side menu icon

Women Who Make a Difference

Women Who Make a Difference recognizes the influential women in the Gainesville area who positively impact and support their community.


Women Who Make a Difference Luncheon
Thursday, June 6, 2019

Do you know a local woman who deserves to be honored for her professional accomplishments and community impact?
Nominate her today as a 2019 Woman Who Makes a Difference!

Women Who Make a Difference 2018 Honorees

Laura K. Guyer, PhD, MEd, RDN
Laura Guyer - Pic

Laura K. Guyer, PhD, MEd, RDN returned to the University of Florida in 2012 to establish the only undergraduate academic program nationwide dedicated to the elimination of health disparities. Health Disparities in Society is housed in the Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Laura teaches courses in health disparities, women’s health and health literacy; her research investigates health disparities in vulnerable populations.

Before returning to UF, Laura was the associate director at Suwannee River Area Health Education Center (AHEC) where she directed internships for medical, physician assistant and MPH students. She co-authored Quit Smoking Now!, the first statewide curriculum used by the Florida AHEC Network to provide tobacco cessation education to Floridians. She also co-founded Engineering THE LAW (ETL), Inc., a nonprofit organization that teaches grassroots advocacy principles to state and national professional associations.

Laura was a tenured associate professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics and Combined MS-DI program. She was a clinician in acute care, wellness nutritionist, rural nutrition consultant and first editor of The Handbook of Medical Nutrition Therapy: The Florida Diet Manual. She is published in numerous peer reviewed and consumer publications and has held leadership positions in the Florida Public Health Association and Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Laura maintains professional registration with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jacalyn Levine
Jacki Levine - Pic

Jacki Levine was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Miami Beach, where her great grandparents had been wintering since the 1940s, when she was two months old.

Her girlhood was spent amid the coconut palms and pink sidewalks of that tropical tourist town. But she always felt a nostalgia for New York, inspired by her family’s fond memories of city life – venturing to the corner “candy store” for egg creams and savoring hot pizza-by-the-slice through the sidewalk windows of Flatbush Avenue pizza parlors.

So it’s no surprise that her favorite book since childhood is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” whose protagonist, Francie Nolan, grew up in poverty in the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in pre-World War I, New York.  

Francie’s daily life couldn’t have been less like her own, except for one thing:  Reading.  Francie spent summer days sitting on her fire escape, lost in a book. Jacki did the same, sans the fire escape, which she always thought must be the world’s best place to read.

For Jacki, a love of reading developed into a love of words, and writing stories and poetry. (She still remembers by heart the poem she wrote for her elementary commencement). A love of words – and a natural curiosity – led her to journalism as a choice of vocation.

Jacki graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with a minor in English from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a master of arts in journalism and communications from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Jacki recently became editor of FORUM Magazine, the statewide publication of the nonprofit Florida Humanities Council. 

Previously, she was the founding editor Gainesville Magazine, a bi-monthly city magazine published in conjunction with The Gainesville Sun. 

Jacki was managing editor of The Sun, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, from 1998 until 2012. 

During her tenure at The Sun previous to becoming managing editor, she held a variety of positions, including assistant managing editor, features editor and writer. Highlights include coordinating the newspaper’s redesign, honored with the Society of News Designs’ World’s Best Designed Newspaper Award; participating in the Sunrise Project Team that created The Sun’s 24-7 digital; creating The Sun and Gainesville Magazine’s Spirit of Gainesville Awards,  and launching  Gainesville Magazine.

Among notable honors, The New York Times Company Punch Sulzberger Awards for Achievement in Editorial and Community Services presented to teams of which she was a member: 2003, for the creation of Gainesville Magazine, and 2007 for the Sunrise Project, as well as numerous awards for Gainesville Magazine.

She is a board member/immediate past president of the Florida Magazine Association; on the leadership team and grants committee of Gainesville’s Women’s Giving Circle; a former member of the board of the University of Florida Performing Arts; member of the Women’s Forum, and current chair of the University of Florida’s Department of Journalism Advisory Council.

