Past AFE Medal Recipients

2019 - Y. Michele Kang

Founder and CEO, Cognosante Kang

A visionary in the field of health information technology, Michele Kang founded Cognosante in 2008 to disrupt and challenge the status quo in the U.S. healthcare system. Leveraging a unique set of business, data and technical expertise in a fundamentally different way, Cognosante provides innovative solutions central to carrying out national healthcare transformation. Under Kang’s leadership, Cognosante has emerged as one of the most trusted partners of key federal and state health agencies, while growing rapidly over the past 10 years.

Kang also established philanthropic and economic sustainability initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and increase opportunities for veterans, under-resourced young adults and disabled Americans. With a mission to promote the dignity of work, Cognosante Foundation, established in 2012, focuses on supporting members from underserved communities as they pursue financial independence through meaningful careers. She is also actively engaged in promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies and careers for girls and women.


2018 - George T. Elmore

Founder of Hardrives, Inc. George Elmore

George T. ElmoreGeorge T. Elmore, from New Castle, Pennsylvania, moved to Florida in 1947. He attended the University of Miami for one year and then was called to duty in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict. Upon returning, he and his wife Wilma traded in their car for a pickup truck, borrowed $3000 from his father and got started paving driveways. They used their house as an office and the back of a gas station as an operating base. Wilma kept the books while her husband worked in the field.

Today, Hardrives has become one of the largest road construction firms in Palm Beach County and is one of South Florida’s preeminent, longest running heavy construction firms. With Elmore’s leadership, perseverance, a keen eye for opportunities and a business practiced with foresight and a genuine concern for the community, Hardrives has grown along with South Florida, constructing the major highway projects including much of I-95 and many of the major thoroughfares in South Florida.


2017 - David C. Novak David

Co-Founder and retired chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc.

Novak received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Prior to leading Yum! Brands, Novak was president at both KFC and Pizza Hut, and held senior management positions at Pepsi-Cola Company, including chief operating officer and executive vice president of marketing and sales.

Yum! Brands is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with over 43,500 restaurants in more than 135 countries and territories. During Novak’s tenure, Yum! Brands doubled in size and established itself as a global powerhouse.

Novak has been recognized as “2012 CEO of the Year,” one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs,” one of the “Top People in Business” and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World.”


2016 - Kennet2016 - Kennet h Langone Founder of Invemed Associates and co-founder of The Home Depoth Langone

Founder of Invemed Associates and co-founder of The Home Depot

Kenneth Langone is the founder of Invemed Associates LLC, a New York Stock Exchange member firm specializing in healthcare and high technology companies, and co-founder of The Home Depot. 

Langone received a B.A. from Bucknell University and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, which he attended at night while working on Wall Street. The part-time night program was renamed the Langone Program thanks to the generosity of Langone and his wife, Elaine.

Langone is a co-founder of The Home Depot and was lead director and a member of the executive committee of its board since it was founded in 1978 until 2008 when he left the board. He also serves on the boards of Unifi, Inc., Micell Technologies, Relationship Sciences and Juice Press. Past corporate board memberships include ChoicePoint, Geeknet, General Electric and YUM Brands. In addition he serves on the boards of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Ronald McDonald House of New York, the Medal of Honor Foundation, Horatio Alger Society Foundation and the Harlem Children’s Zone and its charter school, the Promise Academy.


2015 - Leo A. Vecellio, Jr.

Chairman and President of Vecellio Group Inc.

Leo Vecellio Jr.

Leo A. Vecellio, Jr. is 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. 


 2014 - Arthur L. Williams

Founder of A.L. Williams & Associates

Arthur Williams AFEArthur L. Williams is the founder of A.L. Williams & Associates, a life insurance business that began in Atlanta, Ga. and a highly-regarded motivational speaker. 

Born in Waycross, Ga. and raised in nearby Cairo, Williams began his career after college as a high school football coach, just like his father. In the midst of success as a winning football coach, Williams made a decision that would change his life dramatically. In 1963, his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack, leaving his family with no will and very little life insurance. Several years later, Williams' cousin introduced him to the concept of "buy term and invest the difference." Remembering his parents' experience, Williams became a crusader for the term insurance concept.

After selling insurance part-time and earning more than his coach's salary, Williams left his first company ITT in 1973 for Waddell & Reed, another term company. In 1977, he formed A.L. Williams & Associates, which quickly grew in sales and by 1990 was ranked as the largest seller of life insurance in the world. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi State University and a master's degree in education from Auburn University.


2013 - Tim Gannon

CEO of Palm Beach PDQ

Tim Gannon AFE

Tim Gannon is a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, Inc., and the creator of the “Bloomin’ Onion” recipe and many other dishes on Outback’s menu. He is the CEO of Palm Beach PDQ.  

