The PBA Difference

Past American Free Enterprise Day Medal of Freedom Recipients

2017: David C. Novak

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

AFE speaker David Novak  at Palm Beach Atlantic University

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.”

Click here to read more about David Novak

Read David Novak's full speech here.

2017 Companion Medalists: James Donnelly, David Donten, Judy Mitchell and David Wright 

2016: Kenneth Langone

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

AFE speaker Kenneth Langone at Palm Beach Atlantic University

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.

Click here to read more about Kenneth Langone

Read Kenneth Langone's full speech here.

2016 Companion Medalists: Yvonne Boice, Alan Crowetz and Rob Morris

2015: Leo A. Vecellio, Jr.

Chairman and President of Vecellio Group Inc.

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. 

Click here to read more about Leo A. Vecellio, Jr.

Read Leo Vecellio's full speech here.

2015 Companion Medalists: Joseph B. "Jay" Shearouse III, Penny G. Murphy and Carey O'Donnell

2014: Arthur L. Williams

Founder of A.L. Williams & Associates

Arthur 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 defree in education from Auburn University.

Read more about Arthur L. Williams.

2014 Companion Medalists: Fabiola Brumley, Greg Quattlebaum and Peter D. Reed

2013: Tim Gannon

CEO of Palm Beach PDQ

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.

Read more about Tim Gannon. 

Watch a video of Gannon's speech at AFE 2013.

2013 Companion Medalists: Paul Donahue and Kenneth Kennerly

2012: Brian P. Burns

Attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist 

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.

Read more about Brian P. Burns.

2012 Companion Medalists: Connie Cooper Shepherd and Donald K. DeWoody, Jr.

2011: H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr.

President of Huizenga Holdings, Inc.

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

 "I Am Second" Video -- H. Wayne Huizenga Jr.

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


 2010: Edward M. Kobel

President and CEO, DeBartolo Development, LLC

With a "customer and community come first" philosophy, Edward M. Kobel leads real estate icon DeBartolo Development. Kobel and his team have created a nationwide real estate investment platform that spans from Hawaii to Florida. Capitalized by the DeBartolo Family and major capital commitments that Kobel secured with institutional partners, DeBartolo Development has underwritten a real estate pipeline of more than $1 billion.

Prior to taking the helm at DeBartolo Development, Kobel served as a partner of Fortis Advisors in Scottsdale, Ariz., an affiliate company of the DeBartolo Property Group. Kobel also is the chairman of LIFEWORK Leadership, a leadership development program that provides ethical leadership training for business and community leaders.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., Kobel served in the U.S. Army's counter-intelligence department. He resides in Tampa with his wife, Becky, and daughters Elizabeth and Katherine.

2010 Companion Medalists: Gail Coniglio, James and Anna Marie Erneston and D. Jon Thurman

 2009: John D. MacArthur

John Donald MacArthur (1897-1978) was was sole owner of the nation's largest privately held insurance company.
Born in an impoverished coal-producing area of eastern Pennsylvania, he held several jobs before turning to insurance as his life's work.
In 1928, at the age of 30, he bought the Marquette Life Insurance Company, and in 1935 acquired the financially impaired Bankers Life and Casualty Company of Chicago. At the time of his death, MacArthur's insurance companies had more than 3 million policyholders, with $5.5 billion of insurance in force, and a sales staff of more than 5,000 agents and brokers.
At one time or another, Mr. MacArthur's holdings included 100,000 acres of land in Florida, primarily in the Palm Beach and Sarasota areas; several development companies and shopping centers; paper and pulp companies; 19 commercial, office, and apartment buildings in New York City; several publishing enterprises; hotels; radio and television stations; banks and 12 insurance companies.

2009 Companion Medalists: Mike Mikkelson, Regina Bedoya, Larry Alexander, David Hernandez

2008: John M. Gregory, RPh
Managing Partner, SJ Strategic Investments LLC

The driving force behind the company, John M. Gregory founded three other successful businesses with his entrepreneurial family before establishing SJ Strategic Investments. In 1984, John co-founded General Injectables and Vaccines (GIV), a company that supplied injectables and vaccine products directly to physicians’ offices. As president and CEO, John turned GIV into a successful enterprise with 550 employees and annual revenues exceeding $150 million per year. Then, in 1993, John and his brothers founded King Pharmaceuticals, hich grew to be listed in the S&P 500 Index company on the New York Stock Exchange with revenues exceeding $1 billion.

