Monday, December 4, 2023

The Sustainable Green Team (SGT)

In 2018, I began working for the FSU Research Computing Center (RCC), and several months later, was asked to represent the division on the department's green team. I attended a couple meetings and then began pursuing RCC's green office certification with Florida State University's Sustainable Campus department. Sustainable Campus offers three levels of bi-annual certification, based upon satisfying percentages of four categorical sustainability initiatives they have defined. They provide an additional category for up to five possible "Innovation Points," that are defined and satisfied by organizations seeking certification. The levels increase for Green, Garnet and Gold certification, respectively.

In December 2019, RCC submitted its checklist of sustainable initiatives for certification, including three innovations for both of the office's locations, at Dirac Science Library and Sliger Building. Our initial pilot participation in the Green Office program satisfied one innovation point. RCC set aside and has provided a bicycle closet for employees at each of its office locations on campus, to promote sustainable living and transportation, which satisfied another. For the third innovation point, I published one Green Office Sustainability Tip of the Week (GO -STOW) from Sustainable Campus' list of sustainability initiatives to the department's elite leadership team every week, to be disseminated to their individual teams. Our score was 89.20%, above the 85% threshold required for Gold certification.

Due to the Coronavirus in Spring 2020, most in in my department became eligible to work from home and began doing so. I was considered "essential," and worked alone in Sliger Building for more than a year while managing FSU's data center in Sliger Building at Innovation Park.

In early January 2021, I began to hear occasional noises in the building, and walked upstairs to discover the source. I met Will Hill with the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering's Resilient Infrastructure and Disaster Recovery (RIDER) Center. His department was in the process of relocating to Sliger Building, and I was able to assist with providing contact details for the various services he would need to engage to do so. We talked about our respective jobs, and I learned that the RIDER Center generally arrives on the scene as soon as possible after a Florida disaster, to learn about and provide knowledge about how to more effectively respond to such events in the future. Management of the data center includes much preparation for disasters, and we had a lot to talk about. I told Will about my data center activities, including beginning to think about RCC's Green Office certification renewal, due later that year. This really interested Will. 

I told Will all about what I'd done for RCC's green office certification. I shared my experiences and checklist, and walked through his office area with him to discover whether and how his current environment would satisfy enough sustainability initiatives for certification. We believed that with only a few changes, they were already well positioned to achieve a good score, and we could submit our checklists at the same time, for RIDER Center's certification and RCC's renewal. Will and I saw each other daily and talked often about our work and other interests.

Several weeks later, Will and I noticed another person come to work in the building, and introduced ourselves to Kev Sullivan, who works for the Center for Information Management and Educational Services (CIMES). CIMES provides interactive instructional information and knowledge management solutions to other institutions, which had nothing to do with what Will and I do or were currently working on at the moment. Nevertheless, it was a quiet building for three otherwise gregarious people, and we talked. Kev was very interested in Will's and my sustainability project. Since her office is in the same building, we discussed devoting attention to sharing some of the sustainability checklist details, such as a now-community bicycle closet, office supply re-use room, and shared resources and facilities, among others. Kev checked with the rest of her remotely working team, and they agreed that joining our certification effort would not present too much hardship for CIMES. Will, Kev and I became a working team over the next few months.

By March 2021, we'd also begun working with colleagues of Will's and Kev's, and invited Daynah Blake with the RIDER Center and Amy Finley with CIMES to join the Sustainable Green Team.

We met with Laurelin Haas with Sustainable Campus a few times, to make sure they knew what we were doing, and to ask her questions about our plans and progress. She invited us to attend her office's pilot green office training program, which could then serve as one of our innovation points, and we did so. We were especially curious whether we could as a group working in the same building share sustainability initiatives as previously noted. Yes, was the answer, and since we were the only departments in the building, we would then have a green office building upon certification. Laurelin enthusiastically observed that we had formed quite the sustainable green team, and so we thank Laurelin Haas for the origin of the name of the FSU Sustainable Green Team (SGT).

