Each year during Homecoming & Family Weekend, Jacksonville University announces a new class of Distinguished Alumni award recipients.
“We received a record number of nominations this year for our most prestigious alumni awards, and we are proud to announce this diverse group of outstanding alumni who will join their predecessors as Jacksonville University Alumni of Distinction,” said Lauren Griffith, who heads the Office of Engagement.
Typically, each award winner gets the opportunity to stand in front of their peers on D.B. Milne field, shake hands with the president and pose for a photo. However, Homecoming & Family Week 2020 has been completely virtual in response to COVID-19 and current social distancing standards on campus.
“We had to pivot to make this year’s Homecoming & Family Week festivities come to fruition, but we are proud of the Dolphin spirit that our alumni, families and fans have shared so far this week,” said Mary Anne Jolly, director of Alumni & Family Engagement. “The announcement of our annual Distinguished Alumni award winners doesn’t look the way it normally does, but we are humbled to be able to continue this great tradition with our most robust class yet.”
Award winners are nominated by their peers. They are Jacksonville University graduates demonstrating significant professional accomplishments, community and philanthropic engagement and continued support of their alma mater.
In addition to the Distinguished Alumni of Excellence awards, the Scott Amos Recent Alumnus of Distinction Award is presented to an accomplished GOLD Phin, or Graduate Of the Last Decade. The Outstanding Military Alumnus of Distinction Award is presented to alumni who also served honorably in the U.S. military either before or after receiving their degree.
Below are some of the accomplishments of this year’s recipients:
Distinguished Alumni of Excellence
Aaron Bean ’89 has gone from president of Student Government at Jacksonville University to esteemed Florida Senator, proudly serving Duval and Nassau Counties. Bean was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. Before being elected to the Florida Senate, he served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives. In 2018, Aaron was named “Legislator of the Year” by the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Foundation, as well as by the Florida Dental Association, and was also named a “Delores Barr Weaver Elder Advocate” by ElderSource that year. In 2019, The Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) presented him with their Regional Leadership Award “for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of citizens of our region.” He is also a recipient of Jacksonville University’s Dr. Francis Bartlett Kinne Excellence in Community Service Award. Aside from his work as a public servant, he also serves his community as the relations development officer at UF Health Jacksonville, has been a Rotarian for 26 years and a volunteer for numerous organizations. Bean delivered the keynote address at JU’s spring 2017 Commencement ceremony, and received an honorary doctorate degree in civic and community leadership for his dedication and service to his district and its residents.
Dr. Elaine Borne ’93/’14 has worked in the healthcare industry for over 27 years. For the last 20 years she has had a very successful career as a hospitalist nurse practitioner and has given back to her profession by mentoring and shaping many new clinicians entering practice. She was inspired to continue her education and ultimately became a double Dolphin in 2014 when she earned a doctorate in nursing practice. In 2015 she returned to her alma mater as a clinical assistant professor in the Keigwin School of Nursing to develop and lead the adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program. Borne was instrumental in developing the Student Health Center at Jacksonville University, which opened this year. She is also a founding member of the DolphiNurse Alumni Network Board. Borne noted that it is her greatest desire for each and every JU student to know that we are committed to not only their academic success but also their health and their healthcare needs.
Nathaniel Ford, Sr. EMBA ’17 is the CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority. His distinguished career spans more than three decades, including a combined 19 years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). Ford has received numerous awards for his ambitious programs and initiatives over the span of his career, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s White House Champions of Change award in 2016, the Eno Thought Leader Award in 2019 and the APTA Outstanding Public Transportation Manager for 2020. He was also named “Ultimate CEO” from the Jacksonville Business Journal and received the Clanzel T. Brown Award for diversity programming. Ford has remained connected with Jacksonville University as a member of the Davis College of Business Executive Advisory Board, as well as the Public Policy Institute’s Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship Advisory Board. His service to his community is extensive – Ford serves as vice chair of the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries, and he is a past member of the United Way Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees for Daniel Kids. Ford represents the JTA on the JAX Chamber Board of Directors and will serve as Vice Chair for the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Executive Committee starting in January 2021. Ford also is the past chair and a current member of TEAMFL’s Board of Directors.
Dr. George Sackman ’52 penned and composed Jacksonville University’s Alma Mater in 1952. Once composed, he performed it with his quartet for the chairman of the Music Department and chorus director, then for the college chorus. The director took the music to the college administration, where it was approved for the commencement ceremony. Now the tune he wrote all those years ago is sung each year at Jacksonville University’s Commencement ceremony. Sackman was a proud member of Green Key, the University’s oldest honor society. Upon graduation from what was then Jacksonville Junior College, Sackman completed his degree in engineering, then spent two years in the military during the Korean War. He completed his Ph.D. in 1964, and after a short time in the industry spent 20 years on the faculty at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA and another 20 at SUNY Binghamton until he retired in 2005.
Scott Amos Recent Alumni of Distinction
Jared Brooks ’10 serves as the General Counsel for the Orange County Clerk of Courts, Tiffany Moore Russell. Prior to becoming the General Counsel for the Clerk, Jared served as a Staff Attorney for Orange County Public Schools. In 2016, he was selected as a fellow of Class IV of the William Reece Smith, Jr. Florida Bar Leadership Academy. Brooks has been recognized by Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite as one of the top government attorneys in Florida in 2018 and 2020. He has also served on the executive board of several organizations, including the FAMU College of Law Alumni Alliance, Paul C. Perkins Bar Association, Orange County Teen Court, and the Orange County Bar Association. At Jacksonville University, Jared has been a supporter of the Student Inclusion Center and the students it serves since it’s creation in 2017. Brooks served on a panel for a program called Brother to Brother, providing advice to young men of color on professional topics. He most recently served on the Black Alumni Network panel during Homecoming 2019 to share his experiences and advice with students and fellow young alumni.
Jennifer Lewis ’10 is a medical and freelance portrait photographer living and working in Northeast Florida. She has exhibited works at the Downtown Jacksonville Art Walk and is part of the permanent collections of the Jacksonville Public Library and UF Health Shands. Her work was most recently featured in the 8th Annual Timucuan Science and History Symposium. Jennifer is passionate about genealogy and other aspects of personal and familial history. She is also an extremely active member of her church community assisting with pastoral support as well as event planning. She attributes traveling across the United States and throughout Europe as a monumental experience that has allowed her to have more understanding of the human condition.
Lucas Meers ’12 says that it was the small, connected atmosphere that JU provided which launched him into a successful career working with people to help protect the world around us. After graduating with a degree in biology and marine science, Meers began working the in JU Alumni Office, strengthening his ties to the University and learning the importance of staying connected and giving back to his community. Currently, Meers serves as a conservation program officer at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. His position has allowed him to travel the world doing what he loves. After leaving the Alumni Office to pursue his passion for saving animals, plants, and the environment at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, he felt he needed to stay connected with his JU family – so he helped establish the GOLD Phin Alumni Network, of which he is currently the Vice-Chair. Meers has also been a contributor on JU’s The Science Of… series, and spoke to freshman students at Matriculation in 2019.
Outstanding Military Alumni of Distinction
Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt ’87, USN (Ret.) most recently served as the Director, Department of Defense (DoD), Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office responsible for sexual assault prevention and response policy, planning, programs and oversight supporting 1.2 million service members across the DoD community. She retired in August 2020 after 33 years of service. Burkhardt, then-Tadlock, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University, was a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority and was named to the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society for scholastic excellence. Upon graduation, she was commissioned as a direct input officer under the Navy’s Nuclear Power Instructor Program. She began her naval career teaching math, reactor principles and physics and was designated as a master training specialist at Naval Nuclear Power School, Orlando, Florida. In 1993, she earned a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University and in 2009, after completing Joint and Combined Warfighting School and other joint requirements, Burkhardt earned designation as a Joint Qualified Officer. Also notable, in 2014, she was selected and served as a Senior Fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group (SSG 34), Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island focused on innovative strategies required for Talent Management in 2030. As a Navy Human Resources Officer, and certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), she spent her 33-year military career focused on total force human capital strategies for the DoD’s most important resource: People! Her career assignments were in positions of increasing leadership, scope and responsibility and focused on human capital planning, training and education, personnel policy, inclusion and diversity management, financial management, personnel management, manpower analysis, resource requirements, organizational change, and strategic planning. She also served as the Navy’s HR Community Flag Leader from 2015-2020, leading a community of 900 Active and Reserve HR Officers. Her personal decorations include Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (three awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (five awards) and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Sean Karpf ’18 proudly enlisted in the US Army on November 15, 2007. He deployed in 2010 and 2012 to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Karpf stepped on a pressured plate IED while on a dismounted patrol on June 15, 2012. He was sent to Walter Reed Hospital, and would have his leg amputated below the knee. He continued his rehabilitation for 15 months, and medically retired from the Army on September 27, 2013. Karpf earned four Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, a Purple Heart, and a Good Conduct Medal. He graduated the Wounded Warrior TRACK program in 2014, which helped guide him through college and gave him the opportunity to intern with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he now works as a strength and conditioning coach. When he isn’t assisting with athlete workouts and team practices for the Jaguars, he is working to finish his master’s degree in performance enhancement and injury prevention.
Rear Adm. Matt O’Keefe ’88, a graduate of Jacksonville University’s NROTC program, was designated a naval aviator in July 1989. His career as an active duty SH-60B helicopter pilot includes assignments at Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 and HSL-40. He served in Operation Desert Storm and was selected as HSL-40’s Pilot of the Year in 1995. Transitioning to the Reserve Force, O’Keefe was assigned to Naval Station Mayport 0174 and was chosen as the Naval Air Reserve (NAR) Jacksonville Junior Officer of the Year for 1996. O’Keefe has also served as commanding officer of NR U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F), U.S. Naval Forces EuropeAfrica/U.S. 6th Fleet Det. 130, and NR Navy Warfare Development Command Det. 101. His personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal. O’Keefe graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1998 and currently serves as an Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Jacksonville, Florida.
For complete lists of previous award recipients, visit the Jacksonville University Office of Alumni Engagement website. Framed photographs of all winners reside in the River House.
View the photo album with pictures of this years Distinguished Alumni through the years.
By Rebecca Vecera