American Free Enterprise Day (AFE) is a Palm Beach Atlantic University tradition, dating back to 1984. It is highlighted by a medal ceremony that honors individuals whose hard work and achievement exemplify the best of the American free enterprise system. A medalist of the year is selected and companion medals are awarded to other business leaders as well.
The 2015 AFE medal recipient is Leo A. Vecellio Jr., chairman and president of Vecellio Group Inc., one of the nation's top 400 contractors and among the Top 50 in transportation construction, as ranked by Engineering News-Record.
Mr. Vecellio grew up in the family business, founded in 1938 by his father, grandfather and uncle as road contractor Vecellio & Grogan. He joined the company in 1973 after earning degrees in civil engineering and construction management from Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and gaining four years of international project management experience as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
He was instrumental in the company’s continued growth and expansion into new markets and industries, especially in Florida, transforming the already successful business into the large-scale, multi-faceted operations of today. Interstate work alone has included over 1,000 miles of new or upgraded highway lanes, in contracts exceeding $1.1 billion through 2014, as well as extensive road construction, site preparation and asphalt paving work for states, local municipalities and the private-sector.
Mr. Vecellio was a founder and first president of the Flexible Pavements Council, and is active in the state’s Contractors Association. He is also a founder of Floridians for Better Transportation and serves on Florida’s “Council of 100.” He is active in the Florida Transportation Builders Association and, since 1998, among the leadership team of its national counterpart, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
Click here to read more about the Vecellio Group.
This year's companion medalists are: Penny Murphy, President of Pioneer Linens, Joseph B. “Jay” Shearouse, President and CEO of First Bank of the Palm Beaches, and Carey O’Donnell, President of O’Donnell Agency.
Read Leo Vecellio's full speech here.
Click here to read about our past AFE recipients: Arthur L. Williams, Jr., a former high school football coach whose second career transformed the life insurance industry, 2014; Tim Gannon, entrepreneur, restaurateur and champion polo player, 2013; Brian P. Burns, attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2012; H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., president of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., 2011; Edward M. Kobel, president and chief operating officer of DeBartolo Development, LLC, 2010; John D. MacArthur, insurance and real estate entrepreneur, 2009; John M. Gregory, managing partner of SJ Strategic Investments, LLC, 2008; Karl H. Watson, CEMEX, 2007; Stuart W. Epperson, Salem Communications Corporation, 2004; Sam Moore, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003; Joseph R. Gregory, Kingsway L.L.C., 2002; Lester J. Woerner, Woerner Holdings, Inc, 2001; and Rich DeVos, 2000, Orlando Magic.
Palm Beach Atlantic University confidently affirms the values and institutions that historically have informed American society—religious liberty; traditional Judeo-Christian morality; limited, constitutional government; the Rule of Law; personal and political accountability; and capitalism—the system of free enterprise. We believe that America is truly an exceptional nation, which was founded and has flourished under the guiding providential hand of God. We aim to develop in each of our students an appreciation for the unique American achievement in its many dimensions—social, political, economic, moral, legal, and religious.
Our general education curriculum, required of all students, includes a course entitled “Freedom in American Society,” which examines the meaning and significance of freedom in the American experience.
|PBA President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. (left), 2013 AFE Medalist/Outback Steakhouse Founder Tim Gannon and 2012 Medalist/philanthropist Brian Burns enjoy AFE festivities.|
Students explore such topics as the historical roots of American liberty, with special emphasis on the close link between liberty and Christianity, and the nature of freedom as understood by the chief architects of the American political order. They examine the interdependence between political and economic freedom, in particular, the significance of free-enterprise capitalism for the preservation of liberty. They learn about the structure of American constitutional democracy and the traditional meaning of justice and the Rule of Law.
These studies help students recognize the various threats to individual freedom, religious liberty, and other traditional American rights and values that have emerged over the past several centuries, as well as contemporary challenges to their preservation.
Cicero remarked of the declining Republic of his era: “Our age . . . inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its form and outlines.”
Palm Beach Atlantic University strives to ensure that a similar fate does not befall the noble American experiment in ordered liberty. We regard the transmission of the American cultural heritage to the rising generation as not only a profound joy, but also a profound duty.