UWF Honors Local Trailblazers at Annual Awards

March 5, 2018 | Megan Gonzalez | MeganG@uwf.edu

Dr, Erica Taylor and Dr. Vannee Cao-Nguyen
Dr. Erica Taylor and Dr. Vannee Cao-Nguyen

Pensacola, Fla. In honor of Black History Month, the University of West Florida Office of Equity and Diversity and Epps Christian Center recently partnered to award 10 community members who inspire and empower the Pensacola area. The second annual Trailblazer Awards luncheon was hosted at Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center in downtown Pensacola on Feb. 21, 2018.

“The whole idea of the Trailblazer Awards is recognizing those community members who have made a lasting impact on the community,” said Dr. Kim LeDuff, UWF chief diversity officer and vice president for the Division of Academic Engagement. “All of the award winners have served segments of our community that often go unnoticed.”

In the process of planning the previous year’s inaugural event, the committee realized there were many other community members who deserved recognition as well. 

"We wanted to find those people who are on the ground and really making a difference and bring them together to recognize the work they do," said the Rev. Sylvia Tisdale, founder of the Epps Christian Center, who worked with UWF on the event. “My heart was overwhelmed with joy as I watched the honorees step from behind the scenes and have their moment in the spotlight.”

The following people were named recipients of the Trailblazer Awards:

  • Pastor David Alexander III, Helping Hand Award
  • Dr. Calvin Avant, Faith and Service Award
  • Ellison Bennett, Helping Hand Award
  • Bryan Freeman, Community Service Award
  • Pastor Timothy Grier, Community Service Award
  • Lumon May, Servant Leader Award
  • Jacqueline Miles, Pensacola Voice Award
  • Augusta Simon, UWF Alumni Trailblazer Award
  • Dr. Erica Taylor, Educational Leadership Award

Sandy Sansing, local auto dealer and philanthropist, was honored with the signature Trailblazer Award. The award committee selected Sansing for his impact on the community through his Sansing Foundation, which benefits multiple non-profit organizations throughout the region.

Augusta Simon, a past guest professor in the communication department and UWF’s first African American instructor, received the UWF Alumni Trailblazer Award. While a student at UWF, Simon co-founded the UWF Black Student Union, now the African American Student Association, was the first black resident hall adviser and was on staff for The Voyager, UWF’s student newspaper.

Dr. Erica Taylor, instructor in the Department of Biology, received the Educational Leadership Award for her commitment to student success. Taylor dedicates herself to preventing and removing barriers to students pursuing STEM degrees. She is the founding director and the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering faculty liaison of the UWF STEM Living Learning Community, also known as LLC. She is also the director of the S-STEM Scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation.

“It was a great honor to continue our partnership with Epps Christian Center to celebrate the Pensacola community's trailblazers,” said Karen Rentz, executive director for the Office of Equity and Diversity. “Attendance this year was incredible—it doubled in size from last year. We look forward to an even bigger awards event next year.

For more information about the Office of Equity and Diversity, visit uwf.edu/respect.