John is currently President of The Lazarus Foundation and manages this benevolent fund with his wife, Joan. Also, he is founder and president of the Kingsway Charities, an international benevolent medication ministry. John attends Shelby Street Church of God.

John M. Gregory has been married to Joan P. Gregory for 30 years. They have two children – Susan Gregory, who is 29, and James M. Gregory, who is 25.

2008 Companion Medalists: Leonard W. Martling, Darline M. Richter, Wallace Sanger, Raymond W. Titus, Misty G. Travani

2007: Karl H. Watson

Karl H. Watson retired in 2006 as the president and chief operating officer of Rinker Materials Corporation. He presently 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.

Born in Pahokee Fla., Watson was educated at Georgia Military Academy and later Palm Beach Community College and Stanford University. He serves on the board of trustees of Palm Beach Atlantic University and the board of directors of Palm Beach County Historical Society, Economic Council of Palm Beach County, Governor Charlie Crist Transition Team and Urban Youth Impact. Watson also has served as chairman of Florida Concrete & Products Association and chaired the advisory committee of the Rinker School of Building Construction at the University of Florida. Active members of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Watson and his wife, Faith, have six children.

Companion Medalists: Mark W. Cook, Mark B. Elhilow, Scott A. Johnson, Linda G. Koldenhoven


NOTE: No medals were given in 2005 and 2006.


2004: Stuart Eppersonis 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.

Companion Medalists: H. Scott Barrett, Richard S. Johnson, Jr. Patrick Koenig. Thomas J. McElheny

Sam Moore 2003: Sam Moore is president and CEO of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Moore came to the United States from Lebanon in 1950, trusting in God’s leading in his life. He started his own publishing company; then in 1969 acquired Thomas Nelson, a well–established Bible publisher. Today Thomas Nelson is the world’s largest Bible and inspirational book publishing enterprise. 

Companion Medalists: Scott G. Hawkins, Susie Walsh

2002: Joseph R. Gregory is the managing director of Kingsway L.L.C. 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.

Companion Medalists: William K. Caler, Jr., Ralph S. Tyler, J.D.

 Lester J. Woerner 2001:

 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, Mr.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.

Companion Medalist: Dale R. Hedrick

2000: 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, Mr. DeVos and his family acquired the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. A renowned speaker and author, Mr. DeVos has appeared before hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and written three books including “Hope From The Heart.”

Companion Medalists: William Corley, David Mezzapelle

1999: John J. Brogan is a business executive and international philanthropist. At age 20, he embarked on 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, Mr. Brogan applied his mastery of business and boundless energy to Catholic charities and other non–profit organizations, both locally and internationally. 

Companion Medalists: Robert A. McIntosh, Peter V. Cowie, John W. Kiefer, Rudy Schupp, Victoria Regan

Thomas R. Pledger 1998: 

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

Companion Medalists: Philip L. Arvidson, Keith D. Beaty, George Greenberg, Paul N. Leone, Charles A. Smith 

1997: Carl DeSantis is founder of Rexall Sundown, Inc. Working out of his garage with an initial investment of $8,000, Mr. DeSantis built a business that became the world’s leading maker and distributor of health products. He is a recipient of the State of Israel Bonds Award for Distinguished Community Leadership and the National Italian–American Foundation’s President’s Award.

Companion Medalists: Jim R. Koepnick, Paul M. Twitty

1996: Lowell (“Bud”) Paxson is president and CEO of Paxson Communications Corp. in West Palm Beach. Mr. Paxson’s media empire includes radio, television and professional sports. He is the creator, co–founder and President Emeritus of the Home Shopping Network and SilverKing Communications.

Companion Medalists: David M. Armstrong, George J. Michael, Jr. Zachary Shipley, Linda O. Terrell

1995: Richard S. Johnson is a trustee of Palm Beach Atlantic University and owner of Johnson Investment Group in West Palm Beach. He is on the board of SunTrust South Florida. Additionally, he is 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. 

