF after

actually completing her bachelor’s degree at Florida State; and

a prominent presence through the years with USF’s Alumni

Association and Women in Leadership & Philanthropy.

Today, her impact with the WLP organization is being felt in a

powerful new way. She and her husband have established an

endowed scholarship to support USF transfer students from

Hillsborough Community College – cementing the enduring

relationship Fox has with both institutions. The scholarship goes


hand in hand with the new FUSE program, which assists transfer

students from HCC and colleges around the state complete

their bachelor’s degrees in the USF System.

“My hope is that it will help a student who’ll have a profile like

I had,” she says. “My parents were so hard working but couldn’t

give me any advice about college, because they’d never gone. So

we just want to be a support for someone like that.”

Liana grew up drawing on the support of her tight-knit family

near Ybor City. Her father, Frank Fernandez, had Cuban roots,

and always ran or worked in multiple businesses simultaneously.

As an ad manager at Sears, he fell in love with a young woman

in the department, Rose. They married and Liana was the first

born of their three children, followed by two brothers.

Even as a little girl, she dreamed of becoming a teacher, practicing

holding class at home on her unsuspecting brothers. Math was

always her favorite subject and she was a standout student at

Tampa’s Sacred Heart Academy, winning the school’s math award

as a senior. Though, like most of her classmates, Liana had no

college plans. But she aced a 12th grade test and that paved her

way to admittance in 1964 to eight-year-old USF – the only

college her parents would allow their daughter to attend due to

its proximity to home. Liana still remembers her USF student

number: 15976, meaning she was the 15,976th USF attendee ever.

She enrolled in the fourth year that the university actually accepted

freshmen. Liana eventually became vice president of her Tri SIS

(later Alpha Delta Pi) soriority and assisted University Center

director Phyllis Marshall in helping USF’s sororities and

fraternities go from small clubs to affiliation on the national

level. In short order, she became sorority vice president and

pledge trainer for 90 young women, while juggling her studies.

During that time, a West Tampa boy she knew from early

childhood, Bob Fox, came into the picture. Their friendship

was casual until they began to date midway through college.

And when she became overwhelmed by all her commitments

at USF, he suggested she transfer to FSU for her senior year.

They became engaged during the summer after their junior

year in 1967 and got married as seniors. And their adventure

together was underway – with the couple becoming parents

to two sons and each thriving in their respective careers. Bob

began in hospitality and then teamed with a brother to buy

their father’s dental lab and grow it for the next 40 years.

Liana followed her dream path as a teacher, going from Tampa

Catholic to part-time math instructor at HCC’s Ybor City

campus in 1977 – and then going fulltime in 1980, becoming

a fixture of the staff.

She also found time to earn her master’s from USF in 1980

and spent 15 years on USF Tampa campus helping freshmen

meet their mathematics requirements.

With encouragement and support from USF professors,

Drs. Don and Betty Lichtenberg, she earned her doctorate

in Mathematics Education from USF in 1998.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” she says. Four years ago, the

couple created a scholarship at HCC in the name of Liana’s

parents, Frank and Rose Fernandez. But when it came time

to create a new scholarship, they had no doubt where it

should be. “We sold a piece of property this year and wanted

to do something meaningful,” he says. “So we considered

several options and decided to do the scholarship right here

at USF, and through WLP.”

After all, it’s where the story began on a sandy, sunbaked

campus, and has blossomed through the decades to the

vibrant view just outside the Marshall Center window.


By Melissa Wolfe

The Inaugural Women who Ignite Student Engagement (WISE)

Symposium, presented by USAmeriBank, brought together more

than 150 participants across the USF System to connect with

dynamic professionals, exchange ideas and begin charting their

own paths.

Modeled after WLP’s signature Fall Symposium, the half-day

networking event focused on the theme “What I Wish I Would

Have Known: Lessons from the Future” and explored topics such

as resiliency, developing a personal brand and cultivating curiosity.

The student-led program featured all-women panel sessions with

well-known business executives, community leaders and elected

officials who have found success despite the typical hurdles

women encounter. In the breakout sessions, panelists shared

inspiring stories of their struggles and triumphs, lessons learned

and practical advice for young professionals.