A Florida native and Palm Beach resident, Gannon has been an art gallery tour guide in Italy, a successful restaurateur and a champion polo player. Gannon is an alumnus of Florida State University, where he studied art history and dreamed of being a museum curator. This took him to Florence, Italy, where he became a tour guide for an art gallery.

He then went to Aspen, Colo., where he developed his passion for food and cooking. In 1987 Bob Basham and Chris Sullivan invited Gannon to return to Florida, become their partner and launch a new restaurant concept, which would become known as Outback Steakhouse. Outback Steakhouse became one of the biggest corporate success stories in recent years.

Riding the success of his restaurant ventures, in 1992 Gannon obtained his dream of playing polo. He had his own team, Outback Polo, and has been one of the greatest sponsors of the game. In 2001 Outback Polo won its third U.S. Open in a row, which no other polo team has ever done.


2012 - Brian P. Burns

Attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist

Brian Burns AFE

Brian P. Burns, attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is former chairman and chief executive officer of Boothe Financial Corp., and of Robert Half International, Inc. Burns has had a distinguished career as a practicing attorney. His broad range of business experience has led to his election or appointment to the boards of major corporations, as well as professional, governmental and charitable organizations across the United States as well as in Ireland.

He is chairman of The Burns Foundation in San Francisco and served as a trustee of the Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Family Trusts of 1926 and 1936 in New York City from 1998 to 2010. He also has served as a member of the board of directors of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises Inc. in New York.
He and his wife, Eileen, have eight children and 15 grandchildren. In recognition of her extensive community service, Mrs. Burns received the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic in 2011.


2011 - H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr.

President of Huizenga Holdings

H. Wayne Huizenga Jr. AFE

H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr. is president of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., a diversified company that manages the Huizenga family owned private businesses and real estate. He also is chairman of the board of Rybovich, a super yacht marina and refit facility based in West Palm Beach.

Huizenga is a member of the board for the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County. He is founder and a member of the board of directors for the Christian Community Foundation of South Florida.  He serves on the Trinity Forum's Board of Advisors and Lifework Leadership National Advisory Board. In addition, he is a member of the Advisory Committee for Door of Hope Outreach, Inc. He serves as a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Florida Chapter; a member, presenter and advisor of PathNorth; and a member of the CEO Forum.

A graduate of the University of Tampa with a degree in business, Huizenga is married to his childhood sweetheart, Fonda Hix. They have four children: Savannah, Tres (Wayne, III), Gerritt and Ainsley. The family regularly attends Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale.

  • 2011 Companion Medalists: Robert Anderson, Michael J. Bracci and Clay Williams

Hear from 2011 American Free Enterprise Medalist H. Wayne Huizenga Jr. how Jesus Christ came into his life and changed him.


2010 - Edward M. KobelKobel

DeBartolo Development

Edward M. Kobel is president and chief operating officer of DeBartolo Development – one of the largest privately held real estate development companies in the country. Kobel and his team created a nationwide real estate investment platform that spans from Hawaii to Florida. Under his leadership, the company launched a Community Reinvestment Fund that invested $400 million to revitalize communities across the southeastern part of the U.S.


2009 - John D. MacArthurJohn

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

John D. MacArthur was one of the three wealthiest men in America at the time of his death in 1978. MacArthur was sole owner of the nation’s largest privately held insurance company. As a real estate entrepreneur, he was instrumental in the founding of Palm Beach Gardens. His estate created the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that has donated millions of dollars to charities around the world.


2008 - Dr. John M. Gregory 

SJ Strategic Investments LLC

Dr. John M. Gregory is managing partner of SJ Strategic Investments LLC, a private, family-owned investment vehicle with a diverse portfolio of public and private investments. In 1993, Gregory and his brothers purchased a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Bristol, Tenn. Under his leadership as chairman and CEO, King Pharmaceuticals grew from a 90-employee family business to an S&P 500 Index company on the New York Stock Exchange with revenues exceeding $1 billion.


2007 - Karl H. WatsonKarl

Rinker Materials Corporation

Karl H. Watson retired in 2006 as the president and chief operating officer of Rinker Materials Corporation, one of the world’s top 10 international construction materials companies supplying aggregate, cement, concrete, concrete block, asphalt, concrete pipe and other construction materials. He serves as a consultant for CEMEX, a global building-solutions company that produces, distributes and markets cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and related building materials to customers and communities in more than 50 countries.


