The College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS) honored five alumni during its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration held in Tallahassee on Friday, October 6.
The ceremony was the first Distinguished Alumni Awards held since the college’s expansion. FSU CEHHS Dean Damon Andrew shared opening remarks.
“I’ve been thinking a great deal about the concept of togetherness lately, particularly after the expansion of the College,” Andrew opened. “Togetherness is a feeling of unity, a sense of belonging, and the knowledge that we are part of a vast and ever-growing community. But togetherness extends beyond shared history. It is about supporting one another, lending a helping hand, and celebrating each other's successes, like we are doing tonight.”
Photos from the Dinner
View photos from the event including photos of the recipients, speakers, their guests, and the venue.
Each year, the college selects alumni as recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award and Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award. Recipients are selected by the College’s Dean, faculty, and fellow alumni, and are recognized in front of family, friends, and past recipients.
The Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award was established in 2015 to recognize alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years and who have had significant impact within their profession, contributed to their community, and show promise of continued success. They may be challenging the norms of their profession or outperforming their peers through hard work and determination. All must show promise of continued success and uphold the ideals of Florida State University.
GOLD Award recipients include Brittany Sinitch Menendez (English Education B.S. ’17), and Jessica Jeanne Geymayr (Sport Management B.S. ’15).
The 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Dr. Sue J. Ebbers (International Affairs B.S. ’77, Instructional Systems M.A. ’99, Ph.D. ’07) and James Haj (Physical Education B.S. ’90). Since 1977, more than 100 distinguished alumni of the Education, Health and Human Sciences' programs have been recognized for excellence in their careers, support of their communities, and service to Florida State University.
This year, the college also awarded its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Robert Reardon (M.S. ’65, Ph.D. ’68).
Brittany Sinitch Menendez
GOLD Award Recipient
Brittany Sinitch Menendez, an educator and the Founder of the Unbreakable Organization, is deeply committed to supporting individuals and communities affected by gun violence in the aftermath of tragedy. Her personal journey of survival after the Parkland shooting propelled her to the forefront of the movement to end gun violence. She has since shared her story as a TedTalk speaker and collaborated with educators globally. With a strong passion for working with students, Brittany has had the privilege of working with leaders at Princeton University and the University of Southern California. Her impact goes beyond the classroom, as she leverages her online platform to connect with an audience of 400,000 individuals across social platforms, where she shares her personal journey and advocates for meaningful change.
Jessica Jeanne Geymayr
GOLD Award Recipient
Jessica currently works for the Miami HEAT as a Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships. She earned her undergraduate degree in Sport Management from Florida State University with a strong focus on business marketing and law. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Business and Sport Law from Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law. Jessica earned a Master of Business Administration from the Quantic School of Business and Technology and is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership from Northwestern University. Jessica’s resume includes some iconic agencies, sports teams, and brands such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Commanders, Roc Nation, Denver Broncos, and University of Miami Health Systems. Heading into her third season with the three-time champion Miami HEAT, Jessica attributes her success back to her roots in Sport Management from Florida State University.
Dr. Sue J. Ebbers
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Dr. Sue Ebbers began her career later in life, first with a return to academia a couple of decades after earning her bachelor’s in International Affairs. She earned the equivalent of a second BA and half master’s in French Language and Literature before finding her passion in the College of Education. There, she earned a master’s in Performance Systems and a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems while applying her growing skill set in a variety of consulting opportunities and as a graduate assistant many times over. After leaving academia in 2007, she established her company, Change by Design, in March 2008 and has never looked back.
As a consultant for Fortune 500 and other companies, federal and state government, and national and state nonprofits and associations, Sue has worked to deliver best in class solutions to whatever challenges the particular client faced. Over the years, her business model has shifted, and now her focus is away from the direct consulting role and into strategy, business development and the fostering of an inclusive culture of bright, hard-working professionals. Change by Design is a million-dollar company a year in sales and is on a strong growth trajectory. Service is central to what Sue does in life. In addition to being a member of Class 36 of Leadership Tallahassee, she has also served and serves on follow up LT service opportunities to help other aspiring community leaders grow. Sue served on the board, including the presidency, of the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Society of Training and Development for several years and was also a member of the FSU Instructional Systems Alumni Council, serving as President for three years. She additionally served as co-chair of the 2014 Instructional Systems conference. She was twice awarded the FSU College of Education Robert A. Reiser Outstanding Alumni Service Award.
