The Honorable Betty Castor
Elizabeth “Betty” Bowe Castor, a native of Glassboro, New Jersey, moved to Florida in 1966, where she became a politician, a proponent of educational causes, and the first female president of the University of South Florida. Castor’s career has spanned continents, bridged social and political gaps, and afforded numerous awards, honors and appointments.
Betty Castor’s life is a story of firsts – first to lead an all-female climbing expedition to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro; the first woman elected to the Hillsborough County Commission and the first woman elected to the Florida Cabinet. Besides being the mother of two daughters who followed her into politics, and a son who’s a judge in Palm Beach County, Castor has been a teacher in Miami, a state senator from Tampa, a League of Women Voters pioneer and the first woman president of the University of South Florida. Castor supports several USF programs including endowments in Music, Women’s Athletics, the College of Public Health, Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), the College of Arts and Science, the USF Library and WUSF. Currently, she chairs the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Many women hold leadership roles today, but in Florida and in our community, Castor helped break the glass ceiling. She remains an insightful, engaged, committed community leader and inspiring role model to many.
The Honorable Judge Essrig
The Honorable Judge Essrig, a Tampa native and graduate of Duke University for undergraduate and UF Law for law school, presides in Hillsborough’s family dependency and child welfare court and has drawn state and national attention for her work on and off the bench.
She has served as a systemic change agent in establishing services and programming for children and families through her representation on the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County for fifteen years. Judge Essrig serves on numerous boards, panels, workgroups and committees locally, statewide and nationally regarding the welfare of children. As the need has arisen in more recent years, Judge Essrig has also been involved in the handling of unaccompanied minor cases and immigrant juvenile cases. Judge Essrig’s commitment to the children of Hillsborough County has been influencing reforms in the court system, child welfare, early learning and prevention and intervention programming and has resulted in decreased rates of repeat maltreatment, innovative leadership in the establishment of early childhood court, and a demonstrated commitment to collaboration which resulted in achieving more successful outcomes for children.
J. Thomas Touchton
J. Thomas Touchton is Chairman of The Witt-Touchton Company LLC, a private investment company in Tampa, Florida. He was born in Dade City, Florida, has lived in Tampa since August, 1964 and is married to the former Lavinia Lee Witt of Tampa.
Mr. Touchton served for 23 years as a member of the Boards of Directors of TECO Energy, Inc. and its principal subsidiary, Tampa Electric Company. He also served for 25 years as a trustee or director of more than two dozen investment companies sponsored by Merrill Lynch & Co.
Mr. Touchton was the Founding Chairman from 1989-2000 of the Tampa Bay History Center which opened in downtown Tampa in January, 2009 as the most comprehensive history museum on the West Coast of Florida, and he continues to serve on its Board of Trustees. He chaired the History Center’s successful $32 million Capital Campaign which provided private sector support for the building, exhibits and endowment. Mr. Touchton’s contribution through the Tampa Bay History Center lays a strong foundation around community identity.
Tireless service is a way of life for Celia Ferman. For more than three decades, she has delivered food for Meals on Wheels and spent endless hours comforting parishioners, working in food ministries, and teaching Sunday school at Hyde Park United Methodist Church. As a member of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Board of Directors, her contributions have been vast: chairing the Magnolia Ball, serving on the Campaign Finance Committee, enlisting women for the Merit Society supporting female cancer scientists, and championing the Moffitt Lung Cancer Center of Excellence to end the number-one cancer killer. Ferman’s presence, advocacy, and prayers have lessened the burden of countless people with lives turned upside down by cancer. She is also a successful businesswoman as a director of Ferman Motor Car Company. With a lifetime of selfless caring, Celia Ferman, a Junior League of Tampa Sustainer, is the epitome of a community champion as role model, mentor, and catalyst for change.
State Senator Arthenia Joyner
In the struggle for equal justice for all, Senator Arthenia Joyner has not just witnessed history, she has made history. Before being elected by her peers as the first black woman to serve as the Democratic Leader in the Florida Senate, she was the first black female attorney in Hillsborough and Polk counties, and the first black female elected to the Florida House and Senate from Tampa. After being wrongfully incarcerated during desegregation protests, she pioneered change for all people illegitimately targeted. A past president of the National Bar Association who practiced law for 47 years, Joyner has been an influential advocate for human rights and against human trafficking, a champion for women, and a tireless voice for expanding healthcare. Leading locally with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and guiding nonprofits to success, Senator Joyner is a trailblazer and inspiring example of public service.
As a young Cuban immigrant, Lincoln Tamayo learned English at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ybor City. His Jesuit High School Education led him to a bachelor’s degree at the University of Notre Dame, master’s degree from Harvard University, and law degree from the University of Florida. Tamayo’s passion fir service called him home to Tampa to take on his most fulfulling work. For 13 years, Tamayo has been transforming education in Tampa Bay through his advocacy for some of the area’s most marginalized students. As Head of School for Academy Prep Center of Tampa and Vice President of Operations, overseeing both Academy Prep Centers of Tampa and St. Petersburg. He is forever changing lives for thousands of low income students and families. Lincoln Tamayo brings to life the pledge of personal responsibility he recites daily with his students: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Born and raised in Tampa and a proud graduate of Jesuit High School, Richard Gonzmart is the fourth generation President and CEO of the Columbia Restaurant Group. Mr. Gonzmart has served on dozens of nonprofit boards and championed numerous causes in the Tampa community. In addition to giving more than $1.5 million to support cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center, he spends countless hours raising money for local causes, such as Meals on Wheels Tampa and Easter Seals. In 1998, Mr. Gonzmart created the Annual Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest program, which has raised $1.3 million for nonprofits throughout Florida. His annual 5K, “Richard’s Run For Life”, donates 100% of every dollar raised to Moffitt Cancer Center’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Program and the Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration.
Sister Claire LeBoeuf, CSC
Sister Claire has worked in the field of child abuse and neglect for over 35 years and has founded numerous organizations serving foster children. When she was 13, her mother passed away suddenly. She bounced around between relatives for a year until her father remarried. She no longer felt like she belonged, so three years later, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Cross–where she has felt a deep sense of belonging for 54 years. The desire to help foster children also feel a sense of belonging has led to the development of her most recent project, New Life Village. Located in Tampa, New Life Village is an intergenerational community, which encourages more people to adopt.
Governor Bob Martinez
A native of Tampa, Governor Bob Martinez is the grandson of Spanish immigrants, and the first and only person of Spanish ancestry to be elected to the state’s top office. He is a graduate of Tampa’s Jefferson High School and the University of Tampa. He began his public service career as a teacher in the Hillsborough County public school system before going on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Illinois. Governor Martinez has enjoyed a long career of public service, serving as Tampa’s Mayor from 1979 to 1986 and as the state’s 40th Governor. Today, Governor Martinez is an active director or officer for many local boards including The University of Tampa, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corporporation, Florida Council of 100, Florida Council on Economic Education, and Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa.