Guide to Greater Gainesville, a product of the parent company True North, produces The Fierce Awards to honor the inspirational women who have changed the landscape of our community through their entrepreneurial, charitable and executive work. The total embodiment of what it means to be Fierce, these women are characterized by an influence, success and leadership quality that has propelled them and the Greater Gainesville community to new heights.



Event Date:  Thursday 03.23.23

Location: 1908 Grand- 215 Main Street, Gainesville, FL 32601

Times: VIP 5:30pm – 9pm, General Admission 6:30pm – 9pm


VIP ADMISSION (Sponsorships Only): includes an extra hour of networking, premium selection of wine, mingle hour with our keynote speaker, food catered by Chef Jeff Allen, access to the keynote speaker presentation and awards ceremony upstairs.

PREMIUM ADMISSION: includes an extra hour of networking, premium selection of wine, mingle hour with our keynote speaker, food catered by Chef Jeff Allen, the keynote speaker presentation and awards ceremony viewing through the 1908 Grand livestream monitors downstairs in the main reception room.

GENERAL ADMISSION: includes food catered by Chef Jeff Allen, premium selection of beer and wine, keynote speaker presentation and awards ceremony viewing through the 1908 Grand livestream monitors downstairs in the main reception room.


Food: Provided by Cheffreys

  • Mini Shrimp Rolls – Lemon poached shrimp, tossed in a lemon garlic aioli, chopped chives, green onions and celery topped with a fresh micro-dill on a toasted mini hoagie roll
  • Wagyu beef tartar – topped on a crostini with capers and micro-shiso
  • Bruschetta – Fresh local tomato, fresh basil, balsamic, topped with feta cheese
  • Charcuterie Table- provided by Fehrenbacher

Desserts: Provided by pastry chef, Chef Peyton

    • Salted Caramel Pistachio Brownies
    • Orange Vanilla Petit Fours

Premium Wine: Provided by Jigz Liquors

    • Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc (bubbles)
    • Hess Collection Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Honig Sauvignon Blanc

Beer: First Magnitude

Dress: Cocktail

Parking: See yellow boxes in map below + additional street parking




For event questions please contact us at [email protected]









For questions on sponsorship information please contact us at

After a lengthy decision process from our judges, the Fierce Class of 2023 has been announced. We are thrilled to be recognizing a group full of influential, inspiring and fierce women! These women have positively changed the landscape of our community here in Greater Gainesville, whether they work in corporate, nonprofit, governmental, and entrepreneurial sectors of our region. Their abilities to inspire and ignite change in their respective arenas are accomplishments worth celebrating!

This year’s Fierce winners will be honored at the Fierce Awards Event on March 23, 2023 at 1908 Grand.

Congratulations To This Year’s Winners!

Amber Miller – Executive/CEO, United Way
Brande Smith – Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, University of Florida
Carrie Gratto – LMHC/Owner, Sojourn Counseling Session
Christina Ramos – Executive Director & Administrator, Touching Hearts at Home
Dr. Melissa Cere – Owner, Physical Therapist, Kinetix Physical Therapy
Dr. Miranda Whitmer – Dermatologist and ASMS-trained Mohs surgeon, Forefront Dermatology
Erin Porter – Manager of Marketing and Public Relations, Gainesville Regional Airport
Jennifer Lester – Partner, Avera & Smith LLP
Kayla Turner – Property Manager, Contemporary Management
Lacey Jones – Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications, InfoTech
Melissa Long – Assistant Vice President of Talent Management, UF Advancement
Minde Prince O’Sullivan – President, Rex and Brody Foundation
Monica McMillen – Attorney, Law Offices of Monica McMillen, P.A.
Ronna Jackson – Chaplain, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 16 
Sarah Cain – Principal, Sarah Cain Design
Shannon Sumerlin – Director of Development, UF Law
Shereka Nicole – Founder and Community Outreach Director, Premier Moms
Staci Bertrand – Government and Community Relations Manager, Duke Energy
Stephanie Marchman – Shareholder, GrayRobinson
Tammy Dygert – Director, startGNV
Tatila Paul – Program Director, The Education Foundation of Alachua County
Zabel Thur de Koos – Broker / Owner, Lexis Real Estate / Nalbandian Properties


Endowers Choice Award

Addison Bethea – Student/ Shark Bite Survivor


Lori Emmer Cain Legacy Award Winner

Mary Chance, President/CEO of Consortium of Florida Education Foundations

Mary Chance is president and CEO of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, a statewide nonprofit that builds the capacity and effectiveness of the local education foundations aligned with nearly all of Florida’s 67 countywide school districts.

Before assuming the CEO role for the Consortium in 2008, Mary was the first dedicated executive director of The Education Foundation of Alachua County.  Through her 10 years of leadership in Alachua, she elevated the organization’s Take Stock in Children incentive scholarship and mentoring program while also diversifying the scope of work for the education foundation significantly by increasing annual revenue from $100,000 to $1.2 million and engaging several new partners.

Mary now draws upon nearly 25 years of leadership experience in the field to elevate the impact of individual member education foundations through providing a collegial community for ongoing learning, shared resources and support.   Since assuming the Consortium leadership role, she has successfully advocated for and facilitated more than $50 million in the nation’s only 1:1 incentive for private-sector investment in classroom innovation through the State of Florida School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program. She also serves as the intermediary in several strategic partnerships with corporations and philanthropic organizations, matching the interests of national and statewide funders to facilitate high impact, locally driven programs in school districts throughout Florida.

Mary was an active parent volunteer throughout her three adult children’s years as Alachua County public school students.  She served as co-leader of Gateway Girl Scout Council Troop #334 at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Newberry for five years.  She helped establish the Rotary Club of Gainesville’s “Reading Safari” program with the SFC Teaching Zoo and the school district more than 20 years ago, and this immersive literacy program continues today.  She currently serves as a Take Stock in Children mentor to a Buchholz High School student.

She is a graduate of Leadership Gainesville Class XVII and Leadership Florida Education Class I.  She was named a Gateway Girl Scout Council “Women Who Make a Difference” honoree in 2020.  Mary currently serves as an ex officio board member of the Florida Department of Education’s foundation (the Florida Education Foundation) and on the Florida Campaign for Grade-Level State Leadership Network.


The annual Fierce Awards, presented by Scorpio, showcase women in our community who are influencers, leaders, and game-changers dedicated to improving Greater Gainesville. In partnership with Emmer Development Corp. (EDC), Fierce will introduce the LORI EMMER CAIN LEGACY AWARD. This award will recognize one fierce woman who exemplifies Lori’s qualities of trailblazing and committing to continuous improvement of the local community.


Lori began her career in 1985 at EDC following the leadership of her father, Phil Emmer. Lori worked her way up from entry-level to president in 2002. She led The Emmer Group for 20 years with a passion to provide homes in the community she loved. Lori was committed to her family, business, and community.

Lori’s service to the community includes 26 years on the Builders Association of North Central Florida’s Board of Directors, including being the second female president in its history; on the boards of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Education Foundation of Alachua County; and as a mentor for Take Stock in Children. Lori was recognized as Builder of the Year in 2006 and received the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council Women Who Make a Difference award in 2016.

Lori’s greatest treasure was her family. Her three sons, Ryan, Nicholas, and Kyle continue her legacy and are focused on improving the lives of others. With the support of the quality team that Lori built within The Emmer Group, Ryan is now the 3rd-generation president of EDC. Under this role, he continues the 60-plus-year legacy in the building industry of both his mother and grandfather.

“My brothers and I always knew our mother was amazing–of course we were biased but for good reason. Her support and involvement in our schools, sports, and community were obvious to us because they were aspects of our daily lives. During the six years of working alongside my mother, I gained a higher knowledge of her professional influence in this community and the tremendous impact her intellect and generosity had professionally as well. Because of the remarkable attributes our mother lived her life by, we knew it was a given to partner with Fierce and accept the honor establishing the Lori Emmer Cain Legacy Award,” Ryan McGriff says.

Along with the first recipient of the Lori Emmer Cain Legacy Award, this year’s winners will be recognized for their achievements and hard work toward improving life in Greater Gainesville.

2023 Fierce Nominations Are Now CLOSED

GUIDE is pleased to present The Fierce Awards, to honor the successful and transformative women of our community. We recognize their work in the corporate, nonprofit, governmental, and entrepreneurial sectors of our region for their ability to inspire and ignite change in their respective arenas.

Fierce Criteria:

  • Nominees must be someone you consider a role model for other women in our community
  • Nominees must have at least 2-3 years’ experience in their designated field
  • Nominees must hold a position with a public, private, governmental or non-profit organization
  • Nominees must currently have lived in the Greater Gainesville area for at least 1 year
  • Nominees must have experienced some sort of professional achievement within their organizations
  • Nominees must have a past history of inspiring other women
  • Nominees must have a history of carving their own paths within their respective industries


Please fill out the form below to nominate a candidate for consideration.

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