The green office certified building became our team's second innovation point for 2021 certification. RCC had only satisfied three of five available innovation points in 2019, so we wanted to attend to all five in 2021. One afternoon while driving back to the office from a luncheon, my mind wandered to trying to answer: What's the biggest sustainability or recycling problem we could solve? Then I thought of the ubiquitous photos we see of wildlife caught in plastic six-pack can rings.

I first checked FSU's website, and discovered that not only do we not recycle plastic of any kind besides bottles, but also, Sustainable Campus advises everyone to "Take your plastic bags with you to the grocery store! to be recycled. I called local waste facilities and learned that both the City of Tallahassee and Marpan Recycling recycles all plastic, including can rings. Unfortunately, the former facility would be no different from advising people to bring their can rings to the grocery store, and the latter imposes charges for recycling plastic.

After a half-dozen false leads on the internet, I found RingRecycleMe, headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, with an actual recycling facility in Waller, Texas. They allow anyone to print a free USPS shipping label, stuff as many can rings into a package as will fit, apply the label, and ship the rings off to actually be recycled. The team was ecstatic, as we've all seen the horrific images. We decided that each of our organizations would begin collecting plastic six-pack can rings. In May 2021, we used discarded cardboard boxes, and attached the appalling environmental impact image to one side, and notification about our team's newly coined "Bring the Rings" campaign on the other. After the evening trash collectors threw our first one away, we added "THIS IS NOT TRASH" signs. We put one in each of our offices' common areas.

We told our colleagues and friends about our recycling program, because we were so happy to be making a difference. Many lamented the efforts to which they already strove to cut up their plastic can rings before throwing them into the trash. We gave them collection boxes or told them to give or send the rings to us directly. Campus Mail allows staff to send mail for free, so all employees had to do was stuff them into an envelope and address them to the Sustainable Green Team at my Mail Code. We began a spreadsheet and listserv to manage our program, and at this date have 22 entities and organizations saving can rings for us for recycling. A local pizza establishment we habituate heard about our program and saves can rings for us for recycling. A quarterly service vendor brings his to the data center from Jacksonville, and some of our data center customers also bring the rings to us.

Our Bring the Rings campaign served as our third innovation point. We began appending a postscript with a link to the program in outgoing emails to serve as our fourth innovation point. We opened the formerly RCC bicycle closet to all building residents, to serve as our fifth innovation point. 

In August 2021, FSU resumed normal operations, and we all became busier, and personally engaged with others. On October 9, I was offered leadership of the department's green team. I inquired about possibility of advancement or salary increase for such a role, and was disadvised of that, and declined. 

In late August, our new department chief joined our team's staff meeting and met everyone. When my turn came to say what I was working on, I was very proud to announce that my team had implemented a ground-breaking recycling program at FSU, to actually recycle plastic six-pack can rings for the first time. "I heard that was an urban legend," precipitated my stunned silence. That afternoon, I went out of my way to visit a couple ring collection partners and round up all the can rings we'd collected since May and brought them to the post office for a receipt on Monday, August 30.   

On October 12, 2021, I attended a 3-day Virtual #GCSHE Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education.

On October 25, 2021, CIMES, RIDER Center and RCC were all certified Gold, and Sliger became FSU's first-ever green office-certified building. The Sustainable Green Team's inaugural project was complete. RCC increased its score upon renewal to 96%. I wished we could have satisfied one particular sustainability initiative, "The office engages in office walking challenges or other fitness challenges to encourage employee activity," and decided to find a way to address that by our next certification renewal.

In December 2021, we began planning the Renovations and Resilience open house event, with all the residents in Sliger Building. We invited FSU Sustainable Campus, and Sustainable Tallahassee, and we all contributed content to a publicly playing PowerPoint demonstration during the event, to showcase all that our extremely diverse organizations do for FSU and the community. On March 24 at the event, I introduced and demonstrated our new recycling program, and then took a boxful of plastic drink can rings to the US Post Office to ship off to be recycled.

In January 2022, I worked with Britney White in Facilities to publish our ring recycling program info on (6) 55-inch screens at Mendenhall A and B, EH&S at Carothers and Recycling Building 1 on Crate Drive.

We began applying management concepts I learned in graduate school to Sustainability. Will and the RIDER Center began hosting our team's webpage, so I asked Will to create our team a logo. Its green letters "S.G.T."  and shield shape symbolizes the team's green efforts and concern for protection of the environment. While we realize that plastic can rings come in many different enclosed quantities, six-pack rings seem to be most seen, and the team strives to allow zero of these to reach landfills, hence "0/6." The team worked together to create and adopt a mission statement, "We strive to promote socially and environmentally sustainable practices by empowering individuals to make the right choices."

I began thinking about other Sustainability and recycling opportunities as time permitted.   

On May 3, 2022, Will and I visited the Leon County Transfer Station, to see exactly where all of our trash goes after it's been picked up. Director Calvin Holton showed us around. We watched dump trucks empty their contents and heavy moving equipment separate the yard waste from it before loading it all into semi-trucks to be transported 60 miles away to the landfill at Campbelltown, Florida. We hope to visit that facility someday, too. 

Florida TaxWatch was founded in 1982 by Winn-Dixie Chairman J.E. Davis, T. Wayne Davis, Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins and President Mark Hollis, and Florida State Senator Phil Lewis and Florida State Senator Ken Plante. They began offering Davis Productivity Awards to State of Florida agencies and employees in 1989. On November 1, 2022, the Sustainable Green Team received a Florida TaxWatch Award for our green office-certified building and plastic can ring recycling program. I earned another 2022 Florida TaxWatch award, for renegotiating a maintenance support contract with a vendor, and saving the University money. 

One August morning while driving to work, I saw a couple of the City's blue Adopt-A-Street signs with organizational names responsible litter patrol for those sections of roads. I thought it might be a great Sustainability activity, and realized it presented us with an opportunity to get out of the office once in a while and also allow us to engage "in office walking challenges or other fitness challenges to encourage employee activity," and satisfy the sustainability initiative we'd wanted to do last October. The rest of the team thought this was great. On October 13, we completed our first trash pickup, which we are obligated to do and submit a report quarterly. We invite members of the team's listserv to participate, and have engaged in the activity ever since, most recently on October 26, 2023. Each time, we share a photo including us standing in front of our "FSU Green Team" Keep Tallahassee Beautiful sign.

By the beginning of the 2022 fall semester, we began aggressively trying to prevent any waste from reaching the dumpster in the parking lot, and then being taken to the landfill. We used a spreadsheet to list every type of waste that the data center was producing. Then we methodically developed a waste recovery procedure for each item, identifying steps taken and engaging a destination partner at the end to receive the materials. For example, when our data center customers bring and install equipment in the data center, in addition to the cardboard, plastic and/or Styrofoam they discard, they also amass and usually leave behind miscellaneous hardware, installation-specific tools, and fastening equipment. Fortunately, we never seemed to throw any of that away, because the local Habitat for Humanity often calls for donation of similar materials for their home-building projects. They are very grateful for the gallon or two of miscellaneous small hardware and tools we occasionally donate, and we're always sure to get a receipt, from them and all the other recycle/upcycle partner relationships we've developed, locally and elsewhere. 

When learning in September 2022 that Happy Motoring suddenly closed and the venue was no longer available for Sustainable Tallahassee's October World Sustainability Day event, I called around seeking other opportunities. Thanks to Jacob Fortunas with the City of Tallahassee, Will and I hosted a table at the E-Bike Expo downtown Tallahassee on October 26 and spoke to attendees about the team’s initiatives.

In September 2022, I published Sustainability Training for new RCC employees, to satisfy an unaddressed 2021 sustainability initiative, "New employee orientation includes information about the University’s recycling programs as well as the office’s sustainability practices."

By September 2022. we had identified a waste distribution channel for most forms of waste produced by the data center and realized that we had begun to support a materials recovery facility to support our efforts and decided that our operations were mature enough to begin telling the community about what we do. 

That September, we began publishing a quarterly Greenletter newsletter hosted at the RIDER Center's website, to all our recycling partners and advocates with whom we've worked, to ensure some longevity to our deeds. We announced the waste processing streams we were then processing, and our materials recovery facility that handles sixteen listed waste recovery streams with nine program partners in the United States and invited the readers to contribute waste to our initiative. We listed our services provided. Since we were finishing up three of our four green office certifications, we felt confident about our ability to help colleagues and listed "Green Office Certification Advising." We listed "Materials Recovery," due to our efforts above; "Freight Weight Estimation," because we have an accurate scale up to 150 pounds, to save an initial trip to the post office. Finally, because we inherited a large shredder, we will shred secure documents by appointment. Since our first edition, we began recognizing an Upcycle and a Recycle Partner of the Quarter in each publication.

On November 22, 2022, I brought two gallons of hardware and tools to Christopher Davis at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and also met Michelle Register who works there, and as I later discovered, also at the Learning Pavilion in Tallahassee. In February 2023, we received an email from Ivory Miller at the Learning Pavilion, inviting us to speak to their pre-school classes about recycling. On March 16, Will and I spoke to 60 pre-school children about their and our recycling efforts as part of their Reduce, Reuse and Recycle educational unit, and told them we'd be happy to return next year.

We had so much fun talking to the kids, that we began looking for other speaking opportunities, to engage the community and talk about what we were doing and spread the word about responsible recycling, and how easy introducing sustainable concepts in the workplace could be. In February 2023, I submitted an abstract for "Sustainable IT and the Zero-Waste Data Center" to the Florida Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Offices (FACRAO). It was approved and I made the presentation on June 6 at their annual conference at the Florida Hotel in Orlando. On September 25, Daynah Blake, Nicole Blanchard and I presented "Our Green Office and Zero-Waste Workplace" at Oyster City Brewing Company, and Information Technology Services provided the pizza. 

By Thanksgiving 2022, most waste items were no longer going out to the dumpster. Plastic and expanded polystyrene foam, also known as Styrofoam (TM), presented the tallest of our hurdles. Although Styrofoam is extremely light, it's also annoyingly bulky, and we had no confirmed one-size-fits-all material recovery stream for it. Then I remembered that FSU advises us to take our plastic to the grocery store, and realized we could probably find a creative way to deal with it. We used to have seven cylindrical barrel-shaped wheeled trash cans in the data center, until pitching all but two. We now have one for plastic waste processing efforts, and one for everything else, that we pick through and send its contents through our waste management channels. We accepted and learned to live with the directive to take our plastic to the grocery store. Publix is on my way to and from work, and I drop by at least 2-3 times a week on normal occasions, and it's not out of my way if I have a couple Publix shopping bags filled with miscellaneous plastic items for recycling. Publix also has a foam recycling bin that we use for small quantities of Styrofoam. Team members' individual initiatives have addressed the larger volume. Whenever possible, we bring larger pieces of Styrofoam home, to our residential recycling bins, that the City of Tallahassee will pick up and recycle. For even larger quantities, we will pack up a van and drive six miles to Marpan Recycling, with whom we've established a relationship.

At the other end of the spectrum were the shards of linoleum floor tiling that the data center's Roomba (automated circular vacuuming machine) occasionally dislodges. The results of my internet searches for responsible disposal can be summarized as, "Great news - you can toss linoleum into the landfill with no adverse environmental effects." This was unsatisfactory, as we had decided that we wanted nothing to go to the dumpster and landfill. Then I remembered passing by a flooring business on my way to regular monthly luncheons, and called J.R. at Capital Flooring Specialists, who told us he would be happy to accept and recycle our linoleum refuse. On May 9, 2023, we brought J.R. our first "load" of 94 linoleum pieces and received a receipt.

