With an alumnus of more than 330,000, you’d expect at least a few of the University of Florida’s past students to have achieved a degree of success. And you’d be right- since it first opened its doors in 1853, the university has produced 2 Nobel Prize winners, ten US senators, 42 US representative, 50 federal court judges, 11 supreme court justices, and more besides. Of all the sectors former students have excelled in, business is one of the foremost. From CEO's to presidents, from social media entrepreneurs to pharmaceutical heads, the graduates of the University of Florida have made their mark on pretty much every industry imaginable. Read on to discover the 20 most notable University of Florida alumni in business.
1. Syed Moiz Balkhi
Since graduating from the University of Florida, Pakistani businessman Syed Moiz Balkhi has emerged as one of his nation’s most influential entrepreneurs. In 2013, he developed OptinMonster, an application used by web marketers to help convert online visitors into customers. 3 years later, he pulled of his most successful deal to date when he purchased Yoast’s Google Analytics plugin, which has since gone on to be downloaded more than 21 million times. Outside of his business interests, Balkhi is a keen cricketer (his efforts to ignite the US’s passion for the game led to a place in the Cricket Hall of Fame) and philanthropist.
2. Alan Stephenson Boyd
96-year-old attorney and graduate of the University of Florida, Alan Stephenson Boyd, holds the honor of being the second oldest living former U.S. Cabinet Member, beaten in the age stakes only by George P. Schultz. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1941, Boyd served a brief stint in the Air Forces before embarking on a career in law. After lobbying for the creation of the Department of Transportation in the 1960’s, Boyd was appointed the first Secretary of Transportation in 1966, a position he held until his appointment as president of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1969. Boyd would subsequently go on to take presidency positions at Amtrak and Airbus before retiring.
3. Robert B. Carter
Robert B. Carter was born in Taiwan in 1960 but was raised in Florida. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer and Information Science from the University of Florida, Carter took on a position at FedEx. Over his next few decades at the company, Carter worked his way up to his current position as Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer. As of 2019, he is reported by Insidermole to own over $7million dollars of shares in the company.
4. Alan Cohen
American businessman Alan Cohen is most widely known as the former owner of hockey team, the Florida Panthers. Cohen purchased the team in 2001 from then owner H.Wayne Huisenga’s Boca Resorts Inc. He subsequently sold on his controlling interest in 2009 to Cliff Viner. In addition to his activities in the sporting world, Cohen has founded several pharmaceutical companies, including the distribution firm Best Generics in 1984, and Abrika Pharmaceuticals in 2002. The latter was sold on to Actavis Group in 2006 in a deal worth a reported $235 million.
5. J.J Daniel
Floridian businessman, lawyer, and publisher Jaquelin James Daniel earned a law degree from the University of Florida before serving briefly in the U.S. Navy. At the end of World War II, Daniel took a position at his father’s Jacksonville law firm, earning a reputation as one of the town’s top lawyers before moving into business. In 1960, Daniel was appointed the president of mortgage and real estate company, Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co. In the 1970’s he diversified into newspaper publication, taking the helm at both Jackson’s major daily, the Florida Times-Union, and family owned newspaper, the Jackson Journal. Thanks to his success, Daniel is considered one of Florida’s most influential son’s, something the St. Petersburg Times made clear in 1997 when it named him one of the 10 most powerful people in Florida.
6. Mark Erstling
Mark Erstling graduated with a degree in Telecommunications from the University of Florida in 1975 and has subsequently built a successful career in media. Past positions include director and producer for WJCT and general manager at WPSX-TV and WPSU-FM. Erstling currently serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for the Association of Public Television Stations, a non-profit organization that aims to ensure a strong public television service. Erstling, who joined the group in 2001, is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the organization, as well as heading up its work in consumer education, and the development of the American Archive for public broadcasting.
7. Aaron Kemmer
Since graduating from the University of Florida, Aaron Kemmer has developed a successful career as a program developer and entrepreneur. In 2010, Kemmer co-founded Made in Space, a space manufacturing company with the mission of furthering human’s adventures in space. After 5 years as company CEO and president, Kemmer was appointed chairman in 2015. In addition, to Made In Space, the serial entrepreneur has founded Magic, a virtual, on demand personal assistant service, and Bettir, a blood pressure monitoring app.
8. Jack C Massey
University of Florida graduate Jack C Massey went down in history when he became the first person to launch three companies on the New York Stoc Exchange. The first of the companies to be taken to the Exchange was Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1969, the second was Hospital Corporation of America in 1970, and the third was Winners Corporation in 1984. In addition to his hugely successful career, Massey was a noted philanthropist, donating millions to the Belmont University, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Montgomery Bell Academy, Vanderbilt University Law School, and Cheekwood.
9. Harry Wismer
After graduating from the University of Florida, Harry Wismer launched a highly successful career as a broadcaster. After serving with WJR for several years, Wismer transferred to the NBC Blue Network, where he was awarded the title of Sportscaster of the Year three years in a row by Sporting News. In the late 1950’s, Wismer further expanded his aspirations in the sporting world (after already having made some inroads into the industry with a part ownership in the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins) when he became a charter owner in the AFL. Unfortunately, Wismer’s early success would decline in his later years, and he would die in inauspicious circumstances in 1967.
