Guy York Awarded FACC Lifetime Achievement Award, Called “Mr. Community College”

Santa Fe College nominated Guy York, Vice President, Administrative Affairs, for the Florida Asscociation of Community College’s 2009 Distinguished Service Member award.

Instead, FACC chose to honor Guy with its Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award they offer. (See past honorees.) When they called Guy up to accept his award, they introduced him as “Mr. Community College.”

“It was certainly a surprise,” Guy said. “They did a good job of keeping a secret.”

A long and varied work history at Santa Fe

Guy landed at Santa Fe as a part-time instructor of general business courses back in 1974. At the time, he held a BS in Business Administration Management and had owned a small commercial janitorial business. Less than six months later, he was offered a job working for Executive Vice President George Conger, “doing a little bit of everything.”

Guy went on to fill many and varied roles at the college, including payroll supervisor, personnel director, coordinator of student activities, assistant athletic director and then athletic director.

“I coached basketball the first couple of years we had a men’s team,” he recalled. “I played in college at Valdosta State for two years until I blew out my knee.”

He moved over to Student Affairs and was coordinator of advisement and counseling. He moved back over to personnel and later did risk management. Along the way, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from Nova Southeastern. 

“I was very fortunate to have a background that allowed me to move around and do a lot of different things,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all the different positions and jobs I’ve had.”

He’s also enjoyed watching the successes of his mentees such as Registrar Lynn Sullivan and Personnel Director Lela Elmore.

Guy takes his expertise and charm to Tallahassee

In the early ’80s, Guy started going up to Tallahassee two or three times a year to “touch base” with our legislative delegation at the request of President Alan J. Robertson.

 “They would ask me if there was anything special we needed, and I’d tell them,” he said. “I guess it was lobbying, but we didn’t call it that back then.”

He continued in that role under Dr. Larry Tyree, over time developing excellent relationships with legislators and staffers. He gained a reputation for being honest and trustworthy and expanded his lobbying efforts to the entire Florida College System.

It evolved that when the legislature is in session in the spring, his efforts in Tallahassee become his primary responsibility. He even has a small workspace in FACC’s office, just a block from the capitol. 

Some of his accomplishments include serving on the FACC Risk Management Consortium’s state board for approximately nine years. In the insurance arena, he helped negotiate a more flexible health plan for people working at community colleges across the state.

What’s next?

Guy is half way through DROP, and when he retires in 2012, “I plan to enjoy life and travel and work in the yard–boring stuff that will be fun.” His hobbies are fishing, hunting and golf. “I haven’t done too much of any of those of late,”  he said. He is not planning on returning part-time to the college: “Once it’s over, it’s time to go do something else.” By the time he retires, he will have worked for Santa Fe for 37 years.

“I certainly worked for the founders of the college and had a close relationship with all those people — Bob Myers, Tal Mullis, Terry O’Banion, Alan Robertson, Cliff Le Blanc, Ann Bromley, Tom Delano — who worked here for 15 years before he went to Pensacola and became president there. I was in the second generation of Santa Fe folks.”

When asked if he has any desire to serve as a community college president, he flat out said “no.”

“I’ve never suffered from ambition. My wife’s family is here; my family is here. You’d have to leave the community to pursue that and I was never interested in that. It’s been fun. Having the opportunity to do many, many different and varied tasks or jobs-that’s made it fun as well.”

He has some projects up his sleeve for his retirement but declined to give specifics.

“Anything that benefits children I’m going to try and be a part of,” he said.

His aunt and uncle, ET and Vam York, who are like parents to him, live at Oak Hammock. His wife of 29 years, Martha, whom he was introduced to after meeting her mom at a gallery opening on campus, is an accountant and owns several retail flooring stores around the state with her brothers. His mother-in-law, Jennie Stringfellow, directs plays at the Gainesville Community Playhouse. His father-in-law, Jim Stringfellow, formerly owned Stringfellow Supply.

“I have the best in laws in the entire universe,” Guy said.

Guy and Martha have three grown children. Their eldest, James, is graduating from Auburn in industrial design in two weeks. Their middle son, Will, is here at Santa Fe. His goal is to attend UF and study family counseling. And their daughter, Sarah, is a junior at UCF majoring in molecular microbiology. She’s planning on medical school. She graduated from the college’s High School Dual Enrollment program when she was just 18.

“We are so proud of all of our kids. Now all we have to worry about is the W-2s, getting them employed,” he jokes.

No matter which position he’s held, Guy said he’s always tried to do his job well and to enjoy it.

He sees the future of Santa Fe as being tied in with the growth and success of our new baccalaureate programs. “That’s the future, as UF transitions to becoming more of a research university.” He sees BAS programs being added in early childhood education and public administration. “I think the growth opportunities in general will be in the offerings that we’ll be able to provide our communities. Where we see a need, we will continue to grow those programs.”

From the nomination letters

Santa Fe College Professor Emeritus Ward Scott: “Guy is never arrogant; he does not take himself excessively seriously, and yet he is a consummate professional. He is a good judge of character, honest, loyal, and steadfastly committed to ensuring everyone he is responsible for has a good chance to succeed. I am honored to count him among my finest friends, my closest advisors.”

Associate Vice President Bennye Alligood: “He has an aptitude for staying abreast of the mass of legal, regulatory and insurance details that are part of a community college system. His knowledge and personal style are his trademarks, and his success is indicative of his commitment. … His background, experience, vision, dedication, an open-door work style have made him one of the better respected and appreciated professional employees at Santa Fe College.”

Advisor Stacey Ledvina: “I had heard of Guy York long before I met him in 1997 while attending Alachua County Legislative Day in Tallahassee. He WAS Santa Fe Community College, I heard. How lucky was I to have been hired as his executive assistant six years later?”

Mike Comins, Former CEO of FACC: “The work that the college lobbyists do often goes unrecognized by the chapters at large and the general membership. The time it takes away from their jobs, their families, and their personal time is immeasurable. He quietly does BIG things behind the scenes that will only be noticed when he retires.”   

Thank you, Guy, for a lifetime of devotion to Santa Fe.