Every person mentioned in this week's column is deserving of an article unto themselves.
This week our column is about honoring Floridians who have both “achieved and given back” in ways that make Florida a better place for all of us. Please know that every person mentioned in this week’s column is deserving of an article unto themselves, and the words that I add here represent only the highlights of lives that may — and should — inspire us all.
We begin with the always-touching annual Junior Achievement Mid-Florida Business Hall of Fame held Wednesday, Nov. 2, in which three “laureates” were inducted into the hall of fame along with the Spirit of Achievement award. This year’s laureates include Linda Chapin, Jimmy Hewitt, the late Hy Lake and Jacob Stuart, each of whom was introduced by a poised and confident young person whose life has been inspired by the lessons learned through Junior Achievement.
Linda Chapin — perhaps the finest public servant ever to serve the citizens of Florida — was the first lady to serve as mayor of Orange County. During her tenure, construction was completed on the courthouse, the Convention Center and the History Center along with numerous parks and environmental land purchases.
Jimmy Hewitt is best known for his role in bringing the NBA to Orlando and serving as founder and owner of the Orlando Magic until 1992.
The late Hy Lake was a real estate mogul who spent his life fighting discrimination and supporting the arts. His wife, Harriet, who carries on as the leading arts philanthropist in Central Florida, accepted the award on behalf of her husband in an unforgettable speech that was both touching and humorous.
Jacob Stuart, president of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce for nearly 25 years, has fostered initiatives in every aspect of the lives of Central Floridians, from education to health care. Sincere congratulations to all.
Full Sail University, near Winter Park, held its emotionally charged Hall of Fame induction ceremony the following Monday. I could not have foreseen the sincere sense of family that these (now famous) Full Sail graduates exuded from every corner of the campus.
Full Sail is known for its technical expertise, but every one of the inductees talked about finding the right place and the feeling of family that the campus gives to its students. Remember, these are the kids who used to run the audio/video equipment in high school, so their time at Full Sail gave them a home and sense of inclusion they never had.
Their accomplishments would take pages, so I list only a few of the inductees’ achievements. They include Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three films in the “Saw” horror series; Laurie Brugger, senior rigger on a host of films including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”; Culley Bunker, MTV Video Music Award nominee and visual effects director for feature films and music videos for Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and The Black Eyed Peas; Jameson Durall, design director on games including “Red Faction: Armageddon,” “The Godfather II” and “The Simpsons Game”; David Farmer, sound designer for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy; and Sean Spuehler, audio engineer for Madonna (nuff said?).
Then — at lunch — I learned that arts leaders Donna Dowless and Chip Weston both teach at Full Sail, and that clinched the deal for this writer. With teachers like that, it’s no wonder these young people are going on to do great things. Visit www.fullsail.edu
National teaching award
When Evans High School opens its new campus on Jan. 3, the school will have a unique award to place front and center in their trophy case. At this time of awards and honors, Winter Park native Lamar Fowler, an algebra and geometry teacher at Evans High School, was almost speechless as it was announced that he was “one of America’s top teachers.”
Presented by Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation, the “Oscars of Teaching” includes a $25,000 award for the recipient. Further distinction comes from the fact that Fowler is the only teacher in Florida to receive the honor this year.
In a packed gathering in the school’s cafeteria, Principal David Christiansen spoke of Fowler’s dedication and his “ability to reach kids who are considered unreachable.” The son of a single mother, Fowler reluctantly accepted the microphone and once again encouraged his students, saying “Nothing levels the playing field like a good education.”
Deserving of an award …
If you’ve ever had the toe-tapping pleasure of watching Winter Park Playhouse’s Artistic Director Roy Alan tap his way into the persona of Fred Astaire or create a period piece of a musical, then you can understand it was only a matter of time until he would tap his way into the music of theater legend Cole Porter.
Now, the multi-talented Mr. Alan has created a new work — a singing, dancing tribute to Cole Porter — which he is calling “Anything Cole!” that I promise will sing and dance its way into your heart. This world premiere will happen right here in Winter Park and will run through Dec. 17.
The music is a list of Cole Porter’s greatest hits from Broadway and the movies, including “Anything Goes”, “Kiss Me Kate” and “Silk Stockings”. And the only thing that could be more exciting is the cast, including Roy Alan, Natalie Cordone, Steven Flaa, Brian Minyard, Candace Neal and Kate Zaloumes. It’s like a virtual who’s who of the finest singing actors in Central Florida.
The Winter Park Playhouse is at 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park. Call 407-645-0145 or visit winterparkplayhouse.org