She is married to Alan Agresti, a University of Florida Distinguished Professor Emeritus of statistics.

Her hobbies include travel, gardening, reading (inspired by her wonderful book club) and various crafts.

Rev. Dr. Geraldine W. McClellan
Geraldine Williams McClellan - Pic

The Rev. Dr. Geraldine W. McClellan, former district superintendent of the North Central District of the United Methodist Church is a native Floridian, from East Palatka. Geraldine is the pastor of Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

Prior to her appointment on the cabinet in 2000 as district superintendent, she served effectively as senior pastor of the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Gainesville (1988-2000), Sellers Memorial United Methodist Church in Miami (1981-1988), and campus minister at Florida International University/University of Miami (1980-1981).

She was ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church in 1980 and holds the distinct honor as the first African-American woman to be ordained in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. In 1982, she was ordained an elder. She is a certified clinical counselor and a certified chaplain with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville.

Geraldine's formative years of study began in Palatka, Florida, where she graduated from Central Academy High School. She attended St. Johns River Junior College in Palatka, Florida and transferred to Bethune-Cookman College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts. She received her Master of Religious Education and Master of Divinity degrees from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga. Geraldine was made a recipient of an honorary doctorate degree in 1993 by Bethune-Cookman College.

She was selected by the committee headed by Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Miami to represent the Protestant denominations as speaker during the papal mass; nominated by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce as outstanding Black Woman of the year and was the recipient of the 1999 Leroy Collins Distinguished Community College Alumni Award.

Geraldine has a heart for missions and has served as team leader for mission teams to Cuba and a team member to East Angola, Africa. Community service is one of her primary concerns and her resume carries an extensive listing of community boards and agencies to which she belongs.

Vicki Santello
Vicki Santello PIc

Vicki grew up in Baldwin, Long Island, in what was a rural suburb of New York City. Her childhood was filled with outdoor activities many of which were sponsored by the Girl Scouts. Vicki has fond memories of being a Brownie and a Cadette through elementary school and High School. She credits those years as fostering a strong work ethic and desire to experience new opportunities. Vicki finished high school in an accelerated program for advanced students and graduated with Honors a year ahead of her class. She was privileged to be accepted at Bryn Mawr College, one of the Seven Sister schools, at age 17. Vicki’s major at Bryn Mawr was Economics. She graduated Cum Laude in 1977.

As  a graduation celebration, Vicki went to Europe with two school friends with the intention of returning to the USA in three months. While in Europe, she was invited to apply to the International Executive Masters in Business Administration program offered by Boston University in Brussels, Belgium. Rather than return to the USA as originally planned, Vicki applied, was accepted and remained in Brussels for three years. Those years were wonderful years of cultural diversity including the linguistic opportunity to speak French as a way of life. Vicki earned her MBA by attending evening classes and worked during the day at various internships. One internship was with the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union. Vicki worked in the Budgets Department where she attended negotiations that created the Euro Dollar. Her second internship with Drexel Burnham Lambert opened the door for what would be her life time career : financial advisory services. Vicki completed her MBA, graduating with honors, and returned to the USA in 1980.

Back in the USA, Vicki returned to the New York area to be close to family eventually moving into Manhattan. She worked on Wall Street at various financial firms where her specialty was precious metal hedge and arbitrage for institutional commodities. After ten years on Wall Street, Vicki decided that she wanted to utilize her financial expertise for the benefit of people rather than institutions. She moved to Ocala Florida in 1989 in part to be closer to family and in part because she fell in love with North Central Florida while visiting family.

Vicki is a Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch in Gainesville where she has worked for the past twelve years. Previous to joining Merrill Lynch, Vicki served as First Vice President – Investments at UBS, Gainesville, for six years and Smith Barney, Ocala and Gainesville, for twelve years. One of the measures Vicki uses to evaluate her professional success is the longevity of her client relationships. Many of her clients have been with her and the SantelloDavis team for 20+ years. Perhaps her greatest professional impact on the local community is her 28 year professional relationship with Santa Fe College Foundation.  During her tenure as the exclusive Investment Advisor to the Foundation, the Endowment fund has grown scholarship award distributions from $110,000 annually to nearly $1,000,000 annually for students of middle and lower socio economic backgrounds.  Over 400 Santa Fe Students receive some type of scholarship assistance, perhaps providing the only way most of these students could pursue a post-secondary education.

