Your Impact

Meet the Presslys!

This Palm Beach family has been uplifting UF since 1911 – and now a new generation is making gator tracks.

By Barbara Drake (MFA ’04) UF Advancement Published June 27, 2023

The neon-orange sign that greets visitors to the Pressly family’s house in Gainesville says it all: “Gators got that rama jama.”

It’s a classic UF cheer — punctuated with “ooh ahh” — that expresses the confidence and determination that Gators bring to every game.

For the multigenerational Pressly family of Palm Beach — currently helmed by alums Kathryn (“Katie”) Seashole Pressly and James G. (“Jamie”) Pressly Jr. — that rama jama spirit has been going strong for 112 years. And it has fueled more than just Game Day enthusiasm.

“UF has been a central, shared cornerstone of our family’s story for over a century when my grandfather, Uriel Blount, graduated with a degree in engineering in 1915,” Katie said in a recent interview. “His experience made such an impression that eight out of his 10 grandchildren became Gators, six married Gators, and they produced nine more Gator graduates.”

Law. Engineering, Psychology. Business Administration. Education. Architecture and Design. “UF offered it all to our family,” said Katie about members’ varied degrees, which paved the way for successful careers and professional ventures throughout the state. These include a Palm Beach law firm founded in 1991 by Jamie and his younger brother, David Pressly, and augmented when Jamie’s son, J. Grier (“Grier”) Pressly III, joined the practice in 1999.

The firm’s name? (Take a deep breath.) Pressly, Pressly, Randolph & Pressly. Yes, lawyering, like sports, is a family affair for this South Florida clan.

Our family is just blown away by this award. We are so honored and appreciative of this recognition.
Katie & Jamie Pressly statement, on receiving the Lifetime Volunteers Award at the 2023 Academy of Golden Gators celebration

Deeply thankful for all UF has done for them, Jamie and Katie have been eager to give back, starting in the 2000s with UF Athletics and the Levin College of Law. Sports fans will recognize the two stadiums on campus that bear the Pressly name: the Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium and the James G. Pressly Stadium (named for Jamie’s father), the outdoor home of Gator track and field.

Now the couple’s children and their young grandchildren are all deeply engaged with the university and its ongoing evolution. In gratitude for this and more, UF presented the Pressly family with the Lifetime Volunteers Award at the annual Academy of Golden Gators celebration, held on March 3, 2023, in West Palm Beach.

“Our family is just blown away by this award,” said Katie and Jamie in a joint statement. “We are so honored and appreciative of this recognition.”

Here are just a few of the many notable Presslys, past and present, who have left their mark on the University of Florida.

“Sharpie,” the Florida Alligator Ancestor

Uriel Blount’s 1915 headshot

Katie’s grandfather, Uriel Blount (BSCE 1915 [1889-1962]), didn’t bear the Pressly name, but he definitely had the rama jama — or, as they would have called it in his day, moxie.

Originally from Lakeland, the future civil engineer was immersed in extracurriculars during his four years (1911-1915) at UF, including serving as YMCA vice president, class secretary, debate team member, university orchestra musician and delegate to the 1913 Southern Student Conference. Fellow Gators dubbed him “Sharpie.”

His most lasting influence at UF was as circulation and business manager of the Florida Alligator newspaper. According to an article dated May 28, 1915, in spring 1914, Blount “conceived the plan of printing the Alligator on the campus thus taking the final step to make the paper a truly student enterprise.” Blount secured “a quantity of type and press room equipment” and installed the press in the basement of Peabody Hall prior to the start of the fall 1914 semester.

“This marks the beginning of the biggest student enterprise yet undertaken in Florida and one of which the University is justly proud,” announced the student paper, which is now in its 116th year of publication.

Captain Jim, Who Got the (Tennis) Ball Rolling

Jim Pressly Sr.

There are several Jameses in the paternal Pressly line; to find the one after whom the track and field stadium is named, go back to Jamie’s dad: James (“Jim”) G. Pressly Sr. (1908-2002), a WWII Army captain with a master’s degree in English from Columbia University.

No, Jim was not formally a Gator. But a plaque outside the James G. Pressly Stadium notes he was “a true Gator at heart.”

The fourth president of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, Jim Pressly was a club tennis pro in Palm Beach, Jupiter Island and Westchester County, New York, for 40 years. With his wife, Anna (Finn) Pressly (1923-2021), he fathered five children, all of whom played college tennis and two of whom won national titles. In recognition of these achievements, the United States Tennis Association honored the Presslys as the Tennis Family of the Year in Florida, in 1977.

In addition to son Jamie, Jim and Anna’s Gator scions include lawyer Julia (Pressly) Farina (BA ’80, JD ’83), a tennis All American and one of the first Lady Gators to play under Title IX; Barbara F. Pressly (BAE ’73); and lawyer/1975 SEC singles champion David Pressly (BSBA ’76, JD ’79), who as a senior received the UF Alumni Association’s Doug Belden Athletic Award.

Jamie, the Legal Eagle Patriarch

James G Pressly Jr.

Attorney Jamie Pressly (BA ’69, JD ’72) has more than 50 years’ experience helping Florida residents with their wills, trusts and estate needs. He has been listed in every edition of “The Best Lawyers in America” since its founding in 1983 and was named West Palm Beach’s Trusts and Estates Litigation Lawyer of the Year by the same publication on several occasions. At 75, this Gator is still at the top of his litigating game.

He honed that competitive spirit on the tennis court, first under the watchful eye of his father and then as an athlete on full scholarship at UF. From 1967 to 1969, Jamie compiled an impressive 60–3 singles record, earning a string of honors: All-American, SEC doubles champion, three-time SEC singles champion and three-time All-SEC selection.

