Tony Simmons

Dean Randy Hanna announced on Thursday, May 2, that Florida State University Panama City Professor Robert Cvornyek has received the inaugural Provost Sally McRorie Excellence in Teaching and Service Award.

“This award was established by the faculty at FSU Panama City in 2022 as an acknowledgement of exceptional work in the classroom with our students as well as outside in the community,” Hanna said. “The award will be presented annually. This year the award will be presented as part of the events leading up to graduation. The winner was selected by the faculty after their last meeting.”

Professor Robert Cvornyek

Cvornyek, who received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, is an assistant teaching professor in social science at FSU PC. A professor emeritus and former chairman of the History Department at Rhode Island College, he is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and specializes in sports history. He edited the autobiography of baseball Hall-of-Famer Effa Manley, and his documentary film, “The Price of Admission,” was screened April 6 at the Rhode Island Black Film Festival at Johnson & Wales University in Providence.

“Public history always has an element of applied history, going out into the community,” Cvornyek said in discussing a class project in 2022. “A lot of times there is a disconnect about what is written about someone and what the public understands about a person.”

With that in mind, he recently co-edited two new books examining how Black athletes in Boston, Mass., contributed to social movements including integration and cultural expression. “Race and Resistance in Boston: A Contested Sports History” (University of Nebraska Press, January 2025, available for pre-order at and “Boston’s Black Athletes: Identity, Performance and Activism” (Lexington Books, July 2024), were both co-edited with Douglas Stark, a consultant and museum director at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Cvornyek and his students were integral in the restoration of Covington Cemetery in Panama City, a historically Black cemetery that was damaged by Hurricane Michael and had become overgrown. His efforts, bolstered by students and community members, resulted in the City of Panama City taking over maintenance of the plot and the erection of a historic marker on the property.

“‘Love’ is not too strong a word here,” Cvornyek said. “It really was a labor of love—restoring the dignity of a sacred place goes beyond politics. The students felt a sort of deeper connection to the people buried there and the community they represented.”

Also spearheaded by Cvornyek’s research, the project “Portraits of the Black Experience in Bay County” became an ongoing, evolving initiative to document the collective history of individuals and their communities. The project's mission is to preserve, reimagine and share stories that otherwise may be lost to history. 
Born and raised in Newark, N.J., in a working-class family, Cvornyek was a first-generation college graduate. He credited his upbringing for forming his outlook:

“The sacrifices parents make for their children, the value system of working hard and giving to others.”

Cvornyek and his wife, Dorothy, will celebrate their 50th anniversary this summer. They have a daughter, Elizabeth, and granddaughter, Isabella. Cvornyek joined the FSU PC faculty in 2018, and he plans to retire in August.

“All teachers put in tremendous emotional involvement in their classes and students, and it’s hard to see them go,” he said, reflecting on the spring ritual of commencement that he’s looking at from another perspective now. “A lot of the students I teach are first-generation students like myself. It’s hard not to see myself in them.”