“Women in male dominated fields bring something to the table

their peers don’t have,” explained Sarah MacDonald, President of

TECO Services. “A different point of view adds value and makes

you a valuable employee. Don’t try to blend in – be proud,

standout and you’ll get noticed!”

Krithika Venugopal, a student on the WISE Advisory Council

was amazed at the results of the Symposium, a year in the making.

“Participating on the WISE Advisory Council and helping to plan

this event was an incredible experience and one of my proudest

achievements,” said Venugopal. “It required some serious

time-management skills and allowed me the opportunity to

play a part in something I’ve always believed in – promoting

equality and empowering women.”

The symposium featured keynote speaker Pam Iorio, a former

two-term Mayor of Tampa (2003-2011) and current CEO of Big

Brothers Big Sisters of America. Iorio shared words of wisdom on

community service, leadership and the future.

“If you can provide service to others, even if it’s something you’ve

never done before, you should say yes,” said Iorio. “Expand your

limits and break your barriers. Each individual has the power to

impact others.”

Topping off an incredible symposium was a surprise

announcement that the event raised $9,000 for WLP student

scholarships - a powerful example of the impact women can

make when they encourage and support each other.


Annual members ($1,000 per year, $500 per year for those 35 and younger) and corporate members ($5,000 per year)

support WLP programmatic offerings and outreach initiatives and help expand the impact of the WLP Endowed, WLP/USF

St. Petersburg and WLP/USF Sarasota-Manatee scholarship funds. Members contributing at the

endowment level ($25,000 or above) join our list of lifetime members.


Our Corporate Member program has grown from one member (Florida Blue) in July 2013 to 19 the members listed below.


THE USF WLP FACULTY RESEARCH AWARD program provides grant awards to USF System faculty whose research and creative

efforts focus on women and issues affecting women. This award is presented in the spring of each year through a competitive process,

with the recipient receiving a one-time $5,000 award to support their research. To date, WLP has awarded 23 grants to deserving faculty

members whose research helps to support and advance women throughout the world. In recognition of the outstanding research

throughout the USF System, this year WLP awarded its newest faculty research grant for USF Health that recognizes the research

contributions of female faculty in USF Health.

JEANNE TRAVERS is a Professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, USF Tampa. Travers is

dedicated to enhancing audience awareness about human rights and women’s issues. Her research projects

are interdisciplinary and multicultural in nature, and address issues of social concern and injustice that

impact and give voice to women.

DR. KATHRYN ARTHUR is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the College of Arts and

Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She is an archaeologist specializing in community

archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, gender, stone tool technology, and the historical archaeology of Africa.

DR. FAWN T. NGO is an Associate Professor of Criminology at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College

of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. Dr. Ngo’s research on stalking focuses on gender differences in stalking

incidents and police reporting.

DR. STEPHANIE MARHEFKA is an Associate Professor for Community and Family Health,

USF Health. Her doctoral dissertation work focuses on the assessment of medication adherence among

caregivers of children ages 2 to 12 who were perinatally infected with HIV.


DR. ELIZABETH MILLER is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the College of Arts and

Sciences, University of South Florida Tampa. Her research program ranges from the study of human milk

composition and infant feeding practices to infant immune function through studies at field sites in Kenya

and the United States.

DR. DOREEN MACAULAY MacAulay is an instructor in the Department of Information Systems

Decision Sciences, teaching organizational behavior analysis and strategic management. Her research focuses

the historical development of knowledge and the fundamental gendered assumptions that inform

organizational behavior research.


Dr. Kyoung Cho

Associate Professor

School of Music

College of The Arts, Tampa


Dr. Melissa Sloan

Associate Professor

Interdisciplinary Social Sciences



Dr. Jessie D. Turner

Instructor, Department of

Women’s and Gender Studies,

College of Arts and Sciences, Tampa


Dr. Jill McCracken

Associate Professor for the Department of

Languages, Literature, and Writing;

Chair for the Department of Social Sciences;

