Campus Life

UWF honors University and community leaders during Fall Commencement

The University of West Florida is hosting its Fall 2013 Commencement today at the Pensacola Bay Center, where a total of 963 students will receive bachelor’s, master’s, specialist or doctoral degrees. During the morning ceremony, UWF President Judy Bense recognized two leaders who have made a significant impact on the University and Northwest Florida.

Jerry L. Maygarden, the Commencement keynote speaker, was named an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in honor of his commitment to his profession, community and the University. A UWF alumnus, Maygarden is a business leader with a long and distinguished career in public service, including leadership positions in state and local government and health care. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Greater Pensacola Chamber. He also serves as chair of the UWF Historic Trust Board of Directors, where he has been a board member since 2004.

Maygarden is a former city councilman and Mayor of Pensacola, who also served as a state legislator and Majority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives from 1994-2002. He was the founding president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida and he currently chairs the Ronald McDonald House Development Council. The Florida State Legislature honored Maygarden and UWF in 2000 by creating the Jerry L. Maygarden Distinguished Lecture Series to recognize his contributions and enable notable speakers to address UWF students, faculty, staff and community members.

“Jerry Maygarden exemplifies the very values and traits that we try to instill in our students,” Bense said. “He is passionate about this work and about bettering his community. It is a great honor to be able to recognize him today.”

Shigeko Honda was awarded the Founder’s Medallion in recognition of her 25 years of service to the University, during which she established and nurtured its Japanese language program and the U.S.-Japan educational and cultural programs and made UWF one of the most recognized universities in the State of Florida for activities related to Japan. She previously served as the director of the Japan Center, Japan House and Jikei-American Center, and co-director of the Florida-Japan Linkage Institute. Under her direction, the UWF Japan Center maintained a successful relationship with the Jikei Group of Colleges in Japan that resulted in key funding for the UWF center’s success.

One of her most significant contributions to the University was the building of the Japan House in 2006 as a center for Japanese culture for the Pensacola area and southeast U.S. region. She was also responsible for establishing UWF as the third host institution of the Florida-Japan Linkage Institute in 1994, and for relocating the head office from the University of South Florida to UWF in 2006.

“At the heart of all her activities was the love of enriching the lives of our students and those of her home country, Japan,” said Dr. Kimberly Brown, UWF Vice President of the President’s Division and Chief of Staff. “Her work in creating an facilitating cultural exchange programs for the advancement of our students, faculty, staff and community are unparalleled. She embodies the values of UWF and has distinguished our campus in long lasting ways.”

The Founder’s Medallion was established in 2006 to coincide with the celebration of UWF’s 40th anniversary in honor of the faculty, staff, and community visionaries who were leaders in establishing the University. The Medallion symbolizes the founding ideals and vision of the University and is awarded to those who have exemplified those ideals.