Outstanding Young Alumni

The University of Florida Alumni Association, Inc. has established the Outstanding Young Alumni Award to recognize alumni who are 35 years of age or younger and have distinguished themselves in their profession and community. To view a full list of past honorees, click here


To submit a College of the Arts graduate for consideration, please email Lillian Dompe.

Matthew Wardell

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Matthew Wardell earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of North Florida, Jacksonville, and a Master of Music from the University of Florida in 2010. While at UF he served as a graduate assistant and associate conductor of the UF Symphony Orchestra. He spent five summers at the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine, studying with his mentor Michael Jinbo. Wardell has served as music director and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra in Ocala, Florida, since 2009, where he has helped increase ticket revenue and enhance the orchestra’s profile in the community.

DaJuan Johnson

DaJuan Johnson is an actor who has had roles in numerous films, television shows, commercials, and plays. After graduating from the University of Florida with his B.A in Theatre in 2000, DaJuan went on to earn his Master's degree from Colorado State University. In 2002, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time. He began his career with supporting roles on Criminal Minds and Prime Suspect and went on to earn recurring roles on hit shows such as General Hospital, Private Practice and 24. Other television appearances include Bones, The Protector, CSI, Criminal Minds, Lincoln Heights, and CSI:NY. In addition to television, he has worked in several films, including Caged Animal, Think Of Me, and Pedro, the highly-acclaimed MTV feature film. DaJuan can also be seen in over a dozen national commercials, including a Super Bowl 2012 commercial where he starred alongside Jerry Seinfeld, and a Coke Zero commercial with Kim Jeong. During DaJuan's trip back to Gainesville to receive the award, he taught an acting master class to UF MFA acting students.

Paul Stancato

Paul Stancato is an award-winning director and choreographer. During his time at the University of Florida, Paul co-founded Apria Players, the critically-acclaimed theatre company, and worked as Artistic Director from 1996-2003. After graduating from the University of Florida with an MFA in Theatre in 1998, he was Resident Director for the National Tour of Disney's The Lion King from 2006-2010. In addition, he was the assistant to Rob Ashford and directed the First National Tour for The Wedding Singer, a Broadway show that received a Tony nominations for "Best Musical" and "Best Choreography." Paul directed and choreographed Trav'lin the Musical at the 2010 NYMF Festival and Sound of Music at the John W. Engemen Theater in Northport, NY. Paul also directed Einstein's Dreams, which won him a "Best Direction Award" at the New York Fringe Festival. Paul also taught acting and directing master classes at universities and colleges throughout the nation.

Miguel Luciano

Miguel Luciano is an internationally celebrated artist whose work spans a variety of disciplines: painting, sculpture, photography, video and politically engaged public art projects. He pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art through the University of Florida's partnership with New World School of the Arts in Miami ('97) and earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Florida School of Art + Art History ('00). Miguel's artwork has been extensively exhibited in museums and galleries around the globe, including the Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris; the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, Slovenia; the San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial, Puerto Rico; and the Zverev Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow. His work has been displayed nationally in venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY; Exit Art, NY; the Chelsea Art Museum, NY; and the Jersey City Museum, NJ. Miguel's art is featured in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, El Museo del Barrio New York and the Newark Museum. Miguel has been highlighted in The New York Times, ARTnews and Sculpture magazine, as well as the first episode of the PBS series Art Through Time: A Global View. He is a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Painting, and he has received two Artists & Communities grants from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant. One of Miguel's latest projects, "Pimp My Piragua," is a functioning mobile public art project that recognizes the innovations of Puerto Rican street vendors, incorporating a "tricked-out" customized bicycle that dispenses shaved ice.

Dr. Donald DeVito

Dr. Donald DeVito is the music director at the Sidney Lanier School in Gainesville, Florida. He is the 2011 Clarissa Hug Award recipient which is the national teacher of the year award for the Council for Exceptional Children. He is the 2010-2012 Chair of the International Society for Music Education’s commission for Community Music Activity. Recent published research includes, “The Communicative Function of Behavioral Responses to Music: A Precursor to Assessment for Students with Autism” and “Leading Beyond the Walls: CMA Interdisciplinary Cooperation Through the Virtual Classroom for Students with Disabilities Project”. In 2010, he organized a performance in Carnegie Hall entitled DIScovering ABILITIES that incorporated students with college ensembles from Ireland, Brazil, Africa and the U.S. DeVito is on the research committee of the Florida Music Educators Association and the review board for Research Perspectives in Music Education. He also served on Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Access Points Writing Team for special education and the arts.

Susan Louise O'Connor

Susan Louise O'Connor received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance from the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre and Dance, graduating with a 4.0. She is an actor, living in New York City. Susan appeared on Broadway in Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury and Rupert Everett. For her performance, she was awarded the Theatre World Award for auspicious Broadway debut, received the Dorothy Loudon Broadway Debut Fellowship and was also nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. Susan has performed Off Broadway and in regional theatres across the county premiering more than 35 new plays. Susan is also the winner of the New York City International Fringe Festival's best actor award for the one-woman show, Take and she is a two-time Innovative Award nominee and winner for lead actress for her role and was named one of’s people of the year in 2005. Susan completed filming on the feature film Coming Up Roses, starring Bernadette Peters. Other film credits include the Flying Scissors, a mocumentary about the competitive world of rock-paper-scissors players and the Sundance Film Acts of Worship. She has appeared on television in Law & Order: Criminal IntentNate the Great and various commercials.

