Graham Center Young Floridians

Four outstanding Florida leaders 

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service in the University of Florida's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences began naming a "Young Floridian" in 2014. 

Since then, four outstanding Florida leaders have won the award, which is presented at the center's annual Graham Gathering. In 2017, the award, which recognizes individuals under 40 who have made substantial contributions to the state of Florida both professionally and civically, was named in honor of Dr. Brian Dassler. 

Dassler, a triple Gator, was a former Graham Center Council of Advisors member and Deputy Chancellor of Educator Quality at the Florida Department of Education who unexpectedly died in March 2017.  

Of the four Young Floridians, two lead nonprofits; one leads a private, environmentally-focused corporation; and the other heads a state commission. 

All serve as role models to current and future public and private sector leaders. 

"The Bob Graham Center established the Young Floridian Award to highlight the significant contributions being made by young Floridians to the well-being of our state and its citizens," said David Colburn, Ph.D., the director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service. "We hope that others will follow their example."

ryan smart

Smart serves the president of the Tallahassee-based 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit that was founded in 1986 to "help build better communities and save special places." 

chester Spellman 

Spellman is the CEO of Volunteer Florida (formally known as the Governor's Commission on Community Service), the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida. He became CEO in 2012 after serving as Gov. Rick Scott's Director of Appointments. 

Aaron Zahn 

Zahn, who graduated from Yale University, is the President and CEO of BCR Environmental. Based in Jacksonville, BCR is a recognized national leader of innovation in wastewater and organic waste technology.

Vance Aloupis 

Aloupis is the CEO of The Children's Movement of Florida, which is based in Miami. The Children's Movement, which was founded by former Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence Jr., works to increase investment in the first five years of life for all children.