Alumni of Distinction
The College of Journalism and Communications takes great pride in the accomplishments of its remarkable alumni. These Greater Gators bring respect and stature to our college as well as to the University of Florida.
With more than 24,000 graduates with degrees in advertising, journalism, public relations and telecommunications, only 124 individuals have been selected to receive this honor since its creation in 1970.
Below are the College’s 2013 Alumni of Distinction. Click on the decades below to see Alumni of Distinction from previous years.
Jonathan Adams, ADV 1991
Jonathan brings over 20 years of digital and traditional experience to his role as senior vice president, media, North America. During his career, Jonathan has managed clients such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Motorola, American Express, Sears, IBM, Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble, Marriott Hotels and Unilever.
Prior to joining iCrossing, Jonathan was senior vice president of global media for Digitas, senior partner and group media director for OgilvyOne, Lowe & Partners, and The Media Edge.
Jonathan’s impressive career has caught the industry’s attention. In 2003, Advertising Age named him a “Digital Player” and in 2004, Media Magazine named him one of the “100 People to Know in Media.” Jonathan served as chairman of the AAAA Digital Marketing Committee from 2003 to 2006, and has recently held advisory board posts with iMedia, the ARF, the IAB, The Weather Channel, Microsoft and Google.
Mike Bianchi, JM 1985
Mike reports, talks, tweets and blogs sports. Starting with a part-time job at the Gainesville Sun, Mike’s journey to the Orlando Sentinel included full-time jobs at the Sun, Florida Today in Melbourne and the Florida Times-Union.
Now in his 13th year at the Sentinel, Mike’s popular column provides daily insights in to the world of sports, with the special voice and wit of Florida native. His radio talk show “Open Mike” can be heard daily on Orlando’s Sports Radio, AM 740.
Winner of numerous awards from AP Sports Editors and the Florida Sportswriter Association, Mike most recently was named Florida’s 2012 Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Paul Castronovo, TEL 1984
Paul, the longtime host of the syndicated “Paul & Young Ron Show,” has been entertaining audiences for more than 30 years, starting as a DJ on ROCK 104. Following graduation, he moved up and down the FM dial with stops at the original WSHE in South Florida, Orlando’s WHTQ, WZZR in Birmingham and Nashville’s WGFX. In 1990, he came back to South Florida and WSHE, teaming with a newsman he barely knew, “Young” Ron Brewer. Today they broadcast from WBGG in Miami.
In addition to his broadcasting talents, Paul ventured overseas in 2009 with his wife, Gina, and returned home having set in motion a second career and family legacy. Castronovo Vineyards grew out of his love of people, wine, and all things Italian and has become a brand with wines that are featured in some of the nation’s finest restaurants and retail locations.
He serves on the board of directors for the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and the Miami Dolphins Ride DCC. He also co-chairs the Miami Dolphins Foundation’s Fins Weekend and has raised the equivalent of 20 million pounds of food for Feeding South Florida during his radio show’s annual holiday food drive.
Cindy S. Kane, ADV 1979
Cindy is the director of corporate relations for Harris Corporation. She is responsible for community relations, university relations, K-12 outreach, the Harris Foundation, and state and local government relations for the corporation. She is also responsible for Harris’ Phillip W. Farmer Customer Briefing Center (CBC) and Customer Support Services.
Cindy’s work with the Florida Chamber of Commerce on issues dealing with guns at work, corporate tax, and property tax led to an appointment by the Speaker of the House to sit on the Workforce Safety Committee for recommendations for ensuring safety of state employees.
In 2010, she was the recipient of the Harris Corporate Citizenship Award, and, in 2009, she was named as one of the 100 most influential business leaders by Spacecoast Business magazine. She is a key contributor in many volunteer efforts, including Children at Risk, and was selected the Child Advocate of the Year for Brevard County in 2008.
Richard W. Schneider, TEL 1984
Rick is president & CEO of WPBT2, the PBS station based in Miami serving South Florida from the Treasure Coast to Key West. He joined the station in 2004 after six years as president/CEO of Channel 5 Public Broadcasting (KNPB) in Reno, Nevada.
Following graduation, Rick moved to WPTV in West Palm Beach as a reporter and anchor, then to New York City, working as a weekend reporter at WPIX while attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After graduation, he became a Washington correspondent for Post-Newsweek Stations, reporting for WPLG/Miami, WJXT/Jacksonville, WDIV/Detroit, and WFSB/Hartford.
He returned to Gainesville in 1990 as news director of WUFT-TV, where he managed the news operation and taught television reporting in the College. He hosted the public affairs program North Florida Journal and was honored with a Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award for the documentary “A Community Crisis: The Gainesville Student Murders.“ He served as station manager of WUFT-TV from 1992-1998.
Rick serves as chair of the board of directors of FPBS, Inc., the association of public media in Florida. He is vice chair/chair-elect of the board of the Public Television Major Market Group. He served two terms on the board of directors of PBS, including as professional vice-chair in 2009.
Susan Spencer-Wendel, MAMC 1991
Susan is a former reporter for the Palm Beach Post and author of the New York Times bestseller, Until I Say Good-Bye, a memoir focused on the year after she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Susan wrote the book on her iPhone using only her right thumb, as ALS had left her otherwise paralyzed by that time.
After graduating from UF, Susan served as news editor of the Budapest Sun, an English language newspaper that helped establish the role of a free press in Hungary as democracy took root in that country in the early 1990s. A native Floridian, she then returned home to West Palm Beach and resumed what turned out to be a nearly 20-year career at the Palm Beach Post, where her award-winning coverage of Florida courts culminated in 2012 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Florida Bar.
In 2009, Susan helped make media-law history when the Palm Beach Post requested on her behalf – and won – clearance from a federal judge for reporters to tweet from court in the Southern District of Florida. She became the first journalist to do so, and two years later received an award from the Florida Society of News Editors for use of social media in breaking news for her Twitter updates from high-profile trials.
In 2011, using the results of a public records request sent to 32 local law enforcement agencies, Susan revealed that police agencies in Palm Beach County largely had failed to adopt U.S. Justice Department standards on the treatment of eyewitness identification, which is responsible for 75 percent of wrongful convictions. Immediately following publication of her story, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney announced new standards for eyewitness identification procedures.