Sue is on the board of the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of West Florida, the Education committee of the Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE), the Professional Development Committee of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and served previously on the Tallahassee Chamber Membership Committee for three years.
Family is everything to Sue, and she is proud to have three sons (Jonathan, James and Jason), two of whom have wives (Stacy and Xixi), and a daughter (Hilary) and son-in-law (Kevin). She dotes on her grandson Archer, who just turned seven and is the light of her life. Sue also celebrates that her brother Jeff and sister-in-law Rachel moved back to Florida from Hong Kong after 40 years abroad. And most centrally, Sue is married to Paul, a retired faculty member from FSU’s College of Music and the love of her life. Even above family, however, is Sue’s faith. She is a Christian whose reliance on her Heavenly Father has enabled her to weather the many challenges she has faced in life. She attends the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, and serves on both the Parish Council and the Council of Catholic Women, as well as being an Extraordinary Minister. In addition to her career as a business owner and a servant to many causes, Sue loves to entertain friends and family with gourmet meals, loves to hike (Grand Canyon in 2025!), and passionately loves to explore the world on trips and cruises with her husband Paul. They live in Tallahassee, Florida.
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
James R. Haj joined The Children’s Trust as president and CEO in April 2016. With Mr. Haj at the helm, The Trust has enjoyed one of its most successful periods. Trust investment in programs and services for children and families in Miami-Dade County has risen to its highest levels. At the same time, administrative expenses dropped to their lowest percentage in the organization’s history. He also led The Trust through the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, expanding funding for emergency assistance programs, strengthening neighborhood supports and serving as an essential voice for children and families during unprecedented hardships.
While leading The Trust, Mr. Haj has received numerous honors and accolades, including being inducted into the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Alumni Hall of Fame in 2023 for his professional achievements and devotion to helping children succeed in the community. Mr. Haj also received the prestigious 2022 MCCJ Silver Medallion Award, given to leaders who have made outstanding contributions to our community. His impact as head of The Trust was also recognized by proclamation by the Miami-Dade School Board in 2021. In 2020, he was named an Apogee Award recipient by South Florida Business and Wealth Magazine and that same year was a panelist in the Miami Herald’s Florida Influencer Series, among other honors.
A lifelong educator, Mr. Haj started his career in Miami as a teacher, became a middle and high school principal, and eventually worked as assistant superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, before joining The Trust.
Mr. Haj received an MBA in Business Management from the University of Miami and a BS in education from Florida State University. He and his wife, Karen, are parents of three children.
Dr. Robert Reardon
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Robert C. Reardon received a BS in social studies from Texas Lutheran College in 1963 with plans of becoming a high school counselor. This led him to graduate study at Florida State University in counseling and guidance and counselor education that earned him MS and PhD degrees in 1965 and 1968, respectively. He is currently Professor Emeritus with a courtesy appointment in the FSU Career Center.
First employed as a counselor in the Counseling Center and later as a tenured faculty member in the Division of Student Affairs, he became Director of Instruction, Research, and Evaluation in the Career Center; Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems; and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development. He coordinated the career specialization in the Psychological Studies in Education Program in the College of Education for two decades before retiring in 2007. FSU enabled him to maintain an office in the Career Center after his retirement where he provides mentorship to current and former students and staff, administers over $800K university foundation funds for eight career advisor scholarships and related programs, and pursues his research interests in career service delivery.
For over two decades, he has organized dinners for 30-60 FSU staff, students, and alumni at National Career Development Association meetings throughout the nation. He has coauthored and edited a score of books and monographs and more than 140 articles in refereed journals focusing on the research and development of innovative career programs for college students. He was especially focused on self-help and brief-staff assisted services. He was credentialed as a National Certified Counselor and National Certified Career Counselor. He received the Eminent Career Award from the National Career Development Association in 2003, the Merit Award from the National Vocational Guidance Association in 1983, and was co-recipient with James Sampson, Jr. of the Ralph Berdie Memorial Research Award and the Extended Research Award from the American Counseling Association in 1996 and 1999, respectively.