10. Stephen M Ross
Stephen Ross studied briefly at the University of Florida before transferring to the University of Michigan Business School, were he received a B.S. degree in accounting. Ross has subsequently developed a highly successful career in real estate, and currently serves as chairman and majority stake holder in the global real estate company, The Related. As a result of his activities with the company, Ross is credited by Forbes to have the very substantial net worth of $7.7 billion. Outside of his interests in real estate, Ross is the majority owner of the Miami Dolphins, and a major stakeholder in Equinox Fitness, a SoulCycle affiliate.
11. Haywood Cooper Sullivan
After a brief career as a player for the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Athletics, Haywood Cooper Sullivan went on to enjoy a very lucrative career as a manager, owner, and partner in Major League Baseball. After serving as manager of the Birmingham Barons Farm club, Sullivan was appointed vice president of the Boston Red Sox. In 1977, he became co-owner of the club after then owner Tom Yawkey stepped down. After 16 years at the helm, Sullivan sold on his shares in 1993 for a reported $33 million. After retiring from baseball, Sullivan diversified into business, operating a Marina on the Gulf Coast of Florida and making several successful investments in real estate. Sullivan died in Florida in 2003 at the age of 72.
12. James W. Bradford
James W. Bradford graduated from the University of Florida in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science. Since leaving the University, Bradford has served as the CEO of Japanese global glass manufacturing company, AFG Industries; dean of Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management; and board member of Ciarcor, Granite Construction, Genesco and Cracker Barrel. In 2017, he stepped down from the board of directors of Ciarcor (after serving from January 2006 to February 2017), earning more than $920,000 in stock options in the process.
13. Joie Chitwood
After graduating from the University of Florida, Joie Chitwood has achieved remarkable success, both with his family’s motor-sports entertainment business, the Chitwood Thrill Show, and as president and chief operating officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2010, Chitwood was appointed president of Daytona International Speedway (one of the country’s most renowned racetracks) after previous president Robin Braig stood down during a leadership shakeup. Prior to his latest appointment, Chitwood had served as vice president of business development for the International Speedway corporation since 2009.
14. Howie Roseman
After graduating from the University of Florida, Howie Roseman took an intern position at the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. After 3 years at the club, Roseman was promoted to the position of director of football administration in 2003, and in 2006, to the position of vice president of football administration. He continued to take on positions of ever-growing responsibility at the club, culminating in his appointment as executive vice president of football operations in January 2015.
15. Manuel Fernandez
Manuel Fernandez has built an impressing career in computer science since his student days at the University of Florida. Fernandez is best known as the founder of Gavilan Computer Corporation, one of the pioneers in early computer technology, and the first to launch a potable laptop (the Gavilan SC) in 1983. Fernandez has subsequently served as the CEO, president and chairperson of research and advisory firm, Gartner. Under his leadership, the company experienced exponential growth, with annual revenue increasing from $40 million to over $900 million. Fernandez steeped down as CEO in 2001 but continues to serve as the Chairman Emeritus.
16. Mason Hawkins
Former University of Florida student Mason Hawkins is a businessman and entrepreneur, best known as the founder of Southeastern Asset Management, a global management firm worth a reported $35 billion. Hawkins currently serves as the chairman and CEO of the company, having previously held positions as the director of research at both First Tennessee Investment Management and Atlantic National Bank. Thanks to the success at Southeastern, Hawkins has been recognized with several accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Awards from Institutional Investor in 2005.
17. R. Preston McAfee
R. Preston gained his BA in economics from the University of Florida before completing his MA and Ph.D. at Purdue University. In 2007, McAfee was appointed vice president and research fellow at Yahoo Research, and later, as chief economist. In 2012, McAfee joined Google for a brief spell, before moving on to becoming chief economist at Microsoft between 2014 and 2018. In addition to his work with some of the biggest technology companies in the world, McAfee has taught economics at several institutions, including the University of Western Ontario and the University of Texas.
18. Larry Hoffman
Since leaving the University of Florida, Larry Hoffman has achieved a remarkable career as the founder and managing partner of law firm, Greenberg, Traurig and Hoffman. The company was established in 1967 by Hoffman, Robert Traurig and Mel Greenberg. Hoffman became managing partner of the firm in 1991, and was responsible for expanding the firm, firstly, across the US, and latterly, across the world. The firm now operates from over 38 offices across the US, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and enjoys the position of 14th largest law firm in the US.
19. Jack Katz
Jack Katz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1965. In 1973, he founded the Panama Jack Company, a global retailer of sun care, beachwear, home furnishings, footwear and lifestyle products. Since its inception, the company has expanded into the resort business, opening up 2 Panama Jack branded resorts in 2017, with plans to develop more already in the works.
20. Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson is an American politician, who served as United States Senator from Florida from 2001 to 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978 and in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991.
Written by Garrett Parker
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