Each member of our board takes an active role in the annual Florida Chautauqua Assembly.
Dr. Dennis Ray is Chair of the Florida Chautauqua Center, Inc. He is a retired professor of management from Mississippi State University where he served as Head of the Management Department. His teaching career also included the University of Florida and the University of Alabama. Dennis attended public schools in DeFuniak Springs from the first grade through the twelth. He received his BSBA, MBA and PhD in economics and industrial management from the University of Florida and honorably served four years in the US Navy. His practical experience includes extensive consulting work with several major American companies and the US Federal Government. In recognition of his contribution to management theory and the management discipline, Dennis was voted a Fellow by the prestigious Fellows group of the Academy of Management. He is the founding editor of the internationally recognized Journal of Management. Since retiring and moving back to his hometown, Dennis has been active in numerous community service organizations, city government, preservation efforts, and local businesses.
Ms. Freida Thibodeau Freida is the owner and manager of Palmer House Apartments in DeFuniak Springs, the former boys dormitory for Palmer College (formerly Florida State Normal School.) She is the Palmer College historian and historian for the DeFuniak Springs Womans Club. She has been an avid volunteer of the Florida Chautauqua Assembly since 2009. She is an active member of the Rotary Club of DeFuniak Springs and enjoys volunteering with many local civic organizations throughout the DeFuniak Springs area. Ms. Thibodeau is a native of Charleston, South Carolina and moved to DeFuniak Springs in 2002 following her retirment from the restaurant industry.
Director, Florida Chautauqua Center Historian
Mr. Robert Daniel is a lifelong resident of DeFuniak Springs, Florida and is a Battalion Captain for Walton County Fire Rescue. He attended Gulf Coast Community College for EMT, Paramedic, and Firefigher certification and attended classes at the Florida State Fire College. Mr. Daniel holds certifications as a Fire Officer 1, Fire Instructor 1, and Live Fire Instructor 1. He is a avid Mustang and old Ford enthusiast and enjoys restoring old Fords. He also loves researching Florida Chautauqua history and collects data, documents and relics of the original assemblies on behalf of the Florida Chautauqua Center. Mr. Daniel lives in DeFuniak Springs with his wife Linda.
Director, Resource Development
Mr. R. Mike Hill is Executive Director of the Northwest Florida and Big Bend Health Councils, which serve 18 counties in northwest Florida. He is also president of PanCare of Florida, a non-profit organization which opens Federally Qualified Health Centers in Northwest Florida for people on Medicaid, Medicare and Medipass. In addition to his Health Council work, Mr. Hill is Executive Director of Hill and Company, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in education, health care, social services, and government relations. Before working with the Health Councils, Mr. Hill held several positions in Florida’s educational community, including chief lobbyist for federal and state legislative and regulatory policy activities at the Florida Association of School Administrators. Earlier in his career, he worked for Bay District Public Schools and the Bay Correctional Facility. Over the years, Mr. Hill has received many awards for his work for a broad range of civic and professional organizations. Mr. Hill completed undergraduate studies in social and political science and graduate studies in Public Administration at the University of West Florida. He earned an Ed.S. in educational leadership from Florida State University. He and his wife Janice live in Panama City, Florida and are new residents to DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
Director, Liaison with Walton County School District
Denise Mack is a recently retired high school teacher of History. She taught in District 211 schools in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, the largest high school district outside the city of Chicago. For the past three years she served as a curriculum specialist master teacher for the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History Grant. She currently serves on Florida’s Race to the Top Committee for Teacher Accreditation. During her tenure as a teacher she was employed as a consultant and exam reader for the College Board. Accolades include recognition from the National Society of High School Scholars Educator of Distinction, University of Chicago Best Teacher, Coca Cola Educator of the Month, Most Memorable Teacher and Golden Apple Semi-Finalist along with numerous Principals’ Awards. Denise received her Bachelors Degree from Western Illinois University, Masters from Northeastern Illinois University and completed post-graduate work at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She currently resides with her husband in Miramar Beach, Florida.
Dan Owens is the Director of the Walton County Public Library System. He has served on the Advisory Council for NEBASE which was Nebraska’s regional service provider for the Online Computer Library Center services, and he has served two terms on the Board of Directors of the Panhandle Library Access Network. Dan has a Bachelor of Arts in Library Science from North Texas State University, a Master of Business Administration from Golden Gate University, and a Master of Library Science degree from Emporia State University. He retired from the United States Air Force after 22 years of service and considered himself a wandering Texan before he settled in DeFuniak Springs in 1999.