Santa Fe honors the 2013 Women of Distinction

Santa Fe College is recognizing, from left, Anne Voyles, Diane Farb and Stephanie Dioguardi as women of distinction.

Gainesville Sun staff
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.

For 27 years, Santa Fe College has celebrated Women's History Month by honoring local women who do exceptional work in the community.


If you go

What: Santa Fe College's 27th annual Women of Distinction, with keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll
When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall, 3000 NW 83rd St.
Tickets: $35 per person, available online at or through the SF Box Office at 395-4181

Santa Fe will continue the tradition and recognize three women during its annual Women of Distinction and Woman of Promise awards ceremony Thursday. The event will be at the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall.

Teri McClellan, project coordinator for the program, said women are often nominated by their friends, relatives and colleagues. A committee reviews the nominations and chooses a woman for each title.

She said some women don't even know they've been nominated until they receive the award.

McClellan said women who go above their job descriptions and give back to the community are recognized.

“It's amazing the generous attitude with which they live their lives,” she said.

Woman of Promise: Stephanie Dioguardi

Gayle Jones said she meets many students as admissions coordinator at Santa Fe College, but Stephanie Dioguardi immediately caught her eye.

“In simple terms, Stephanie is genuine — the real thing,” said Jones in an email interview. Jones, who nominated the 20-year-old for the Woman of Promise award, has worked with Dioguardi for two years.

Dioguardi moved to Gainesville from Peru in 2010. When she first came to Santa Fe, she had a hard time with college-level English.

“I could communicate with people and get around, but my writing was horrible and my reading was worse,” Dioguardi said.

Three years later, Dioguardi is a student ambassador and a Santa Fe College Honors Program ambassador, and tutors students in finance, accounting, economics and more. She also works in the admissions office at Santa Fe and helps Venezuelan students with currency exchange.

Dioguardi said she hopes to eventually get a master's degree in health services administration and return to Peru to help reform hospitals.

Jones said Dioguardi shows all the characteristics of someone with a bright future.

“She is the epitome of the title,” Jones said. “She is a woman of unusual promise.”

Woman of Distinction: Anne Voyles

When Anne Voyles first came to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in 2000, the charity's outlook was bleak.

The food bank's finances were in the red, and she said some people recommended closing it down.

Voyles and her husband, Jim, began to turn things around. Spending 70 hours a week working at the food bank wasn't uncommon for the couple.

Thirteen years later, the food bank is housed in a 22,000-square-foot building at 325 NW 10th Ave. Last month, the organization donated about 500,000 pounds of food to the needy. The organization serves five Florida counties — Alachua, Gilchrist, Levy, Dixie and Lafayette.

Voyles, who now serves as director emeritus working only 40-hour weeks, has never taken a paycheck for her work.

Marcia Conwell, the executive director of Bread of the Mighty, said both Voyles and her husband volunteer their time to encourage others to do the same.

“They don't want any recognition or any awards or anybody to thank them,” she said. “They just think it's something they should do.”

The food bank sees people from all walks of life. Voyles said she gets calls from working people who have fallen on hard times and don't know where else to go. Sometimes, they have the most basic needs, like toilet paper and diapers.

Voyles said she doesn't plan on stopping her work anytime soon.

“You can't quit. It just gets in the blood,” she said. “It's such a satisfying thing to help people.”

Woman of Distinction: Dianne Farb

At some point in their lives, nearly every member of Dianne Farb's immediate family has been diagnosed with cancer. So she knows firsthand how difficult day-to-day tasks become when faced with serious illness.

Ten years ago, Dianne and her husband, Ron, started the Climb for Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money through mountain climbs. Instead of focusing on cancer research, the foundation provides gas, food, lodging and other resources for cancer patients in Gainesville for treatment.

“You can have the best research in the world, but if people can't get to it, it doesn't help them at all,” she said.

They also provide programs for caregivers and the children of cancer patients.

The organization, which sends a team to Mount Kilimanjaro every year, has raised more than $1 million since it started fundraising in 2002.

Cathy Dewitt, a musician in residence with the Shands Arts in Medicine program, said the foundation makes it possible for cancer patients and their family to visit the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

She said Farb and her husband find creative ways to help patients in need.

“They say, ‘What can we do to make their lives easier? What are some day-to-day things they deal with that we can help with?' ” she said.

Dewitt said it's important to focus on both cancer research and patient care.

“They're really doing work that improves the experience of the patient right now,” she said. “For us in the hospital, that's who we're working with.”

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