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President Ben Sasse presented Elisabeth DeLuca with the Annual Philanthropist award. DeLuca's gift of 27,000 acres will affect research and the management of natural resources for generations to come. DeLuca is also a donor to the College of Nursing.

UF’s 10th Academy of Golden Gators honors philanthropists and volunteers in the region

An altruist protecting one of the state’s last frontiers, a former University of Florida dean, a multi-generational family of UF graduates, and a West Palm Beach real estate attorney are the latest honorees in the university’s prestigious Academy of Golden Gators. The academy honors alumni and friends whose support and guidance is driving UF’s ascent as one of the nation’s best institutions of higher learning. UF just completed its $4.6 billion Go Greater campaign and for the second consecutive year is ranked No. 5 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of public universities.

The 2023 inductees are Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation president Elisabeth DeLuca, outgoing Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering dean Cammy Abernathy, the Jamie and Katie Pressly family, and Shutts & Bowen LLP partner Harvey Oyer III. This year’s awardees were recognized during the academy’s 10th induction ceremony on March 3. The event was held in West Palm Beach.

This year’s Academy of Golden Gators award categories are Philanthropic Leadership, Annual Philanthropist, Lifetime Volunteer and Annual Volunteer.

Cammy Abernathy, former dean, Wertheim College of Engineering

Cammy Abernathy
Philanthropic Leadership Award

Abernathy, who in December stepped down as dean of UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, led the college through a period of unprecedented growth during her 13-year tenure. Her leadership, as well as her vision to reimagine an engineering education to better prepare future engineers to be 21st century problem-solvers, inspired major private investments in the college. Two of the most notable were Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim’s 2015 catalyst gift for the largest expansion in the college’s 100-year history and NVIDIA cofounder Chris Malachowsky’s commitment in 2020 to revolutionize UF’s curriculum to focus more on artificial intelligence.

The DeLuca Preserve is home to some of Florida’s endangered and threatened animals.

Elisabeth DeLuca
Annual Philanthropist Award

DeLuca is one of Florida’s most generous philanthropists. The widow of Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca, she is president of the foundation that bears his name and recently launched a second foundation of her own. In 2020, DeLuca, who lives in Pompano Beach, donated more than 27,000 acres in Osceola County to UF to protect one of the last natural areas of its kind and to serve as a living classroom and laboratory for students and faculty. Her contribution is among the largest gifts of real estate ever to any university in the nation and is a refuge for endangered and threatened animals. She also gave a leadership gift for the College of Nursing’s Innovation and Learning Lab.

Support for UF is a generations-spanning tradition for the Pressly family.

Pressly family
Lifetime Volunteer Award

Jamie and Katie Pressly — along with their children and their spouses, Page and Michael Vennett, Grier and Kristy Pressly, and Barbie and Matthew Tilman — are longtime University of Florida benefactors. The family supports a range of university programs and projects, including athletics, where the track and field stadium and softball stadium are named for members of the family, the Levin College of Law and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

Harvey Oyer III, lawyer, West Palm Beach

Harvey Oyer III
Annual Volunteer Award

One of the region’s top land use and zoning lawyers, Oyer is a strong advocate for UF’s initiative to develop South Florida. A fifth generation Floridian, he is the son of former Boynton Beach mayor Harvey Eugene Oyer Jr. and the great-great grandson of pioneer settler Capt. Hannibal Dillingham Pierce, one of the first non-Native Americans to settle in Southeast Florida. Oyer earned two degrees from UF, a bachelor’s degree in 1990 and a Juris Doctorate in 1998.

By recognizing philanthropists whose commitment enables UF to address societal issues and improve lives throughout the world, the Academy of Golden Gators reflects UF’s goal to be one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities. The academy honors the generosity and vision of donors and volunteers who embody the spirit of the university.