Vicki has now lived in North Central Florida for 29 years : Ocala for 11 years and Gainesville for 18. She loves living in a dynamic University town and the natural beauty of the area. She has kayaked many rivers and lakes in the area, hiked many trails and ridden hundreds of miles on many backroads Vicki is dedicated to giving back in gratitude for her beloved Florida home. She is a long time donor and supporter of The Harn, PACE, UF, Santa Fe College and numerous environmental, performing arts and civic groups. She has also participated on various Boards and local organizations including the Women’s Giving Circle of North Florida, the North Central Florida Community Foundation and the Gainesville Women’s Forum. In 2013, Vicki was awarded the Professional Advisor Award from the Community Foundation of North Central Florida for her outstanding work as a Professional Advisor in helping clients complete satisfying and transformative charitable gifts. This award additionally recognizes the crucial interaction between donor, professional advisor, charity, and the local organization necessary in charitable giving.  In her personal life, Vicki is a devoted daughter to her mother, Estelle Aden, an avid photographer, a world traveler and an art lover.

Rhonda Wilson
Rhonda Wilson Pic final

Rhonda is the founder and executive director of Star Center Children's Theatre. She is also a full-time theater teacher at Kanapaha Middle School.  

A native of Detroit, she spent most of her years in Miami with her grandparents.  She credits her seemingly unconventional childhood with her passion to assist other young girls. Rhonda was a Brownie and a Junior Girl Scout.  

Eighteen years ago, Rhonda founded the Star Center, an arts education organization, to educate and give performance opportunities to youth and their families. Star Center provides a place to build self-esteem, learn teamwork and develop confidence through the arts.  Rhonda expanded her vision to reach families when she chartered the Actors' Warehouse.

Rhonda's work has been recognized nationally, regionally and statewide.  Awards include 2017 Tony Award Nomination for Excellence in Theatre Education, Allstate National Champion for Good, Southeastern Theatre Award for Child Drama, Florida Governor's Award for Community Investment in Youth, Florida Distinguished Career Award, State Diversity and Inclusion Award, and a National Special Recognition Award from the American Association for Community Theatre, along with many local recognitions.

Rhonda continues to follow her passion and turned that small program that started 18 years ago into a year-round season of shows, workshops and classes.  Her goal is to make sure every child has a place to sparkle and shine!

Dr. Ann Weber
Ann Weber - Pic

Dr. Ann Weber was born and raised in Crestview, Fla. She was active with the Girl Scouts for six years as a Brownie and a Junior Girl Scout. After graduating as valedictorian from Crestview High School, she attended the University of Florida and graduated with honors in 1991 with a degree in microbiology.

She furthered her education at the University of Florida with her Medical Doctorate in 1995 and remained in Gainesville doing a residency in internal medicine. She then practiced primary care with the Jacksonville Health Care Group at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville. In 2000, she relocated back to Gainesville, as her late husband Tommy decided he wanted to return to his hometown and open his own dental practice. Ann began working as a hospitalist at North Florida Regional where she served as chief of medicine and chief of staff.

In 2007, she then transitioned to the Senior Health Care Center where she practiced outpatient geriatrics. During her five years at the Senior Health Care Center, she helped open a satellite primary care office at the Village Retirement Community. In 2012, she was recruited to become the chief medical officer at North Florida Regional Medical Center, where she continues to serve in that roll.

Ann is the proud mother of three children Sarah, 15; Katherine, 13; and Tommy Jr., 11. She dedicates her free time to her children and their pursuits. She is an active member of St. Augustine Catholic Church, serves on the Village Advisory Committee, and also serves on the board of directors of Watch Me Run.  

Presented by