Executive Director of College Relations Donna Webb honored by ‘Jacksonville Business Journal’
By Brittany Hackett
Donna DeLorenzo Webb has a long list of involvement at both Flagler College and in the St. Augustine community, including executive director of college relations at Flagler, co-advisor for the Students in Free Enterprise program, and a member of the Westside Community Market planning group. She can now add one more title to her list: Woman of Influence.
The Jacksonville Business Journal included Webb in their third annual Women of Influence special report in September. The 20 women selected are considered to be powerful women of Northeast Florida and were selected from dozens of nominees.
Dr. William T. Abare, Jr., president of Flagler College, nominated Webb for the honor.
According to Webb, leadership plays an important role in being a woman of influence.
“My strength really is that I have a vision for how I’d like the world to be. I’m very idealistic,” she said, adding that leadership is “the ability to take a group of people and help them come together with common goals and then to go meet those goals.”
The ability to set goals and then exceed them is something Webb knows very well. Before coming to Flagler, Webb was successful as a Vice President for a major department store company, a position she reached by the age of 27. Her job took her all over the world as a retailer and marketing manager.
“In the retail industry, the reason I was so successful is I was always innovative,” she said. “I was always creating new things. I was always coming back from some place in the world with something that people spoke about and that sold and sold and sold.”
When Webb had children, she decided that her priority was to raise them and moved to St. Augustine with her family in 1989.
After receiving her masters in business administration from the University of North Florida in 1997, Webb started teaching classes at Flagler as an adjunct professor for the business department.
Webb took the skills she learned from her career in the corporate world and applied them to her teaching in her business management and retailing classes. When she became executive director of college relations, her corporate knowledge and drive contributed to the creation of SIFE.
“I have a passion for teaching,” Webb said. “I love innovation. I love creativity. I love new ideas. I’m always looking for new opportunities for the college and for the students and that evolved into the SIFE program.”
The SIFE program began as a way for students to get real world business experience. According to Webb, it started with tours of the college and ended up becoming the retail business, Flagler’s Legacy, which she calls “the best marketing effort we have for the college without an enormous amount of effort.”
“Our merchandise goes around the world, so you can be in Japan and somebody can be wearing a Flagler college T-shirt and they are talking about it, this was in St. Augustine Florida,” she said, adding that the school has had over 35,000 adults take the tours this year, 12,000 students under age of 12, and 1,700 former students.
Webb says student involvement in SIFE provides a living classroom for them to develop and grow. Although she does not teach in a classroom anymore, her connection to students remains a top priority.
“It is critical to me,” she said. “I love working with students. I love students’ energy. I love their ideas. I love their passion, drive for what they see as important. And I love supporting those ideas and I love working with them to evolve them and we just have a lot of fun doing that.”
Webb also credits SIFE as being her opportunity to mentor students alongside Barry Sands, the group’s co-advisor.
“I think one of the greatest privileges in life is to be able to mentor young people and to teach young people,” Webb said. “I take it very seriously, but I enjoy it. Everything we do with the students is to bring out their self-confidence, to bring out their ability to lead, to bring out their ability to manage their life better.”
Outside of Flagler, Webb spends her time trying to make the world a better place for groups that she feels are underrepresented in the world. She is most passionate about helping people with disabilities through her involvement in ARC of St. Johns, a national association for disabled people.
Webb is a Vice President on their board and says she would love to see more programs for children and adults with disabilities.
“I love that population of people because they are non-judgmental,” she said. “They need guidance and need love, but they also need to be treated like regular people.
“Too often we ignore their desires because we don’t think that they can communicate them clearly or that they know what’s best for them. But they do.”
Webb also works with the Westside Community Market to bring more economic opportunity to the community of West Augustine.
The organization, Webb said, helps people create and improve business opportunities and brinsg art programs to the community.
In her free time, Webb enjoys running, biking, swimming and being outdoors.
“I run and exercise every morning,” she said. “That’s my creative time. I love being outside.” A mother of two, Webb claims to get her passionate personality from her mother.
“My mother’s an extraordinary individual,” Webb said. “She’s extraordinary in the sense that she raised us with such devotion and love and determination and creativity and I see her compassion in myself.
“I’m very honored to have been selected by Dr. Abare for this and I hope that I can live up to everyone’s expectations as a woman of influence.”
As a tip to students who would like to be influential in their own lives, Webb has only one piece of advice.
“Follow your passion and if you love what you do you will be influential in that area,” she said.