PRESIDENT, PALM BEACH STATE COLLEGE, WEST PALM BEACH
Attorney Ava Parker took over as president of Palm Beach State College in 2015, succeeding longtime President Dennis Gallon. She came with a raft of leadership experience. As executive vice president and COO, she launched Florida Polytechnic University, the newest member of the State University System. She spent more than 10 years on the Board of Governors and was on the board of the University of Central Florida. Parker earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. She practiced at Lawrence & Parker in Jacksonville, served as general counsel for Edward Waters College, the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church and as assistant general counsel for the state transportation department and an assistant public defender in Miami-Dade. At Palm Beach State, she finished Gallon’s controversial plan — some neighbors objected — to building the college’s fifth campus in Loxahatchee Groves. The fourth-largest institution in the State College System, Palm Beach is majority minority, has nearly 49,000 students and offers more than 130 programs.
In March, best-selling author and Palm Beacher James Patterson created a presidential scholarship to fund 32 full-time students. “Having James Patterson as a friend of the college speaks volumes for the progress that we have made in elevating Palm Beach State College to a level never before seen in the community college landscape,” Parker says. Married to former state Rep. Joe Gibbons, she’s a mother of two. “Fifteen years ago was about making money and building a professional career and good work reputation. Now, work is more about developing good relationships with my work family,” she says. “They are such a big and important part of my life.”
“Go to work every day with a goal to develop personal advocates, by doing a really good job on all assignments and by creating and cultivating relationships.”