Adrienne Garcia named 2023 UF Distinguished Alumna

The University of Florida awarded College of Education alumna Adrienne Garcia (M.Ed. ‘70, Ed.S. ‘71, Ed.D. ‘78) the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award. This prestigious award is given to an alumni who has excelled in a chosen field or has performed outstanding service for the university.

Garcia is a Tampa native who graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in early childhood education in 1968 before studying at UF.

Throughout her career, Garcia has pursued professional and leadership roles in education, fundraising and development. She credits her time at UF for the reason she has been able to excel in all aspects of her career.

“Receiving the award from the university that changed my life was an extraordinary honor,” Garcia said. “My career was grander and had a stronger trajectory than I could have imagined because of what I learned at the University of Florida”

Adrienne Garcia

Adrienne Garcia (MEd ‘70, EdS ‘71, EdD ‘78)

At the beginning of her education and career, Garcia always noticed how she was one of only a few women in the room — if not the only one. She knew she had to change this statistic.

After graduating from UF, Garcia joined the Gator Club in Tampa, where she was only one of four women in the club of 100 men. Her and fellow female club members sought out board positions, despite the lack of diversity in the organization

“I often was the only woman in the room,” Garcia said.

Later, when Garcia joined the UF Alumni Association board it was a small board she was probably the only woman. Garcia and the board knew they had to better represent the students and they grew the board to become more inclusive.

When Garcia became president of the UF Alumni Association years later, she was the second female president in 90 years, she said. Twenty-five years later, ten women have served as UFAA board presidents. Garcia still continues to advocate for diversity and inclusion in all settings, as she did decades prior for the UF alumni groups.

Garcia has worked as the director of funding and evaluation of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, and the executive director of the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation. Garcia recently retired as the executive director of the Hillsborough Community College Foundation.

“When it comes to the bright, talented and personable Dr. Adrienne Garcia, she has excelled in her work and has performed outstanding service for the college, UF and society,” said Dean Glenn Good.

In 2022, Garcia received a Gator Nation LeaDEarshIp (DEI) Award from the UF Alumni Association for her volunteer and community service efforts.

Garcia’s younger sister Patty, who is also a UF College of Education alumna, became ill and died suddenly in 1976. Ever since her sister’s passing, Garcia has honored her sister through her work and donations to the university.

In memory of her sister, Garcia established the Adrienne and Patricia Ann Garcia Endowed Graduate Fellowship. This fellowship supports graduate students in math education, with preference given to students committed to service in the Hispanic community, students bilingual in Spanish and English, and students from Hillsborough County.

This is an image from the fall doctoral commencement ceremony. The photo captures a moment when Adrienne Garcia, in academic regalia, is receiving the UF Distinguished Alumni award. UF President Ben Sasse and UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good are on either side of her on the stage, also in academic regalia. The background shows an audience seated, watching the ceremony. The stage is decorated with orange and blue colors.

(L-R) UF President Ben Sasse, Adrienne Garcia, College of Education Dean Glenn Good

Garcia wanted to make sure her sister’s name had a legacy, she said.

Garcia has always made it a priority to support the local Hispanic community, as she is a proud granddaughter of Spanish and Mexican immigrants. In 2005, Garcia was named the Hispanic Woman of the Year by the Tampa Hispanic Heritage organization.