Submitted By Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 16, 2014 1:00 a.m.
About 200 friends, colleagues and family members gathered under stormy skies on June 11, 2014 to roast Don Hughes, retiring administrator of the Betty P. Cook Center, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ).
Hughes, who moved to Florida from Wappinger Falls, NY in 1984, has lived in Fernandina Beach since 1994. He has been the face of the college in Nassau County since assuming the position that same year of Executive Director for what was then Florida Community College at Jacksonville’s Nassau Center. Before the Yulee location was found, his office was located on Centre Street, Fernandina Beach.
Dr. Barbara Darby, President of FSCJ’s North Campus and Hughes’ boss, was on hand to greet visitors and host the impromptu roast of an educator who has become so widely known and regarded throughout the county, not just for his work at the center but for all the additional volunteer work he has done to assist many business, civic and cultural organizations. Current District Board of Trustees Jim Mayo, retired administrator of Baptist Nassau Hospital, also joined in expressing appreciation for Hughes’ many years of service to the college and the county.
Several audience members kidded Hughes about his love of fishing trumping his skill at catching fish. Others gently ribbed Hughes for being “time-challenged,” since he was notorious for “running a little late.”
Hughes is retiring at the same time as his wife, Sue, who has taught at FSCJ’s South Campus for many years. Their immediate plan is to spend time with their family, including a new granddaughter, Elizabeth. And of course, Don will do his best to hone his fishing skills.
Both Hughes children, Sarah and Devin, are graduates of Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Hughes was both surprised and touched by the outpouring of gratitude and affection from the community.
“My 39 year career in higher education, 30 at Florida State College at
Jacksonville,” he said, “has been one filled with challenges and rewards. Being
selected, in 1994, as the Director of the Betty P. Cook Nassau Center
started me on a journey that resulted in making higher education more
accessible to an entire community, developing a permanent campus, and
continuing to assist individuals to set and reach their career and life
goals. Assisting and supporting individuals to establish and reach their goals has always been my focus and one that gives me the greatest satisfaction. I
have always been a strong proponent of teamwork and am thankful that I have
been a member of many, many teams throughout my career, both within the
college and in the community.”
Dr. Sandy Robinson, recently hired by the college as Executive Director Nassau Center (Interim)/North Campus President Elect will serve until a permanent replacement for Hughes can be hired. Dr. Robinson will replace retiring North Campus President Barbara Darby next year.
But as one person was heard to remark following the program, “They can fill his position, but they can’t replace Don Hughes.”
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.