FSU Panama City recognizes 2017 Notable ’Noles

Erica Martin

FSU Panama City recognized four outstanding alumni for their continued commitment to education as part of a 20-year campus Homecoming tradition.

Retired Air Force Maj. Kenneth Ayers Jr., FSU Panama City Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. James Dever, Bay County Tax Collector Chuck Perdue and Chief Deputy Clerk Jody Waller were named the 2017 Notable ’Noles during the campus’ Homecoming alumNight reception 5:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, in the Holley Lecture Hall.

The award is given to FSU Panama City alumni who demonstrated excellence as students and have made outstanding contributions to the community and within their careers. Since the award’s inception in 1996, FSU Panama City has recognized 71 Notable ’Noles, accounting for less than 1 percent of the campus’s alumni.

Ken Ayers, a retired major from the U.S. Air Force who served in Desert Storm, earned a specialist degree in mathematics education in 2003. A lifelong learner, he returned to FSU Panama City to study electrical engineering, serving as a representative of the Student Government Council, then a Senator in Tallahassee and SGC president.

Ayers is a legacy Seminole whose grandmother, Francis Mildred Hubert, graduated from the Florida State College of Women in 1933.

“My father is a link in a chain of FSU ’Noles,” his son, Kenneth Ayers III, wrote in his nomination. “His most important achievement however has been successfully raising my sister and myself as a single father and helping us both to become FSU alumni.”

Kenneth Ayers III earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, and Kelly Ayers earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from FSU Panama City. Ken Ayers Jr. also funded a $25,000 endowed scholarship for FSU Panama City students in honor of his children.

Ayers is a lifetime member of the FSU Alumni Association and sits on the board of the Panama City Area Seminole Club. He continues to focus on students as a member of the FSU Panama City Development Board, sponsoring golf tournament teams and Annual Dinner tables for students.

While in the Air Force, Ayers was named Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Cadet of the Year. He earned the Meritorious Service Medals, one Air Medal, three Air Force Commendation Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Kuwait Liberation Medal. He is a lifetime member of the VFW.

He also is an avid diver, serving as past president of FSU Panama City’s SHARC dive club and a member of the Panama City Dive Club. He is a Master Dive Instructor PADI with more than 450 divers certified, and he earned the title of the FWC’s Lionfish King in 2017. He is a volunteer motorcycle instructor and a volunteer at the Bay County Humane Society.

FSU Panama City’s Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. James “Jim” Dever retired as a successful entrepreneur at the age of 41. At age 50, he returned to college in 2001 to earn the degree he never completed in the 1960s. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and an MBA from FSU Panama City, earning the Fulbright Scholars Award for a research proposal on entrepreneurship in the former Soviet Union.

After earning his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2009, he began teaching business courses at FSU’s Tallahassee campus. He was instrumental in establishing the entrepreneurship program at FSU and developed sophomore-level courses to encourage an early start to the program.

“Jim has been instrumental in putting FSU on the map with regard to entrepreneurship,” Dr. Steve Leach wrote in his nomination letter. “He has maintained close ties with the Panama City campus, teaching courses on our campus and fostering our participation in this promising field of study.”

Dever also founded the Summer Institute of Entrepreneurship in Panama City, has taught through FSU’s International Programs in London and served as a visiting professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde Business School.

He is active within the community, serving through organizations such as the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Panama City Beach Civil Service Board, YMCA Board of Directors and the Bay County Hotel Association. He also has served as the international vice president and on the Board of Directors for Optimist International.

“Jim has set a fine example of two things: It is never too late to further one’s education, and one person can make a difference,” Leach wrote.

Bay County Tax Collector Chuck Perdue credits his accounting degree from FSU Panama City with his success. Combining his education with business experience, he has implemented best business practices to improve customer service, technology and professionalism to better serve Bay County citizens.

“As one of only five state constitutional officers serving in Bay County, Chuck is representing the Seminole Nation well,” his wife, Charla Perdue, wrote in his nomination. “He is dedicated to his work and credits his accounting degree from FSU Panama City as the foundation of his subsequent success.”

Perdue earned his bachelor’s degree in 2000, then went on to earn a master’s degree in taxation from Troy University in 2016. He is vice president of operations for Skinner Tax Consulting and a partner in the local CPA firm Perdue, Skinner and Nixon. He has 20 years of experience as an enrolled agent representing Fortune 500 companies on complex penalties and interest matters before the IRS.

Perdue is an active member of St. Andrew Baptist Church, serving as a deacon. He also has served on the board for the Boys and Girls Club and was a founding member and former treasurer for the North Bay Haven Baseball Boosters.

Jody Waller, who earned her bachelor’s degree in communication in 1992 while working full time, has focused on education and serving this community as chief deputy clerk for the Clerk of Court and Comptroller of Bay County.

She has served on the Bay Arts Alliance Board of Directors, the Bay District Schools Oversight/Building Committee, Bay County and Lynn Haven Centennial planning committees, United Way of Northwest Florida Communications Committee, United Cerebral Palsy Board of Directors and Florida School-To-Work state-level leadership team. She also is a graduate of the Bay County Chamber’s Leadership Bay program and is active with the Bay Education Foundation, earning the 25th anniversary Silver Apple Award for her role as a student mentor and a founder of the Arts Alive fundraiser. 

Waller also was instrumental in helping establish and raise funds for the Alisa Kinsaul Memorial Scholarship at FSU Panama City.

“Jody has a servant’s heart and has spent her professional life giving back to the community she has lived in,” Tanya Deal wrote in her nomination. “She is deserving of the Notable ’Nole distinction as she is simply one of those people who make Bay County a better place to live in.”