Coordinator for the Honors Program

St. Petersburg


Dr. Alicia Gill Rossiter

Sequence Director

Veteran to Bachelor of Science in

Nursing Program, USF Health,

College of Nursing, Tampa


Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman

Assistant Professor

College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Sociology, Tampa


Dr. Heidi Casteneda

Associate Professor and Graduate Director

College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Anthropology, Tampa


Dr. Tiffany Chenneville

Associate Professor and Chair

Department of Psychology

Joint Appointment

Department of Pediatrics, St. Petersburg


Dr. Kathy Black

Full Professor of Social Work

and Gerontology

Chair of Interdisciplinary

Faculty in Aging

College of Arts & Sciences



Dr. Susan Macmanus

Distinguished University Professor

Department of Government

& International Affairs



Dr. Griselle Centeno

Associate Professor of Industrial

and Management Systems

USF College of Engineering



Dr. Jamie Goldenberg

Associate Professor of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences



Dr. Patrica A. Kruk

Professor in the Department of

Pathology & Cell Biology

USF Health Morsani

College of Medicine, Tampa


Dr. Jody Lynn McBrien

Assistant Professor

College of Education



Dr. Ellen Daley

Associate Professor of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences



Dr. Linda M. Whiteford

Professor of Anthropology

College of Arts & Sciences, Tampa


Dr. Naomi Yavneh

Associate Professor of Humanities

College of Arts & Sciences, Tampa


You can start with their own words.




By Dave Scheiber

It is a program that has enriched lives, expanded horizons and

enhanced our understanding of pressing issues for more than

a decade. Yet how do you truly measure the impact of USF’s

Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Faculty Research

Award – beyond the financial support it annually provides

to deserving and distinguished recipients across the

university system?

Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos

Inaugural WLP Faculty

Research Award Winner 2007

“The message this award sent me meant so much: It

wasn’t simply, ‘Oh, we think you’re doing a really good

job,’ but more like, ‘We really want to support you as

you move forward,’ ” recalls our very first honoree in

2007, Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos, former associate dean

of USF’s Honors College and today director of Loyola

University’s honors program. There have been 23

WLP Faculty Research Award recipients to date, and

Dr. Yavneh Klos could speak for all of them when

describing the feeling of validation for her past work

and encouragement to push onward – in her case with

research in the field of Italian Renaissance spirituality:

“I will always be incredibly grateful for the support of

WLP when I truly needed it.”

Then again, perhaps the program’s impact can be

gauged best by considering the vast range of work it

has nurtured. The lengthy and impressive list includes

researching ways to provide access to reproductive

health care for impoverished women around the world;

exploring educational needs of women and girls

affected by war; providing psycho-social and behavioral

health services to children and adolescents with HIV;

and creating new opportunities for females in the

traditionally male-dominated realm of engineering –

and so much more.

While you’re at it, imagine the impact of all the vital

research endeavors to be embraced by WLP in the

years to come – thanks to the program that annually

awards a $5,000 grant to faculty members whose

research and creative efforts focus on women, women’s

issues and women’s initiatives.

11 2016-17 ANNUAL REPORT

“This is our hope – that the award makes a genuine

difference in the important research efforts of our

deserving faculty members, ultimately impacting

women in positive ways not only around the United

States but across the world,” says Lagretta Lenker,

chair of WLP’s Faculty Research Awards Committee.

“And we feel very gratified to know that our winners

continually express how much the award meant to

them at a key moment in their careers.”

But for that very reason, it is imperative for us now to

find additional sources of support for the program, which

is currently funded through the WLP Fund and the USF

Foundation. In the long-term, the current funding source

simply is not sustainable. That is why the time has come

to create an endowment that will guarantee the WLP

Faculty Research Award program will flourish well into

the future.

The program recognizes outstanding faculty members

in the USF System (USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg

and USF Sarasota-Manatee). In addition to the one-time

financial award to support their continued work,

recipients enjoy honorary annual membership in WLP

for two years. There are four separate annual categories

for honorees: Three institution-based Faculty Research

Awards (one award per USF System institution); a Junior

Faculty Research Award; an instructor award; and a newly

created award for research in the realm of Health Sciences.

“This award is so meaningful – as an attractor of

additional funding for a faculty member, a catalyst for

growth within their professional field, and a spotlight

on the regional, national and international acclaim

they have garnered,” says WLP Executive Director

India Witte. “All of that serves to benefit the USF

System and underscores our mission – to build the

potential of women while partnering with the USF

System to achieve its strategic goals and objectives.”


