Amanda Beights, vice president of Leadership Collier Foundation, says Michael Wynn led the Foundation’s 30-member board and the Greater Naples Chamber’s 50-member board “like an orchestra conductor,” harmonizing their efforts into “a marvelous local institutional symphony.”
Kamela Patton, superintendent of Collier County Public Schools – whose initiatives have been sponsored by Sunshine Ace Hardware, where Wynn is president and board chairman – says he is a “trailblazer” who is committed to excellence and leadership.
And now Wynn is something else: FGCU’s 2018 Alumni of Distinction winner. It is the highest award bestowed by the Alumni Association and celebrates alumni who have upheld the tradition of excellence through their personal accomplishment, professional achievement or humanitarian service.
“I spent a lot of time investing in the community and in the region,” he says, “and to have what is essentially one of the key anchors for this region – FGCU – to award me one of their highest honors was incredibly humbling and gratifying.
“What is special about FGCU is that it has done a remarkable job of being able to integrate with the surrounding regional community and be a significant contributor to workforce development. And still doing all of that despite what has been exponential growth. I’ve been fortunate to be able to hire a number of FGCU graduates. We have a number of students working for us right now.
“It’s been gratifying to have been a part of that early start of the university and to be able to see it continue to reach new milestones while still keeping that close connection to the community, which is so important to me.”
After earning his executive master of business administration degree from FGCU in 2005, he went on to lead Sunshine Ace Hardware, one of the largest family-owned home-improvement and outdoor-recreation retailers in Southwest Florida. He has never forgotten what FGCU did for him. He returns every semester to speak to students in business Professor Eric Dent’s Organizational Ethics and Values course.
“The more time has gone on, the more that the university has matured and the more opportunities I have seen to be able to connect and invest time volunteering with the university and really give back to a university that has given so much to me,” he says. “It’s given me the skills and tools that I have required to be able to grow our business and to be able to have some of the other opportunities that have come up in my career.
“I don’t know that I would have had some of the skill sets and confidence to take on some of those roles had I not had that background and education that FGCU provided.”
THE ALUMNI AWARDS
Each year, the Alumni Association recognizes alumni who are successful in the community and in their professions. We encourage alumni, friends, faculty and staff to nominate alumni for either of these prestigious awards.
ALUMNUS OF DISTINCTION
This is the most prestigious award the association bestows upon a graduate. It honors alumni who have upheld the tradition of excellence through their personal accomplishment, professional achievement and/or humanitarian service.
SOARING EAGLE AWARD
A graduate from each college is honored (within 10 years of graduation) for outstanding achievement or service in their professional or volunteer life.
FGCU Alumni Association honors its young Soaring Eagles
Graduation year/major: 2009, Legal Studies
Where he lives now: Albion, Ind.
Occupation: Town manager
Why he was nominated: He has aggressively made professionalism a priority in municipal management and has assisted his community with bringing about changes in policies with resident input and the use of data. He is the ADA and Title VI coordinator for the Albion area and ensures that everyone receives fair and equal treatment under the law. Wynn was is a founding member of the Culver Beard Club, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to children and residents and has logged 15 years of bell-ringing for the Salvation Army during the charity’s annual Kettle Campaign.
In his own words: “I am incredibly honored and humbled to have received the Soaring Eagle Award. In a profession that rarely receives gratitude, it’s refreshing to be recognized as doing good things for my community, and for excelling in my career. I’ve proudly displayed the Soaring Eagle Award prominently in my office. It’s amongst my most valued accomplishments, sitting next to a picture of my wife and me shortly after the birth of our middle daughter, and baby pictures of our oldest daughter, and our son. There’s also a Starship Enterprise snow globe sitting there as well. While I don’t discount all of the awards that the town has received under my leadership, they simply don’t mean as much to me as being recognized back home at FGCU.”
Graduation year/major: 2009, Management-Human Resources; 2010, Master of Business Administration
Where he lives now: Estero
Occupation: People & Culture Manager, Suffolk Construction
Why he was nominated: He has rolled out a number of programs for Suffolk, which received gold awards in three categories at the 2017 Chief Learning Officer/Learning in Practice Awards (Talent management, Trailblazer and Innovation). Wallick’s passion for FGCU remains strong. He currently serves as an attendee and speaker at FGCU’s student Society for Human Resource Management Chapter meetings and events and has served on the FGCU Alumni Association as a presenter on interviewing techniques and resume workshops.