2004 - Stuart EppersonSruart Epperson

Salem Communications Corporation

Stuart Epperson is chairman of the board of Salem Communications Corporation, one of the largest Christian broadcast groups in the country and the leading U.S. radio broadcaster of religious and family-themed programming. The company offers programming in three formats: Christian teaching/talk, news/ talk and contemporary Christian music. The company, based in Camarillo, Calif., is listed on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol, SALM.

 


2003 - Sam MooreSam Moore

Thomas Nelson Inc.

Sam Moore is president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Inc. Moore came to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1950, trusting in God to lead his life. He started his own publishing company, then acquired Thomas Nelson, a well–established Bible publisher, in 1969. The company today is the world’s largest Bible and inspirational book publishing enterprise.

 

 


2002 - Joseph R. Gregorygregory

Kingsway LLC

Joseph R. Gregory is managing director of Kingsway LLC in Tennessee. He has been recognized by both houses of the Tennessee Legislature as the founder of the Tennessee Biotechnology Association, and he served as the association’s first chairman until 2001. He serves as co– chairman of Milligan College President’s Executive Council, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Palm Beach Atlantic University and the East Tennessee State University Foundation Board.

 


2001 Lester J. WoernerLester

Woerner Holdings Inc.

Lester J. Woerner is chairman and CEO of Woerner Holdings Inc., a diversified management and investment company with broad interests in agriculture, real estate and marketable securities investments. Having embarked on his first business venture at age 18, Woerner was the youngest businessman ever, at age 27, to be appointed by the governor of Alabama to the state’s prestigious Board of Agriculture and Industry.

 


2000 - Rich DeVosRich

Amway Corporation

Rich DeVos founded Amway Corporation in 1959 with Jay Van Andel. Amway is one of the world’s largest direct selling companies, operating in more than 80 countries and territories. In 1991, DeVos and his family acquired the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. A renowned speaker and author, he has appeared before hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and has written three books.

 

 


1999 - John J. BroganJohn Brogan

Business executive and international philanthropist

John J. Brogan was a business executive and international philanthropist. At age 20, he embarked upon a stellar business career that led to directorships at 23 companies, including Alamo Rent A Car Inc. and Flagler National Bank. At the same time, Brogan applied his energy and mastery of business to Catholic charities and other nonprofit organizations, locally and internationally.

 

 


1998 - Thomas R. PledgerCarl DeSantis

Dycom Industries

Thomas R. Pledger is chairman of Dycom Industries, one of North America’s largest telecommunications and electrical services companies. In addition, he serves as a trustee for Palm Beach Atlantic University. Pledger has served in numerous leadership roles at the Central Baptist Church in Jupiter, where he and his family are longtime members.

 

 


1997 - Carl DeSantisCarl DeSantis

Rexall Sundown Inc.

Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Inc., began his career by working out of his garage with an investment of $8,000. He built a business that became the world’s leading maker and distributor of health products. He received the State of Israel Bonds Award for Distinguished Community Leadership and the National Italian–American Foundation’s President’s Award. 

 

 


1996 - Lowell (Bud) PaxsonLowell (Bud) Paxson

Paxson Communications Corp

Lowell (Bud) Paxson is president and CEO of Paxson Communications Corp. in West Palm Beach. His empire expands almost daily and includes radio, television and professional sports. He is the creator, co–founder and president emeritus of the Home Shopping Network and SilverKing Communications.

 

 


1995 - Richard S. JohnsonRichard S. Johnson

Johnson Investment Group

Richard S. Johnson was a trustee of Palm Beach Atlantic University and owner of Johnson Investment Group in West Palm Beach. He was on the board of SunTrust South Florida. He also was the former chairman of the board of Intracoastal Health Care Systems and was honored by its first–ever Renaissance Award in recognition of his contribution to health care in the community.

 

 


1994 - David Mahoney David Mahoney

Charles A. Dana Foundation

David Mahoney was chairman and CEO of the Charles A. Dana Foundation, the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Mahoney Ventures and vice chairman of Bionaire. A former chairman and CEO of Norton Simon Inc., Mahoney also was chairman emeritus of the American Health Foundation and former chairman of the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission.

 


 

1993 - William G. Lassiter, Jr. William G. Lassiter, Jr.

W.G. Lassiter Co. Inc., General Contractors

William G. Lassiter, Jr. was president of W.G. Lassiter Co. Inc., General Contractors. He also founded PDQ Food Stores Inc., a chain of 24 convenience stores, which he later sold. Lassiter developed and built numerous shopping centers and other projects across South Florida and was instrumental in the expansion of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s facilities and programs through his service and generosity.