John Arthur Pinckard

John Arthur Pinckard is a two-time Tony nominated producer. His work has included Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway. Other notable credits include the hit production of Slava's Snowshow on Broadway, which toured Australia, and the feature film Maam’s Crossing which filmed in Ireland in the fall of 2010. In 2005 he was named by Hal Prince as an inaugural recipient of his T. Edward Hambleton Fellowship for creative commercial producers, via which he is developing a new play for Broadway under the mentorship of a panel of advisors led by Hal himself. His career in producing and arts management began in 1999, when he became the interim Artistic Director of the reputed All Children’s Theatre in Gainesville, FL. During his season-long tenure, he inaugurated the company’s first co- production with a New York company, and he implemented a rigorous new audience outreach program that quintupled the small company’s box office income. He soon began producing independently, bringing to New York the Chicago hit Verbatim Verboten, which enjoyed a sold-out run at the legendary Fez until that venue closed its doors. His next production, the FringeNYC phenomenon Silence! The Musical! was the biggest hit in Fringe history. It won the Outstanding Musical award and brought John to the attention of the Broadway community. Since 2006 he has shared an office with Tony-winning producer Randall Wreghitt and works both independently and in partnership with Mr. Wreghitt. Other productions include Gutenberg! The Musical! (Chicago), Never Swim Alone(Off Broadway), and Minor Gods (London); Passed projects include the play The K of D, the feature length documentary At This Performance, and an original musical comedy about the world of competitive collegiate a cappella. John is a co-founder of both the FringeNYC Encore Series and the League of Independent Theatre, a trade organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the well-being of small theatre companies in New York City. He has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University, University of Central Florida, and at the University of Florida.

Martin Gold

Martin Gold, from Sarasota, received his Bachelors in Music Education in 2001 and is a clarinetist, bass clarinetist, and frequent soloist with The United States Army band and orchestra "Pershing's Own". He has a Master of Music degree from Indiana University. Martin has performed with the Richmond Symphony, the Fairfax Symphony, and many other professional musical ensembles in the Washington, D.C. area. He has performed at the White House for the President of the United States and other visiting dignitaries.

Nicholas Pallesen

Nicholas Pallesen received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music in 2005. He won several vocal competitions while a student at UF and during his last semester Nicholas made his international operatic debut in Rome, Italy. Most recently he was a national finalist in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2007 National Council Auditions and competed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. These auditions are considered the most prestigious in North America. Nearly 1,500 singers participated in the 2007 auditions and Nicholas was among the top 11. Nicholas completed his Master of Music degree from Florida State University in May 2007.

Sarah Maines

Sarah Maines received her Bachelors degree in Theatre Performance from UF in 2002 and went on to receive her Masters of Fine Art in Theatrical Lighting Design at the University of California San Diego. She completed work as the Assistant Lighting Designer on the smash Broadway hit Jersey Boys, with 585 performances as of April 1st and was the winner of the 2006 Tony award for best lighting design. She was also the associate lighting designer on the successful production of Bridge and Tunnel with Sarah Jones at the Helen Hayes theatre in New York City. In spring 2007, she assisted lighting designer Ken Posner on the Broadway production of the musical Pirate Queens.  Sarah headed the MFA in Lighting Design graduate program at Florida State University for four years and is now a professor of Lighting Design at Texas State University, San Marcos.

Heather Harrell

Heather Harrell earned a Bachelors of Art in Music and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology in1991 and MD with honors in 1995 from the University of Florida. She is currently Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine at Shands UF and the Clerkship Director for Medicine at the University of Florida. In addition to her many teaching responsibilities, she has a practice in Internal Medicine at the Shands' Medical Plaza.

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith received his Bachelors in Music Education in 1996 and his PhD in 2005. He is an Assistant Professor of Horn and an Area Head for Music History at Virginia Commonwealth University. Patrick recently presented a paper at the prestigious 38th Annual International Horn Symposium, Cape Town, South Africa and he currently plays Principal Horn in the Lynchburg Symphony and Commonwealth Winds.

Kathryn Rush

Kathryn Rush received a Master’s degree in ceramics in 2002. Her work is consistently included in invitational exhibits both nationally and internationally, including Taiwan and Poland. She has won numerous grant, fellowships and awards and her work has been featured in prominent trade publications. Katie is currently on the ceramics faculty at Santa Fe Community College.

Salome Martinez

Salome Martinez received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2004 from the School of Theatre and Dance and is now a sought after actor in New York City appearing on Law and Order and the Late Night with Conan O’Brien show among others. He is a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival winner in both comedy and vocal performance.