The WLP Community Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually to an individual whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement or promotion of women.
Past award recipients include:
ANN MCKEEL ROSS '79, 2017 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT
A USF alumna, Ann McKeel Ross worked as Director of Community Relations at the university from 1980-1996, receiving the Affirmative Action Award from USF’s Equal Opportunity Committee for her continued efforts to recruit and hire minorities, women and those with disabilities. She became a founding director of Pilot Bank and vice president of advancement for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (now the Straz Center). Though she retired from that position in 2001, Ross continues to serve as a member of the board of trustees. In addition to her occupational achievements, Ross has made a significant mark as a volunteer. She is currently a member of the Athena Society and an honorary member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and has served as a board member for the Museum of Science and Industry, Temple Terrace Friends of the Library, the Home Association, the Southwest Florida Board Bank, and the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Her contributions have led to numerous honors, such as Florida Arts Recognition Award from the State of Florida, the Arts Patron of the Year Award from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Outstanding Cultural Contributor Award from the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce. A Bowling Green, Ky. native, Ross attended and studied art at the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University. But she halted her studies to raise her three sons with her husband, Dr. James C. Ross, whose service in the U.S. Air Force led to an assignment at MacDill Air Force Base and brought the family to Tampa. She eventually earned her B.A. in Art from USF in 1979, later becoming a Life Member of the USF Alumni Association, joining WLP and serving on the boards of the USF Foundation and USF Contemporary Arts Museum. She and her husband, a retired dentist, helped establish the museum and USF Graphicstudio, and Ross also founded CADRE, the first arts support group at USF.
BETTY CASTOR, 2016 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT
As the first woman president of USF, Betty Castor had a passion for education, and a penchant for being bold. During her tenure, the university underwent tremendous transformation, most notably the introduction of football in 1997. As significant of an achievement as that was, Betty proudly points out that she also brought women’s soccer to USF. In fact, advocating for women is something she does often, and has hallmarked her decades of public service. It was as an advocate for young women that Castor’s career began. While still a college student at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in her home town of Glassboro, N.J., she volunteered for the Outward Bound program teaching school girls in Uganda. Her significant contributions in East Africa, which later included leading a group of young women to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the first all-women’s team to do so, earned her an invitation from President John F. Kennedy to attend Uganda’s independence celebration in 1962, and a seat on Air Force One. It marked the beginning of a career dedicated to education, public service and to breaking down barriers. In addition to her firsts at Kilimanjaro and USF, Betty was also the first woman to be elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, the first woman to become president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, and, as Florida’s education commissioner, she became the first woman ever elected to the Florida Cabinet. During her nearly 20 years in political office she championed causes such as the Equal Rights Amendment, ending discrimination, and funding spouse abuse centers statewide. She was also a fierce advocate for early childhood education and children’s health initiatives, a passion she continues to share with her husband of more than 25 years, Sam Bell. At USF, Betty and Sam have supported 17 different causes campus-wide. They provide scholarships to Music Education majors, graduate students in Public Health, women athletes, and to students pursuing careers addressing global initiatives. They support the USF Library, Athletics, Women in Leadership and Philanthropy and WUSF to name a few more.
JAN PLATT, 2015 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT
A Florida native, Jan Platt was born in St. Petersburg in 1936. She was an exemplary student at Hillsborough High School, and was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Jan attended Girls State in Tallahassee, where she acquired her love for government. As a political science and public administration undergraduate student at Florida State University, she was elected Most Outstanding Senior Woman, President of the Student Senate, and Vice President of the Student Body. Jan graduated cum laude as a Phi Beta Kappa in 1958, receiving her bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She taught history at Hillsborough High School and Plant High School, worked as a Field Director for the Tampa Girl Scout Council and later served as volunteer president of the Suncoast Girl Scout Council. She also co-founded the Junior Discussion Group, a unit of the League of Women Voters, for young women interested in better government. Platt’s public service includes four years on Tampa City Council (1974-1978); service on the 1976 Florida Constitutional Revision Commission; 24 years as a Hillsborough County Commissioner (1978-2002); as well as a variety of appointments to local, state, and national committees, boards, and task forces. Platt is the only elected official to Chair three major regional agencies; the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council; Agency on Bay Management and West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority. An avid fisherman, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Agency on Bay Management, the Environmental Land Acquisition Program (ELAP), and Tampa Bay’s selection into the National Estuary Program, where she was recently named Champion of the Bay. In addition to her advocacy for the environment, Platt has been an ardent supporter of libraries and education in Tampa Bay. She proposed the successful merger of the City and County libraries between Hillsborough and Tampa. In honor of her committed work with libraries, the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library was dedicated in her honor on December 11, 2000. The University of South Florida Library Special Collections archived her service records where they remain available for public review. Platt has received various recognitions for her service. She was named the Mortar Board Distinguished Lifetime Member Award for the establishment of the USF Chapter of Mortar Board; Woman of Distinction by the Suncoast Girl Scout Council; in 2000 she received the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award, in 2010, she was awarded Humanitarian of the Year by the Florida Head Start Association; and she was recognized with the Herman W. Goldner Award for Regional Leadership by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. In addition, Platt was named to the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Honor Roll and she received the Best Friend of the Year Award from the Friends of the Library of Hillsborough County, Inc.