 

 


1992 - Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr.Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr

The Dreyfoos Group

Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. is an inventor, an entrepreneur and a patron of the arts. He is chairman and owner of The Dreyfoos Group, a private capital management firm, which grew out of Photo Electronics Corporation. Under the PEC umbrella was WPEC–TV 12, the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, which he owned for 23 years. Dreyfoos spearheaded the successful effort to build the $55 million Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. He has been a major influence on the cultural scene in Palm Beach County, forming and serving as the first chairman of the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts.

 


1991 - S. Bradford (Skeet) Rymer, Jr.S. Bradford (Skeet) Rymer, Jr.

Magic Chef

Bradford (Skeet) Rymer, Jr. was president and CEO of Magic Chef. Rymer’s leadership in business and education included service on the boards of Georgia Tech Alumni Association, Junior Achievement of Cleveland, Tenn., and the District Export Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He founded the Cleveland Family WMCA and Cleveland Associated Industries and directed numerous business and professional organizations, including Allied Arts of Chattanooga, Tenn.

 


1990 - S. Truett CathyS. Truett Cathy

Chick–fil–A Inc.

Truett Cathy is founder, chairman of the board and CEO for Chick–fil–A Inc. Cathy opened his first restaurant in 1946. By 1990, he owned 420 restaurants in 31 states. His honors through the years include: Executive of the Year Award from the School of Business Administration, University of Georgia; the Inspiring Excellence Award from The Executive Committee, Jacksonville, Fla.; two Liberty Bell awards; Outstanding Georgia Entrepreneur award; Religious Heritage of America National Award; Outstanding Georgian; and several community service awards.


1989 - Hugh J. Andersen Hugh J. Andersen

Hugh J. Andersen Foundation

The Hugh J. Andersen Foundation was established in 1962 in Minnesota by Hugh J., Jane K. and Katherine B. Andersen. The foundation’s main emphasis is on social service and youth agencies, health issues, education, arts and culture, and civic affairs. Earl C. Swanson, director and vice president of the foundation, accepted the award.

 

 


1989 - Stewart MorrisStewart Morris

CEO of Stewart Information Services Corporation and Stewart Titles

Stewart Morris is president and CEO of Stewart Information Services Corporation and Stewart Titles, a subsidiary that includes more than 2,100 offices and agencies. A graduate of the University of Texas, he also is a trustee of Houston Baptist University, past advisory director of the National Trust for Preservation, and past director of the Harris County Heritage Society and Galveston Historical Foundation. Morris also is past chairman of the trustees of Space Center Memorial Hospital.

 


1988 - Frederick M. SupperFrederick M. Supper

Alexander Proudfoot Company

Frederick M. Supper was chairman and CEO of the Alexander Proudfoot Company, one of the largest consulting firms in the world. After his retirement, he established Supcor, an investment company, in Palm Beach. He and his wife, Patricia, formed the Frederick and Patricia Supper Foundation. Palm Beach Atlantic University established the Frederick and Patricia Supper Center of Achieving Excellence in Business and named its honors program the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program.

 


1987 - Henry J. RolfsHenry J. Rolfs

U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Henry J. Rolfs earned a master’s degree in industrial psychology from Columbia University. He served in the Office of the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Navy as management engineer, surveying operations of shipyards, air stations, defense contractors and supply depots. Later, he headed the Department of Organization and Planning for AT&T. After that, he was a real estate developer, first in Virginia and then in South Florida. He owned and operated a hotel on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach for more than a decade and was a partner in the Downtown/ Uptown venture in West Palm Beach in the late 1980s.

 


1986 - Theodore R. JohnsonTheodore R. Johnson

United Parcel Service

Theodore R. Johnson graduated from the University of Denver with a major in industrial engineering in 1923 and settled in Los Angeles. His career began that year when he answered an ad for an industrial engineer and was hired by United Parcel Service. Within four years, he had climbed to vice president, earning an M.B.A. at the University of Southern California at night. He spent his entire career with UPS, which, under his leadership, grew to include more than 120,000 employees, 60,000 delivery trucks and 55 airplanes operating in the continental U.S., Canada and Germany. In 1992, Johnson established a scholarship program at Palm Beach Atlantic University through the Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson Scholarship Foundation.


1985 - Marshall E. Rinker, Sr.Marshall E. Rinker, Sr.

Rinker Rock and Sand Company

Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. founded the Rinker Rock and Sand Company in 1926. The company evolved into the Rinker Materials Corporation, the nation’s largest producer of ready–mix concrete and concrete blocks. Rinker also gave his time to many religious and civic organizations, including First Baptist Church, YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International and the American Red Cross. He was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa in May 1988 from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

 


1984 - Sir John M. TempletonSir John M. Templeton

Templeton World Funds Ltd.

Sir John M. Templeton was an investment counselor and chartered financial analyst. He was president of Templeton World Funds Ltd. and president of the board of trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary.