Tony Simmons

Florida State University Panama City honored retiring faculty and staff during a reception on Aug. 24 in the Allan Bense Atrium of the Holley Academic Center.

Among those recognized were professors Jon Bailey, Gerri Goldman, Charles Jordan, Al Murphy and Christina Rios; librarian Shaun Saxon; and long-time employee Sobhian Brantley. In addition, a new scholarship honoring Bailey was announced.

Bailey, Ph.D., has been with Florida State University for 53 years, moving from Tallahassee to FSU Panama City in 1999. He previously led the Ph.D. program in Applied Behavioral Analysis in Tallahassee, and over his decades of work he has produced more Ph.D. graduates in that field than any other professor in the country.

“He saw the need for a program where we train people to go directly into the clinical field as opposed to going to teach,” Dean Randy Hanna said. “He started the program here in Panama City in 1999 … what is today known as one of the best ABA programs in the entire United States.”

Hanna also conferred the Dean’s Service Award to Bailey in recognition of his service to the students of FSU PC. 
One of Bailey’s former students was Amy Polick, Ph.D., who is now associate dean for academic affairs at FSU PC. She announced the Dr. Jon S. Bailey Scholarship for students who exemplify leadership and success in the fields of psychology, education and Applied Behavior Analysis.

“In fall 2000, I was a student in Tallahassee and took my first class with Dr. Bailey. He’s been a mentor to me for 23 years now,” Polick said. “I wouldn’t have gone to graduate school without him. I wouldn’t have a Ph.D. if it weren’t for him.”

Polick said Bailey personally mentored each of his 63 Ph.D. students through the process, and she pointed out how Bailey’s former doctoral students ended up advising many of the current faculty and staff at FSU PC.

“In the beginning of class, we raised our hands, and we made a pledge, every class: ‘I will make a difference.’ And he has made the biggest difference in my life,” Polick said. “Words cannot explain how much you mean to this campus, how much you mean to all of us and how much you enjoy the success of your students.”

The Dr. Jon S. Bailey Scholarship, Polick said, means “future students will have you paying it forward to them.”
Bailey was surprised and touched by the scholarship. He said the ABA master’s program here happened by chance. At the time, the psychology program was foundering, and rather than close it down, he suggested revising it. 

“The opportunity was to create a track for people who wanted to work generally in the area of autism,” Bailey said, adding that autism affects one out of every 52 children in the United States. “We have the technology to treat that, and we train our students how to do that—and they change lives, and they save lives and they save families. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see that happen.”

During the life of the program, 350 students have completed the master’s program track and are working in positions all over the country, Bailey said. In the last eight years, the FSU PC program in Applied Behavior Analysis has ranked first in the world three times.

Bailey said the legacy of the program will continue to grow because so many are committed to its success. He enjoyed working at FSU PC “because it’s smaller, it’s more intimate and you get to know people.

Bailey encouraged this year’s faculty and staff to find ways to give back to their academic community. 

“If you’re in a university setting, you are one of the very fortunate few. It’s the sort of situation where there comes an obligation with that,” Bailey said. “I tell my students this. The obligation is to give back. In whatever way you can give back, do. Even in retirement.”

Sobhian Brantley, who recently completed 10 years on staff, was also a former recipient of the Mayor’s Award, which is given each year to a deserving staff member for outstanding service. “Working here has enriched my life,” she said. “All you new people that are coming in are going to love this place as much as I did. I call this place ‘home.’”

A professor of social work, Gerri Goldman was among the first faculty members Dean Rand Hanna met when he became dean in 2016. She started work here on Dec. 15, 2014. “There’s so many exciting things that are going to happen, and I do kind of regret that I’m not going to be here to be involved in it,” she said. “I appreciate all the opportunities that I’ve had and all the great people that I’ve gotten to know.”

Charles Jordan taught accounting as an adjunct before becoming a full-time instructor. He was beloved by students, who often wrote Hanna to extoll his virtues as a professor. “I loved every minute that I’ve been here,” Jordan said.

For 23 years, Christina Rios taught in the elementary education program. “It is not so much about the content of what you teach, it’s about how you empower each of your students to believe they can,” she said.

Al Murphy and Shaun Saxon were not present at the reception.

Hanna concluded the evening by thanking each of the retirees for their service, and he reminded them of the FSU Panama City Promise, which includes the provision that FSU PC will always be their home.