In his own words: “To me, the Soaring Eagle Award means that I am fulfilling a promise that I made to myself and the Southwest Florida community when I chose to attend FGCU. This promise was that I would become involved in and give back to the community in which I lived and worked during and after my time at FGCU, just as the many professors, business leaders, and mentors did for me during my career at FGCU and still do to this day. To me, FGCU will always be near and very dear to my heart.”
Graduation year/major: 2007, Bachelor of Arts in Resort & Hospitality Management; 2013, Master’s in Educational Leadership
Where she lives now: Fort Myers
Occupation: Principal, Collier Charter Academy in Naples
Why she was nominated: Zambito was a teacher at Bonita Springs Charter School, then she received a string of promotions to curriculum resource teacher, dean of students and assistant principal. Now she is principal of a charter school that opened last fall. She is active in the Naples Chamber of Commerce and has contributed to FGCU as guest speaker for the Student Alumni Association and general adviser for Kappa Tau.
In her own words: “FGCU, to me, means opportunity. As a student in both my undergraduate and graduate programs, I not only received a great education, but I was afforded with opportunities of leadership that allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I know that no matter where I go in life, I will always have my education and the skills I acquired through those opportunities that have helped pave the foundation for my career. FGCU has been a part of my life for the last 15 years and still provides me with opportunities, even as an alumna. Whether it’s speaking to upcoming graduates in the College of Education, meeting them at hiring fairs, networking and reconnecting with fellow alumni at the great alumni events that are planned or enjoying the company of family and friends at a FGCU athletics event, the opportunities are still endless. I’m grateful for being selected as the recipient of the Soaring Eagles Award for the College of Education and look forward to my next 15 years as an Eagle alumna.”
Graduation year/major: 2012, Master’s, Social Work
Where he lives now: Cape Coral
Occupation: President and co-founder of Family Initiative
Why he was nominated: After serving and supporting abused and neglected children while on the management team at the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, he felt there were gaps in the community that needed to be filled. He saw more and more children coming into the child welfare system who were both diagnosed and undiagnosed in the autism spectrum. So he left his position at Children’s Network and co-founded the Family Initiative, which serves children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families. He also has continued to work full time with the Youth Law Center, a national advocacy organization focusing on reforming child welfare and foster care systems around the country.
In his own words: “Being selected as a Soaring Eagle means a great deal to me because it serves as recognition of the impact of the non-profit community throughout Southwest Florida. Our community has been positively affected by a new generation of non-profit leaders addressing issues highly significant to individuals and families across our area. Receiving the award highlights the growing awareness of the increasing number of families who have a child diagnosed on the autism spectrum across Southwest Florida and I’m proud to have the honor of representing the families we serve.”
Graduation year/major: 2015, Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering; pursuing Master’s in Environmental Engineering, with expected graduation in May 2019.
Where he lives now: Fort Myers
Occupation: Assistant Project Engineer, Hole Montes, Inc.
Why he was nominated: His project, “Bioremediation of Phenol Waste Using Microorganisms from Activated Sludge in a Batch Reactor,” took first place in the Florida Water Environment Association Student Design Competition in May 2015 and second place in the Water Environment Federation Student Design Competition in September 2015. He has served not only as a teacher’s assistant at FGCU, but is working toward his master’s degree and hopes to become more involved as an FGCU ambassador. He was a member of the FGCU Engineering and Computer Science Honor Society and the EES student chapter.
In his own words: “FGCU is special to me because the university provides a unique perspective to learning by incorporating environmental awareness into its programs. When I was a student aspiring to be an environmental engineer, there was an emphasis on sustainability and how to best preserve the environment and natural resources. I was fortunate to have mentors in the College of Engineering that helped guide me into a career working with water, one of our greatest natural resources. The friendships and professional relationships that have developed from my time at FGCU have had an enormous impact on me.”