UWF recognizes faculty and community leaders with honorary awards during Fall 2012 Commencement

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

During the Fall Commencement ceremony today, the University of West Florida recognized Dr. Carl Backman, General Charles “Chuck” Horner, Ret., and Collier Merrill for their contributions to the university and the Northwest Florida community. Backman received the Founder’s Medallion, and Horner and Merrill were awarded Presidential Medals of Honor.

The Founder’s Medallion honors faculty, staff and community visionaries who were leaders in establishing the university. The Medallion symbolizes the founding ideals and vision of UWF, and it is awarded to those who have exemplified them.

Dr. Carl Backman, assistant dean of the College of Business, is the first recipient of the Founder’s Medallion. During his career at UWF, Backman has demonstrated administrative talent that allowed him to move seamlessly into higher administration roles. He played a key role in acquiring the most recent Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaccreditation and currently assists the Office of the Provost and the dean of the College of Business with accountability management.

“There is not one value that we hold dear at UWF that is not a cardinal characteristic of Dr. Carl Backman,” said Dr. Jane Halonen, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His massive contributions, endurance and shining commitment to the institution clearly warrant the special experience of receiving the very first UWF Founder’s Medallion.”

The Presidential Medal of Honor, established by President Judy Bense, is awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves by their actions and have contributed in some manner to the wellbeing of the university and the geographical region, primarily through public service and philanthropy.

As a retired U.S. Air Force General, Gen. Horner served the country in numerous leadership positions, including command of North American Aerospace Defense, U.S. Space Command, and U.S. Central Command Air Forces in control of all allied air assets during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Following his retirement, Gen. Horner dedicated his time to serving the Northwest Florida community through his commitment to higher education. Gen. Horner has served on the UWF Board of Trustees for 12 years, one of the two longest-serving members in the university’s history. In January, he will retire from his current position as chairman. During his tenure on the Board, Horner contributed significantly to efforts to increase student enrollment, retention, graduation rates and diversity. He also led the effort for the board to develop key performance indicators.

“General Horner’s contributions to UWF make him most deserving of this recognition,” Bense said. “He embodies the values of UWF every day through his ambassadorship of our institution.”

J. Collier Merrill is a prominent local business leader, currently serving as the president of Merrill Land Company and the Great Southern Restaurant Group, LLC, which owns and operates The Fish House and The Atlas Oyster House restaurants. Collier is also an owner of Jackson’s Steak House. He is well-known for his community service throughout Northwest Florida.

Merrill, a graduate of UWF, was named the 2000 Distinguished Alumni of the Year. He has served on the UWF Foundation Board and is one of the two-longest serving members of the Board of Trustees, with 12-year tenure. Merrill will also retire from the Board in January. He also served as the board’s first chairman for four years. Prior to his service on the UWF Board of Trustees, Merrill served on the Florida Board of Regents.

“Collier’s natural approach is to build consensus and form lasting relationships,” Bense said. “He has done this many times for UWF with community and political leaders. The UWF Presidential Medal of Honor is one very small way to honor a great man’s contributions.”

UWF honorary award recipients are recommended by the Honorary Awards and Recognition Committee (HARC) and chosen by the President, based on nominations from UWF stakeholders, including faculty, staff, alumni, students and Board of Trustee or advisory group members. For nomination information and award criteria, visit uwf.edu/president.

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