No wonder he is one of just eight tennis players enshrined in the UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

Current Gator athletes can thank the James G. Pressly Jr. and Kathryn S. Pressly Endowment in Athletics for helping fund their educations. Jamie also lends his expertise to the UF Advisor Network, to the Gator Boosters Board and to the law school as an Emeritus member of the Law Center Association board of trustees.

Katie, the “Famously Friendly” Matriarch

Tim Tebow with Katie Pressly

Shown here with Tim Tebow (BS ’09), Katie (Seashole) Pressly (BA ’69) is the energetic hub around which the family revolves. She organizes get-togethers, keeps track of family members and is happy to comb through the archives for a long-lost photo or to offer a piece of trivia (such as the grandkids calling Grandpa Uriel Blount “De-Daddy”). Katie’s reputation has followed her to Kennebunkport, Maine, where she and daughter Page restored a Georgian Colonial home from 1784; Maine Home + Design dubbed her the family’s “famously friendly matriarch.”

Growing up a mortician’s daughter in Jacksonville, Katie learned the all-important soft skills of patience and compassion. A high school cheerleader and water skier, she entered UF in 1967 and adored her coursework in Chaucer, metaphysical poetry, history and British literature, she said. She has fond memories of her Alpha Delta Pi sisters and, of course, meeting Jamie in her senior year.

She was dating his roommate then. “But actually,” said Katie, “I think Jamie had his eye on me.”

The pair started dating when Jamie entered law school in 1969; he taught her how to serve a tennis ball on UF’s varsity courts, and they soon fell in love.

“We got married the summer of 1970,” she said. “We were on a tennis circuit for our honeymoon — eight weeks in Europe. I learned about tennis very fast.”

Three children (see below) followed in 1972, 1973 and 1977.

Katie is proud that her name graces the stadium of Florida Gators softball, whose team won two Women’s College World Series national championships, in 2014 and 2015.

Softball wasn’t Katie’s sport, but she loves the camaraderie that binds the team — and its fans — together, she says. Ten years ago, high school student Heather Braswell was one of the team’s biggest supporters, cheering the Gators on while she fought brain cancer. Since her death in 2014, members of the softball team have honored Heather’s fighting spirit by wearing a sunflower in their hair.

“My love for UF softball stems from watching a super spirited bunch of female athletes playing for something bigger than themselves,” said Katie. “Heather’s life and fight left a lasting impact, symbolized by that sunflower.”

The Pressly family on Florida Field.

The New Generation: Page, Grier & Barbie

A new generation of Presslys is now lifting up their alma mater, with their offspring waiting in the wings.

Michael and Page Vennett

Jamie and Katie’s eldest daughter, Page Pressly Vennett (BDES ’94, EDS ’00, MED ’00), has a thriving career in interior design as the owner of Pressly Designs, in West Palm Beach.

While at UF, Page graduated first in her class for her undergraduate degree in interior design, as well as for her master’s and specialist’s degrees in mental health counseling. Page was an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and served as a Rho Chi for the Panhellenic Council. She has served on the UF Women Steering Council and gives to the College of Design, Construction and Planning. Page’s husband, Michael Vennett, was a collegiate swimmer at Northeastern University.

Middle child Grier Pressly (BA ’96, JD ’99) takes after his high-achieving dad. In his senior year Grier was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame and was named a UF Law Outstanding Young Alumnus in 2010. Among his fondest UF memories are serving as Gator Growl producer in 1997 and attending football games during the Steve Spurrier (BSPE ’81) era, including the 1996 national championship at the Sugar Bowl, in New Orleans. Grier continues to stay involved with UF as a member of the Gator Boosters Board and as a member of the law school’s Law Center Association board of trustees.

Parker, Grier and Kristy Pressly

As a partner with the family’s firm, Grier practices estate and trust litigation and advises fiduciaries. His wife, fellow alum Kristy Pressly (BSBA ’91, JD ’94), serves as vice president and general counsel for The Breakers Palm Beach Inc., a historic resort opened in 1896 by Henry Flagler. Parker Pressly, their daughter, just turned 15.

The couple support UF in many ways, including with gifts to the law school and by endowing scholarships and academic programs for Gator athletes.

Youngest child Barbie Pressly Tilman (BS ’00) calls Tampa home with her husband and fellow UF alum, Matthew Tilman (BSEE ’97, MBA ’05), and their three daughters, Lucy Seashole Losson, 16, Kathryn Pressly Tilman, 11, and Lila McNeely Tilman, 10.

The Tilman family at a tailgate

Like her mother, Barbie has an affinity for bringing people together and was a professional wedding planner for years. “I hung that up a few years ago to concentrate on raising my three baby Gators,” she said in a recent interview. “Now I am heavily involved in their schools and with helping my family in property management.”

The sociable Gator belonged to Florida Blue Key, Savant and Delta Delta Delta sorority as an undergraduate; she also played intramural tennis and was a Florida Cicerone. A member of the UF Alumni Association’s board of directors since 2012, she became president of the UFAA in July and is hard at work “connecting meaningfully with as many alumni and students as possible,” she said in a recent interview.

Barbie and Matt (a sales leader at technology company NetApp) support multiple units at UF, including Engineering, Athletics, Fine Arts and Student Affairs. On Game Days, you’ll find the family at tailgates and yelling for their favorite team at the Swamp.

Oh, and you can guess what their favorite cheer is.

By Barbara Drake (MFA ’04) UF Advancement Published June 27, 2023