Dr. Kathleen Moore has always recognized the vital importance

of the Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Faculty Research

Awards. Her perspective on the 10-year-old program has been

forged both as a founding member and past chair of WLP and

from her distinguished, 25-year career at University of South

Florida, highlighted by the monumental task of creating the

USF System from separately accredited institutions.

From that vantage point, Moore has been a firm believer the power

of WLP’s Faculty Research Awards, inspired by the vast array

of System-wide work done by USF faculty members whose efforts

have been propelled by individual $5,000 grants.

She has seen how the program has provided much-needed financial

support at key junctures in their research, which has enriched

lives and opened doors to greater understanding on a wide swath

of issues – from providing access to reproductive health care for

impoverished women around the world; to exploring educational

needs of women and girls affected by war, to creating new opportunities

for females in the traditionally male-dominated realm of

engineering – and so much more.

That is why Moore and her husband, Nicholas Nitch, have taken a

step to ensure that future decades of the program will remain as vibrant

as its first. The couple has established a deferred gift that will

one day serve in part to endow the WLP Faculty Research Awards.

In the meantime, they intend to make early payments to support

the program, as well as WLP’s efforts on behalf of promising first

generation students and outstanding faculty.

“The need for philanthropy with respect to scholarships is obvious,”

says Moore, who paid tribute to her mother’s legacy as an

independent, hard-working woman by creating the Elsie A. Moore

Memorial Scholarship through WLP. “Costs continue to rise, and

many young women who are the first in their families to attend

college don’t have the family resources to support their academic

pursuits. I’m very gratified that so many WLP members are there

to help them.”

Yet Moore and her husband have seen an increasing need to

personally bolster and even broaden WLP’s parallel mission to

support faculty research, assuring it will continue to have impact in

the years ahead.



“The need for investment in faculty research – and, in this

case, research that ultimately benefits women – is perhaps less

obvious,” she explains. “The general public doesn’t always understand

the importance of faculty research. In order to maintain

the academic infrastructure, there has to be adequate funding for

research. While revenue streams from the federal government are

critical for the university, there’s also a need to support lower-profile

types of projects. And what we’ve seen, since we began the

Faculty Research Awards, is that a relatively small amount of

money can be critical in helping faculty – particularly at the start

of their careers – leverage that award into a larger grant opportunity

or a chance to continue a project.”

One prime example is Dr. Griselle Centeno, professor of Industrial

and Management Systems Engineering. An expert in systems

research, she undertook a project to increase the modest ranks

of females in the engineering field, by creating new engineering

opportunities in health care. The faculty award for her initiative,

USF IDEAL (Increasing Diversity in Engineering Education and

Labor-force) couldn’t have come at a better time. “WLP gave me

my first investment in this endeavor and by getting that recognition,

I was able to immediately showcase my work to the Nation

Science Foundation,” she says. “The WLP faculty award served

as a stamp to confirm that people believed in our initiatives.

And only a few weeks after I received the WLP award, I received

approval from the National Science Foundation for almost

$200,000, allowing me to continue this relevant research.”

Or there’s the case of Dr. Susan MacManus, USF’s high-profile

professor of political science and author whose insights have

made her a fixture on local and national TV during election

seasons. With the help of the WLP grant, MacManus was able

to pay for essential research assistance and complete a book

rooted in a lifetime passion for Florida politics, Florida’s Minority

Trailblazers: The Men and Women Who Changed the Face of

Florida Government – an exhaustive work that took 10 years to

complete. “I’m very excited about it – and grateful to the support

WLP provided in giving me the seed money to make it a reality,”

she says.

Stories like that made Moore and Nitch aware that WLP’s Faculty

Research Awards serve an invaluable purpose, worthy of their

support and hopefully the support of others. “There aren’t many

organizations like WLP that could step in and direct philanthropy

in ways that will help women faculty, especially junior faculty,

begin building a research agenda – and one that will ultimately

be broader in scope than anything WLP could ever fund,” Moore

says. “These projects have to get started, and we can help them

take those first few steps up the ladder.”

Nitch, one of the longest-serving adjunct professors at St. Leo

University at 35 years, is glad to be a part of WLP’s initiatives for

an additional reason. “Both Kathleen and I are first generation

college graduates ourselves, and we each had a parent who would

have loved to go to college, but were limited by war or the Depression,”

he says. “They were very bright, and although they missed

out on that opportunity, they offered it to us.”

To WLP Executive Director India Witte, the couple’s deferred

gift – in conjunction with their ongoing immediate support

– makes an enormous statement. “What is most exciting and

meaningful is the sustainability of the program their generosity

will make possible,” she says. “This affords the program much

more resonance and gravitas as the gift is from people who

intimately know the USF System and our organization. And

we’re incredibly grateful to them.”


By Dave Scheiber

TAMPA – One is a talented TV star and University of South

Florida alumna working in the spotlight of a hit prime-time series,

the other a gifted USF biological sciences student studying

diligently on a pre-med track. But Grace Byers and Katherine

Garcia have each traveled a similar path of overcoming formidable

challenges in chasing their dreams. And they combined to steal

the show at the 12th annual WLP Fall Symposium.

Byers, a Class of 2006 theater graduate and a cast member in

FOX’s drama Empire, uplifted the sellout crowd at the Hilton

Tampa Downtown with a keynote speech tailored to the event’s

theme of “Finding Your Grace.” Garcia, a WLP scholar, inspired

the audience with a tale of her enormous will to succeed in spite

of the unimaginable obstacles she and her family faced after

arriving in America.

Their stories of personal strength and courage in the face of

hardship delivered ideal messages for WLP and its mission of

empowering and supporting women. Garcia started by pointing

out that she, like Byers, shared something in common: an

education made possible through scholarships. But her story

would also serve as an ideal bookend to Byers in her own search

for grace amid adversity.

“Throughout my childhood, I dreamed of attending college,” she

began. “But it was a dream similar to that of a child who dreams of

being an astronaut, and has

the rocket ship but has no access to the fuel necessary to get

into space.”

Garcia explained how her impoverished, immigrant parents

were devoted to making a better life for their young daughter

and son. They eventually arrived in Tampa from Panama, living

in a small, single-room apartment that adjoined a bathroom –

the place Garcia would stay up late doing her rigorous

International Baccalaureate program homework in high

school, with the toilet serving as a chair and the sink as her

desk, so not to disturb her sleeping family.

“Our family confronted and overcame every challenge that life

brought our way,” she explained. “...Every challenge was a

learning opportunity; every obstacle, the chance to learn more

about myself – what I could achieve in the now, and what I

could become in the future.”

It was a poignant, powerful show of grace, followed soon after

by Grace herself. An experienced public speaker, Byers was

thrilled to learn several weeks earlier of the event’s theme and

purpose and decided to customize her talk to the occasion,

weaving in stories she’d never before shared at the podium.

She began by discussing the meaning of grace.

“Now I may be a little biased, but I think it’s an amazing word,”

she said, triggering a wave of laughter. She went on to explain

how she felt constant pressure to live up

15 2016-17 ANNUAL REPORT

to the name’s many definitions, but gradually came to feel that

they “not only continued to lift and inspire me, but they’ve taught

me how I can empower myself through grace itself.”

Byers began her talk by telling the crowd how inspired she was to

hear Katherine’s story. She followed by expanding on the event’s

theme: Finding your grace in the face of opposition. “Believe it

or not,” she said, “grace is most desired and most needed when

we face challenges and opposition.” Byers touched on the obstacles

of her youth. But she focused primarily on a professional experience

as an adult – searching to find the grace to deal with a difficult New

York agent who refused to let her out of a contract to make way for

her move to Chicago.

future, while soaking up her advice and feedback. From the

back of the room, Byers’ USF theater instructor, Fanni

Green, who had a profound influence on her former student,

beamed with pride. “I told her it felt like she was teaching me

today,” she said.

For that matter, anyone in attendance would likely agree that

one word summed up WLP’s day of Grace: Amazing.

Byers struggled to make it clear to the unyielding agent that she

needed to part ways for personal reasons several months before her

contract was up. It was an awkward and tense dispute, but she

relied on her instincts, held her ground with honesty and firmness

and ultimately prevailed.

Her lesson: “There’s a way to show up in this world fully and

authentically you – and to give yourself the grace in order to be able

to do that. I learned from this situation that I have the permission to

give myself the grace to own my ‘yes’ and just stand in my ‘no.’ And

sometimes in life that is the biggest lesson you can possibly learn.

It continues to show people around you that you’re showing up as

an individual, as someone who knows who you are. And that is the

greatest asset you can bring to any company.”

Byers closed by talking about the importance of her spiritual

life. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t include God’s grace,” she said.

“It humbles you. It lays you down in a way that continues to

ground you.” Her 45-minute talk was greeted with a rousing

standing ovation, yet a quieter session that followed carried

a special power of its own.

Byers met privately for severel hours with dozens of WLP

Scholars, seated with her in a large circle. They shared their

own stories of overcoming obstacles and their dreams for the


We grew from 250 to 306

members in FY17 – a 22%

increase in membership.

Increase in First Generation

Scholarship dollar disbursements

in this fiscal year from $21,000

to $133,750.

17 2016-17 ANNUAL REPORT

The number of WLP

scholarship funds increased 30%

(33 in FY16 to 43 in FY 17).

The WLP/USF St. Petersburg

Scholarship Fund increased 57%

over the last fiscal year reaching

fully endowed status.

The WLP Endowed Scholarship Fund has increased 95% over the last

fiscal year from $139,561 to $272,676.




















WLP has awarded nearly $1,000,000 in scholarships

to 430 students since WLP’s founding in 2005. These

scholarship awards, paired with the unique mentoring

and engagement opportunities that WLP affords our

recipients, provide opportunities for worthy students

to continue their education and fulfill their dream

of completing their degree at a leading public research

university. Endowed scholarship funds exist in

perpetuity. To achieve the balance between making

awards and sustaining principal growth, WLP adheres

to the USF Foundation spending policy established

annually by the Investment Committee of the

Foundation Board of Directors. A percentage of

earnings on each fund are awarded in the spring for

students enrolled in the following fall semester. The

number of WLP endowed scholarship opportunities

grows in relation to the number of members

contributing at the endowment level. Many WLP

members who contribute at the endowment level have

established a named scholarship to honor a special

person or to serve a defined group of USF students.

WLP/Anne Marie Campbell Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Bank of America East Tampa Scholarship

WLP/Berkman Family Scholarship

WLP/Betty Castor Scholarship for Global Initiatives

WLP/Bob & Liana Fernandez Fox Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Carolyn A. O’Steen Scholarship*

WLP/Carolyn House Stewart Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Chris Maria Reyes Endowed Scholarship*

WLP/Deborah Eaves Endowed Scholarship

* Deferred Scholarship Funds

WLP/Donald & Ruth Anderson Memorial Scholarship

WLP/Dorothy L. Morgran Endowed Scholarship in Marine Science

WLP/Dorothy Warren Burke Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Elicia Renee Byrd Endowed Service Scholarship

WLP/Elsie A. Moore Memorial Scholarship

WLP/Esther Schneid Memorial Scholarship

WLP/Florida Medical Clinic Foundation of Caring

WLP/Geraldine Twine Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Jessica Stands With Girls Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Judith Bryan Darsey Scholarship

WLP/Linda Blume Award

19 2016-17 ANNUAL REPORT

WLP/Martha Hodge Memorial Scholarship

WLP/Nancy Schneid Scholarship

WLP/National Mah Jongg League Foundation, Inc. Scholarship

WLP/Ouyang Yu Memorial Scholarship

WLP/Pam Iorio Leadership Scholarship

WLP/Philip & Ellen Asherman Scholarship

WLP/USAmeriBank Endowed Scholarship

WLP/USF Sarasota-Manatee Scholarship

WLP/USF St. Petersburg Scholarship

WLP/Valerie D. Riddle, M.D. Endowed Scholarship

WLP/Vincnet Zecchino M.D./Dream Givers USA Scholarship

WLP/Virginia Gregory Endowment in Entrepreneurship

WLP/Waller-Witte Endowed Scholarship

Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Endowed Scholarship



WLP honors visionary leaders and philanthropists throughout the community doing extraordinary things to make Tampa Bay a

better place for women to live and work. With our Community Leadership Award Program, we showcase individual excellence in

leadership as demonstrated by outstanding initiative, impact of work, and inspiration to others. By awarding the Community

Leadership Award as a part of the program at our annual Fall Symposium, WLP publicly affirms and celebrates the immense

contributions and achievements of women in our communities with the intent of raising public awareness and inspiring the

leadership and service potential of current and future generations of women.




Debbie N. Sembler has been an unwavering and

passionate supporter of the USF System and of USF

St. Petersburg for more than a decade. As Chair of the

USFSP Campus Board, she helped facilitate the

burgeoning growth at USFSP in recent years. During

her tenure, USFSP received the two largest gifts in its

history from Kate Tiedemann and Lynn Pippenger,

and a number of major construction projects were

completed – the Science and Technology Building; the

Debbie Nye Sembler Student Center; the HarborWalk;

and an iconic feature at the heart of the campus, the

Debbie and Brent Sembler Family Fountain.

A former marketing executive, Debbie’s career included

serving as senior account executive for Hill & Knowlton;

director of public relations for Wyndham Hotel Sea

World in Orlando; and as the first director of marketing

for Old Hyde Park Village. While raising her three

children, she shifted her focus to community work where

she has served on the boards of All Children’s Hospital,

the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Florida Governor’s

Mansion Foundation, Shorecrest Preparatory School

and Temple Beth-El.

As a member of the Holocaust Museum Advisory Board,

she initiated a collaboration between USFSP and the

museum, focusing on collecting and preserving the

testimonies of Holocaust survivors living in the area.

That effort led to the establishment of the Debbie and

Brent Sembler Florida Holocaust Museum Lecture Series

at USFSP. They also have established a philanthropic

fund through the Tampa-Orlando-Pinellas Jewish

Foundation, Inc.

Debbie is one of the USF System’s longest-tenured

trustees, devoting 12 years of service, until her recent

retirement. Her commitment to the USF System

continues, as she now serves as the USFSP Member

at Large on the WLP Executive Committee, and has

recently joined the USF Foundation Board of Directors.

She became involved with USF when then-Gov. Jeb

Bush appointed her to the board, with subsequent

appointments coming from governors Charlie Crist

and Rick Scott. In 2015, Debbie was chosen to serve

as co-chair of USFSP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Her philanthropy there and as a member of WLP reflects

her tireless commitment to higher education and passion

for student success. Through it all, Debbie continually

has modeled WLP’s mission of engaging and developing

the intellectual and leadership potential of women that

enhances life at USF and beyond.

21 2016-17 ANNUAL REPORT




Ann McKeel Ross, a USF alumna, worked as Director

of Community Relations at the university from 1980-

1996, receiving the Affirmative Action Award from

USF’s Equal Opportunity Committee for her continued

efforts to recruit and hire minorities, women and those

with disabilities. She became a founding director of

Pilot Bank and Vice President of Advancement for the

Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (now the Straz

Center). Though she retired from that position in

2001, Ann continues to serve as a member of the board

of trustees.

In addition to her professional achievements, Ann has

made a significant mark as a volunteer. She is currently

a member of the Athena Society and an honorary

member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and has

served as a board member for the Museum of Science

and Industry, Temple Terrace Friends of the Library,

the Home Association, the Southwest Florida Board

Bank, and the Children’s Center for Cancer and

Blood Disorders. Her contributions have led to

numerous honors such as Florida Arts Recognition

Award from the State of Florida, the Arts Patron of

the Year Award from the Arts Council of Hillsborough

County and the Outstanding Cultural Contributor

Award from the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of


A native of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Ann attended

and studied art at the University of Kentucky and

Western Kentucky University. She halted her studies

to raise three sons with her husband, Dr. James C.

Ross, whose service in the U.S. Air Force led to an

assignment at MacDill Air Force Base that brought

the family to Tampa. She eventually earned her

Bachelor of Arts in Art from USF in 1979, later

becoming a Life Member of the USF Alumni

Association and serving on the boards of the USF

Foundation and USF Contemporary Arts Museum.

She and her husband, a retired dentist, helped establish

the museum and USF Graphicstudio. Ann also founded

CADRE, the first arts support group at USF.


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