Companion Medalists: Sherry S. Barrat, Joseph D. Hill, Jr. Hector Ruiz, William L. Snyder

1994: David Mahoney is chairman and CEO of the Charles A. Dana Foundation, the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Davie Mahoney Ventures and Vice Chairman of Bionaire. He is the former Chairman and CEO of Norton Simon, Inc., and was Chairman Emeritus of the American Health Foundation and former chairman of the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission.

Companion Medalists: Richard P. Bellinger, Patricia A. Fares, Gordon D. Gaster, Bruce Prolow, Thomas E. Rossin, Larry Royal

1993: William G. Lassiter, Jr., a native of West Palm Beach, is 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. For 30 years, Mr. Lassiter has been building and developing throughout South Florida and beyond. He has served eight terms as a trustee of Palm Beach Atlantic University and has been actively involved in the expansion of the college’s building facilities.

Companion Medalists:Trowbridge Callaway III, Marcie S. Gorman

1992: Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., is an inventor, entrepreneur and 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. Mr. 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.

Companion Medalists: John P. Greene III, John F. Koons IV, Donald B. Mathis

1991: S. Bradford ("Skeet") Rymer, Jr. is president and CEO of Magic Chef. Mr. Rymer’s leadership in business and education includes service on 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 has directed numerous business and professional organizers, including Allied Arts of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Companion Medalists:John C. Cassidy, Sr., Thomas C. Devlin, Lawrence A. Pande, Jr., Michael E. Pardue, Thomas P. Wicky

1990: S. Truett Cathy is founder, chairman of the board and CEO for Chick–Fil–A, Inc. Mr. Cathy opened his first restaurant in 1946; by 1990, he owned 420 restaurants in 31 states. Mr. Cathy’s 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.

Companion Medalists: Robert L. Broadway, William R. Burson, Monroe A. Coogler, Jr., F. Malcolm Cunningham, Jr., J.Max Davis, Ronald M. Finch, David B. Freese, Patricia C. Friel, Carl L. Clarence Kah, Jr., T.R. Moffett, Rich Murrell, Mike Mustafoglu

1989: The Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, which 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.

Companion Medalists: H. Loy Anderson, Jr., Jim Awtrey, Paul Bremer, William E. Hill, Janis A. Jones, Catherine Lowe, William Walker Lynch, Harry Smith, R. Michael Strickland, Sidney Stubbs, Jr., Alberto Vadia, Jr.

1988: Frederick M. Supper is retired chairman and CEO of the Alexander Proudfoot Company, one of the largest consulting firms in the world. After his retirement, Mr. Supper established Supcor, an investment company, in Palm Beach. Mr. Supper 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.

Companion Medalists:Clarence E. Anthony, William J. Brooks, Kevin Campbell, J. Nelson Fairbanks, Jose (“Pepe”) Fanjul, Merle L. Gilmore, J. Bradford Greer, G. Kay Griffith, Bettye J. King, John C. Moyle, Vincent J. Pappalardo, Frank Piantidosi, Beverly Pope Sears, J. Lawrence Sartory

1987: Henry J. Rolfs earned a master’s degree in industrial psychology from Columbia University before serving 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. 

Companion Medalists:Joseph M. Blubaugh, Harrison K. Chauncey, Jr., Peter D. Cummings, George T. Elmore, Charles A. Hurty, William A. Meyer, Susan L. Petersen, Ronald L. Schwab, Richard E. Simmons, John R. Smith, Jr., Enrique J. Tomeu, Leo Arthur Vecellio, Jr., Basil J. Zaloom, Morgan M. Zook

1986: 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 MBA 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, Mr. Johnson established a scholarship program at Palm Beach Atlantic through the Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson Scholarship Foundation. 

Companion Medalists: William R. Boose III, John J. Brogan, William C. Clark, Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Willie E. Gary, Harry S. Hamilton, Randy K. Johnson, Sr., Harry A. Johnston II, Marian Lewis, Philip D. Lewis, Marshall MacDonald, Fran Murphy

1985: Marshall E. (“Doc”) Rinker, Sr., founded the Rinker Rock and Sand Company in 1926. It evolved into the Rinker Materials Corporation, the nation’s largest producer of ready-mix concrete and concrete blocks. He 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.

Companion Medalists: George E. Barbar, Russell L. Bielenberg, Edward D. Duda, Vince A. Elhilow, Shannon R. Gin