Outstanding Eagles inducted into Hall of Fame

7 – minute read

Nine class of 2024 standouts have been inducted into Florida Gulf Coast University’s Hall of Fame, the highest recognition awarded to students.


The Hall of Fame honors individuals who demonstrate superior leadership, integrity and achievement through activities, service, scholarship and academic excellence.


This year’s honorees include aspiring scientists conducting research alongside professors and Eagles actively advocating for others on campus, in the local community and abroad.


Six of the nine are part of the Honors College.

“This prestigious honor is awarded annually to no more than 10 exceptional students who have not only excelled in leadership, service and academic endeavors, but have contributed to FGCU in extraordinary ways, led meaningful efforts with powerful impacts and demonstrated excellence beyond the walls of FGCU,” said Jessica J. Rhea, senior director of experiential learning and career development.


This year’s inductees shared highlights of their activities, accomplishments and aspirations.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Dominique Berrette


As a research student in the Department of Psychology for three years, Dominique Berrette became one of the first two people at FGCU to complete two honors theses in their time at FGCU. In the Honors College, the Fort Myers native served as a mentor, a student ambassador, a Millennium Fellow and an executive board member.


Under her leadership as vice president of Global Medical Brigades, the student organization provided health screenings to communities in Panama, Honduras and Southwest Florida, with plans underway for a brigade to Guatemala. Berrette volunteers with Blankets and Blessings, an organization aiding the unhoused population in Southwest Florida, where she currently serves as vice president of Project Narrative.


Berrette is applying to medical schools and plans to continue her studies in health-focused fields.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Kerrie Blankenship


Kerrie Blankenship has earned her degree in communication with a concentration in public relations in just three years and with a 4.0 GPA. She’s accumulated 230 service-learning hours on various community projects, including distributing snack bags at Franklin Park Elementary School and participating in FGCU’s Alternative Break Program in New Orleans.


Blankenship served as director of traditions and vice president of Programming Board, program director and executive director for FGCU Homecoming, membership and marketing director of FGCU’s student chapter of FPRA, a SPARK mentor through Eagle View Orientation and a member of the FGCU Pride Committee. She is also the recipient of the Brian and Denise Endowed Scholarship and Programming Board’s 2022 General Board Member of the Year.


While she pursues certification in public relations, Blankenship aims to continue her impact in her hometown of Tampa, serving as a mentor and role model.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Kayla Gutierrez


Hammonton, New Jersey, native Kayla Gutierrez graduated with a degree in PGA golf management and dual minors in marketing and advertising.


Gutierrez served as a junior golf instructor and social media manager at the Junior Golf Performance Academy, and a marketing and communications intern at the Philadelphia PGA Section. As a social media manager and journalist for the PGA of America, she’s written over 40 articles. In May, she’ll participate in the 2024 PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, as a member of the PGA Digital Team.


On campus, Gutierrez worked as a Financial Aid Office student assistant and volunteered as the FGCU PGM social media communications manager and co-president of the American Marketing Association collegiate chapter.


She has accepted a position as the communications manager at the TwinEagles golf club in Naples. As an alum, she plans to mentor future FGCU students along their academic paths.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Jack Hellmer


Jack Hellmer, from Coral Springs, Florida, graduated with a master’s in entrepreneurship. Throughout his time at FGCU, he has developed into a mental health advocate and social entrepreneur. His brainchild, UBYou, a student wellness and success hub, has been made available free to all FGCU students.


Hellmer led his fraternity brothers at Alpha Tau Omega in a grassroots movement to promote mental health awareness and support. Their efforts resulted in over 50 individuals becoming certified for mental health first aid, numerous educational events to reduce stigma around mental health and over $41,000 raised for the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health.


He also raised over $42,000 through pitch competitions in the FGCU Runway Program startup incubator and gained recognition in national publications.


Hellmer plans to continue supporting mental health in the community and working to drive UBYou’s expansion nationally.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Emma Hixenbaugh


A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Emma Hixenbaugh is a standout in academics and athletics. She graduated with a degree in bioengineering while making waves as a member of FGCU’s swimming and diving team.


Hixenbaugh served in leadership roles within the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and as the outreach officer for the Biomedical Engineering Society. She participated in class-based and summer research programs and presented her biomechanics research at the National Biomedical Engineering Conference last October.


Looking ahead, she has her sights set on a master’s in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her passion lies in sports biomechanics, with a focus on working with para-athletes at the Olympic level and contributing to the field of sports rehabilitation and research.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Liberty Johnson


Liberty Johnson, a first-generation student from Youngstown, Ohio, graduated with a degree in forensic science and a minor in anthropology.


On campus, Johnson has been involved in the Students in Health Medicine Mentor Program and served as a TRIO student. She also worked as a resident assistant in North Lake Village and an Honors College mentor. She was president of the Forensics Club and vice president of Circle K International, while also serving on the Honors Executive Board and the QEP Digital Badging Committee. She organized student-led relief efforts for Hurricane Ian, completed an honors thesis and presented at numerous regional and statewide research conferences.


Johnson plans to gain experience in her field this summer before pursuing medical programs, leveraging skills and experiences gained at FGCU.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Barjon Kadi


Hailing from Albania, Barjon Kadi graduated with a degree in accounting and a minor in entrepreneurship. He served as a senator and two-term treasurer on Student Government, where he contributed to the university’s 2024-2029 Strategic Plan.


He was an ambassador and mentor with the Honors College and worked as a peer tutor with the Center for Academic Achievement, assisting students in business-related courses.


Kadi was recognized as a Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants scholar. He completed two tax season internships with a public accounting firm, presented research at the national United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference and received the Honors College’s Outstanding Second Year Student award.


After graduation, Kadi plans to pursue a master’s degree in accounting and taxation at FGCU while working towards obtaining his CPA license.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Jessica Miceli


Jacksonville, Florida, native Jessica Miceli graduated with a 4.0 GPA in biochemistry. With over 600 service-learning hours under her belt, Miceli has volunteered with organizations such as Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department, Canterfield Retirement Home’s memory care unit and Global Medical Brigades, earning her the Excellence in Civic Engagement Award.


Miceli served as president of Phi Mu sorority and Project Narrative. She’s administered more than 15 college readiness writing workshops for underserved community members in Southwest Florida.


Her inorganic chemistry undergraduate research secured the $10,000 Brodie Foundation Life Sciences scholarship and she presented her findings at the American Chemical Society conference in Indianapolis. Her honors thesis, focused on using artificial intelligence to enhance healthcare accessibility for Hispanic women, earned her distinction upon successful defense.


Miceli plans to take a gap year, continuing her work as a medical assistant in pain management while applying to medical schools.

FGCU Hall of Fame inductee

Tyler Varnadore


Tyler Varnadore, from Mount Dora, Florida, graduated with a degree in computer information systems and a minor in economics.


Varnadore has been deeply engaged in student governance, holding roles including Student Government senator, treasurer, vice president and president. As treasurer, he led the Finance Code Revision Committee, advocating for increased expenditure caps to alleviate rising costs for student organizations. He contributed to university wide initiatives, serving on FGCU’s Strategic Plan Steering Committee and the Student Success Council. Additionally, he helped organize “FGCU Day at the Capitol,” facilitating student advocacy efforts in Tallahassee.


Outside of governance, Varnadore has served as a university ambassador for two years and an ambassador in the Office of Organizations & Student Involvement. Post-graduation, he plans to pursue law school in the fall, leveraging his experiences in student leadership and governance.

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