LEE LEAVENGOOD ‘73, 2014 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT
Lee Bird Leavengood was born in Monticello, Florida in 1928. After graduating from USF in 1973 with a Master’s degree as a non-traditional student, Lee’s passion for “lifelong education” was ignited and she became actively involved at the University of South Florida as a volunteer, a board member of the USF Foundation, and as an administrator. A leader in her field, Lee was involved in the early years of of USF to make sure that non-traditional-aged students, especially women, had access to the wealth of Higher Education resources that USF brought to the Tampa Bay community. With a professional career that spans nearly three decades at USF, Ms. Leavengood spearheaded the USF Division of Senior Program and initiated and coordinated three major senior programs in the greater Tampa Bay area: USF SeniorNet Learning Center, USF Learning in Retirement Institute (an affiliate of Elderhostel Institute Network), and the Tuition Waiver Program for Senior Citizens. Lee has been honored with numerous awards and commendations over her lifetime including the USF President’s Fellow Medallion, Girls Scouts “Women of Distinction” Award, and the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation “Community Hero” award. Lee was the first female member of the USF Foundation Board of Directors and is an active member of the Athena Society, a Founding Member of the Florida Women’s Network and past member of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
LOUISE LYKES FERGUSON, INAUGURAL RECIPIENT - 2013
Louise Lykes Ferguson has the distinction of being part of the inaugural class of Plant High School, she was valedictorian. Louise is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Tampa and is a founding member of the Chiselers. Louise is a member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, the Founders Garden Club Circle of the Tampa Garden Club, and the Junior League of Tampa where she received the Sustainer of the Year and Lifetime Commitment awards. Mrs. Ferguson has been unwavering in her support of the arts, especially the performing arts. In 1965, she was invited to chair a committee to explore the idea of a “music hall on the riverfront.” She served on the Tampa Arts Council for eight years, a number of years as chair, and was recognized for her continuous service to the arts when she received the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1976. The University of South of Florida recognized her for her part in “linking the University and the Community in cultural progress” by awarding her the 1986 Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts. For decades, Louise tirelessly pursued the concept of a performing arts center. In 1980, she was appointed by Mayor Bob Martinez to a 15 member committee whose mission was “to design, build and operate a first-class performing arts center of landmark quality that will meet the existing and growing artistic, cultural and educational needs of the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay area well into the 21st century.” Louise and her husband, Chester, lead the fund raising drive for the new center, then named the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, now known as the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. She served decades as a member of the Board of Trustees, and her love for The Center is still evident as she attends many Straz Center events and almost every performance. Most notably, Mrs. Ferguson has helped to mold the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts into the renowned facility it is today, and the over 1,000 seat Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall Theater at the center is deservingly named for her. On May 28th, 2012 City of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn joined daughter Stella F. Thayer, son Howell L. Ferguson, her six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, family, friends, and the community in wishing Louise Lykes Ferguson a very Happy 100th Birthday by declaring “Louise Lykes Ferguson Day” in the City of Tampa, Florida. It is our pleasure to acknowledge and honor Mrs. Louise Lykes Ferguson’s tremendous efforts and remarkable lifelong success in making a difference for women in the Tampa Bay region with the first ever, WLP Community Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award.