The Women of Distinction recognition program began over two decades ago as a way for the college to celebrate Women’s History Month. Each March, we honor five prominent women in Alachua or Bradford County, and a young Woman of Promise, for their outstanding community contributions. (Please click on the photos below for a larger view.)
This year’s WOD luncheon will be held at the UF Hilton on SW 34th Street from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2 — the week before spring break. Tickets are $30 each; tables seat eight and can be reserved for $240. Ticket order forms are online; please send them with your payment to Cheryl Farrell, who is coordinating the event. Contact Cheryl at 395-5181 for more information. For longer bios of the honorees, please visit the Women of Distinction webpage.
2010 Women of Distinction
Educating children – both academically and morally – has been at the heart of Cynthia Mingo’s life. She taught elementary school for 37 years — fourth grade was her specialty — and in 2001 was named Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year in Alachua County. She believes in educating the whole child and helping children build a strong spiritual foundation so they can withstand life’s inevitable challenges.
Today, she coordinates both the annual MLK Black History and Cultural Brain Bowl for middle and high school students and the annual spelling bee for fifth graders.
She is an avid scholar of Florida history and black culture. She received the Community Service Award from the Gainesville NAACP in 2006 and was a Girl Scouts Gateway Council “Women Who Make a Difference” honoree in 2007.
In addition to her 34-year career as an insurance agent, Evelyn is extremely active in the NAACP and Democratic politics, serving on the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee and managing the campaigns of leaders such as Cynthia Chestnut and Corrine Brown. She advocates for seniors, started reading programs for kids in public housing and helped the residents of Kennedy Homes relocate.
She is on the Cone Park Development Board, Florida State Conference NAACP Executive Committee, Girls Place, Inc. Board, Martin Luther King Commission of Florida Board, Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center Board, Shands Community Outreach Committee, and Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Board.
Nancy Perry is a caring and generous supporter of the Gainesville community. She is an advocate for the building trades and is known for her positive, warm and loving encouragement of young people, especially those whose career goals are in construction.
She is active with the Gainesville Community Foundation, Women’s Giving Circle, Builders Association of North Central Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History, PACE Center for Girls, and Haven Hospice. She is proud of her relationship with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and happily does whatever she can to promote economic development.
As a result of her direct support and leadership, an additional $1.6 million was raised for the Charles R. Perry Construction Institute at Santa Fe College’s Northwest campus and $400,000 for the Nancy V. and Charles R. Perry Center for Emerging Technologies in Alachua.
Lila Sellars was elected to the Bradford County Commission in 2008, and is only the third woman to hold that position. She works as the executive secretary to the Bradford County School Board Superintendent.
Lila has served as president of the Kiwanis Club of Starke and was named Kiwanian of the Year in 2001 and 2004. She is a board member of the Bradford Arc, and since 2000, has served as a member of the Bradford County Education Foundation.
Lila began volunteering with the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce in 1999 and was named Volunteer of the Year in 2006. She chaired Bradford County’s March of Dimes campaign in 2006 and co-chaired the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in 2009 and 2010.
Deidra (DeeDee) Cain Smith
She was the founding director of the Child Advocacy Center, which utilizes a more child-friendly model for working with child abuse victims. She is now an Emeritus Board member and recently co-chaired its first Gainesville Gone Nashville event.
She was the Guardian ad Litem’s family law coordinator and has volunteered with numerous charities and agencies working to help at-risk children.
She served the Girls Place Inc. Boards for 15 years and co-chaired the first Hats, Hearts and Handbags fundraiser in 2004. That same year, DeeDee and her husband chaired the Heart Ball for the American Heart Association.
She was awarded the Florida Network of Child Advocacy Center’s Leadership Award in 2006 and was a Girl Scouts Gateway Council “Women Who Make a Difference” honoree in 2003.
2010 Woman of Promise
When just a preschooler, she donated her toys and books to the young victims of Hurricane Andrew. She participated in many mission trips via her church and volunteered every weekend for Habitat for Humanity during her senior year of high school.
Stephanie started the Backpack Club after hearing about a similar project in a sociology class at the University of Florida, where she is majoring in public relations and minoring in business and history. Today, the Backpack Club sends home groceries with needy kids in both Bradenton and Gainesville.
Stephanie’s goal is to enter non-profit management and PR, preferably for the American Cancer Society.