I maintain a ledger of every piece of waste we responsibly process. In all my talks and travels, I stress how important creativity is to Sustainability.

On January 12, 2023, I visited with the Godby High School Key Club, and talked about our initiatives and programs, and welcomed them as new can ring collection partners.

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, the team attended the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's annual Open House, and were delighted to meet its director, Dr. Greg Boebinger.

In April 2023, I visited with my friend Karl Filsinger and his family, and we talked about old times and their geocaching activities, and CITO, which I thought would also be a great Sustainability activity. For the uninitiated, around the turn of the millennium and advent of the modern Global Positioning System (GPS), families and friends have been engaging in world-wide treasure hunts for booty both tiny and large. Some host the caches, while others simply seek them using the appropriate app. Often the cache is a relatively small waterproof box with a physical visitor log and some trinkets inside. If visitors enjoy and would like to take any of the items, they are expected to leave others of equal or greater value behind. 

I thought Geocaching could serve the SGT in at least a couple ways including name recognition, and the team agreed. We have a beautiful park area enclosed by the circle on which our office building resides, with a Central Pond Trail surrounding a small fishpond. The global geocaching community encourages Spring and Fall "Cache In Trash Out" (CITO) events around local caches. We host the "SGT Green Guide Alpha Geocache" in Innovation Park. On National Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 16, the team hosted a CITO event, and picked up trash along the trail where our cache resides.

In May 2023, we'd begun to accumulate a good number of unused printer toner cartridges, and worked with Cartridge Forest to obtain a free shipping label for toner cartridges that otherwise would have gone to the landfill, that they rehomed, and in return provided us with certificates proclaiming that we'd been responsible for planting 30 trees, two for each toner cartridge, and saving 5.4 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

On June 29, 2023, the team was interviewed by Kandace Blake with WTXL ABC 27, and shared their adverse experiences in crossing the railroad tracks at Mabry Road every day to go to and from work. We hoped that public exposure of problems with the uneven rail ties and danger of exposed spikes will expedite restorative action.

On June 30 and October 4, 2023, the team attended Innovation Hub's Summer and Fall Open House events. I particularly enjoy their electronics projects and 3D printing, and Innovation Hub is one of our can ring collection partners.

By July 2023, I felt we'd established enough of a community and accomplished enough to begin thanking and rewarding the people and organizations that have helped us. I taught myself to make Microsoft Word certificates, and designed and created a template to begin providing our advocates and partners "SGT Green Guide" certificates. I would have loved to call them Green Scouts but discovered that the second word's usage is heavily regulated and protected. We gave or sent them to all our ring recycling partners and advocates in the community who have facilitated and furthered the team's objectives. Whenever possible, we publish their happy photos on social media. I administer the FSU Sustainable Green Team's Facebook page.  

In August 2023, we added Dr. Dina Vyortkina with the FSU College of Education, Health and Human Sciences to the Sustainable Green Team.

In September 2023, the SGT began publishing a QR code to “Become a Green Guide,” to attract interest from other individuals, teams and organizations that share similar interests, so they may join in on the team’s activities, and contribute to the community.

On September 17, 2023, the team attended Sustainable Tallahassee's 2023 Tally Trash Challenge event.

On October 24, 2023, RCC submitted its Green Office Certification checklist to Sustainable Campus and its Gold status was renewed. The score increased to 98%, since addition of the trash pickup and Geocaching fitness challenges, and Sustainability training to RCC employee orientation. 

On November 7, 2023, I hosted an SGT table at the 2023 Registered Student Organization's Get Involved Fair and spoke to new and returning Engineering students about what our team does.  

On November 21, 2023, the team worked to film a RIDER Center public service announcement with Insight Studios Productions LLC Executive Director Gabriel Curtis.

On December 6, 2023, the FSU Sustainable Green Team will be awarded one of only ten Florida TaxWatch Government Productivity Awards, for "Implemented a Zero-Waste Data Center Facility." FSU's only 2023 Florida TaxWatch award recognizes that from December 1, 2022 through October 20, 2023, the Sustainable Green Team responsibly recycled and rehomed an extensive list of items that would have otherwise been sent to the landfill.

Sunday, April 23, 2023


In 2011, I published a story a week about my life for my progeny, which at that time did not yet include four great-grandchildren. 

The history of the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) founded in 2003 is told here, and many related stories are published here.

In 2004, when a Godby High School teacher who had been maintaining the alumni webpage retired, I was asked by AGG Director Manny Joanos to re-publish it at a Florida State University site, which I was able to do as an alum, and I continued to maintain it. Twelve years later, FSU discontinued its policy to allow alumni to use domain names, and I began privately financing its publication. 

Since my 2006 induction into the AGG Hall of Fame, I felt compelled to seek out others worthy of such a distinction, and each Fall, successfully nominated at least one alum for Godby High School's greatest honor. The nomination process is formally documented at the AGG's by-laws, and I took great care to contact potential nominees a year in advance, to work closely with them to thoroughly document their lifetime achievements, as in many cases, I had never met them. I asked to attend the Hall of Fame selection committee meetings, because I wanted to personally present and discuss the individuals' qualifications, so there would be no doubt or mistake. It was always a very collaborative process, among alumni previously inducted, and the AGG's Executive Committee, as outlined in the by-laws. I never told anyone I attended or served on such a selection committee and did not wish to be known for doing so, since vividly remembering the archetypal sitcom dilemma where the protagonist is chosen to be a beauty contest judge, and all acquaintances suddenly become dear friends with an ideal candidate.

After posthumous inductions for three military alumni killed in action, Godby administration began dividing the floral arrangements used each year at graduation and alumni would deliver them to gravesites of the two that are locally interred. In 2021, Godby staff informed me that the students were more interested in honoring their newly departed classmates in this manner, and discontinued the process. I then began acquiring year- and Godby color-specific trinkets and delivering them to the gravesites on behalf of our alumni, and that class year, anyways. The third interred at Arlington has a local public event held in his honor every year, and I always tried to attend.

I was a late-comer to social media, and acquiesced after the insistence of my granddaughter, who at age 11 attended the first Hall of Fame Induction ceremony with me. In 2008, I discovered Godby High School was the only area high school without a Wikipedia page, and created one. I love to attend parties, and made myself available for the planning of our alma mater's reunions, and attended more than forty reunions. If a class was not already represented on Facebook, I often created its page, so that the 2,500 members of the AGG Facebook group could see it and class members could congregate.

I'm a photography enthusiast, and attended every reunion, Hall of Fame and alumni function I could, to take numerous photos, and make them available for free to all alumni at the AGG's website and Facebook page.

I served as the AGG's first president in 2003, and again in 2011 per by-laws, after serving as vice-president. In 2022, when Manny announced his immediate retirement and selected a successive Director, I agreed to serve as president, to facilitate a smooth transition. 

Late in 2022, I submitted a Hall of Fame nomination for a graduate of my own class, after working with that person for months to learn about life details and recent activities. I was invited to the Hall of Fame selection meeting in January. I arrived a minute late, because I had to call Manny to be let inside, as I have not been provided with the new Director's phone number. Once inside I was told by the Director that the AGG is now interested in support by younger alumni, and escorted to a desk far away from Manny, and all seats faced front towards the Director. The lone chair next to me was soon filled by an alum who works at Godby. We were each provided with a thick sheaf of Hall of Fame nominations. The alum arrived, and after glancing at the documentation, said to the Director, "You told me to submit this nomination." The Director then instructed us to rank the nominations in order, and to publicly state our top choices. The Director had an associate, obviously well groomed in the expected proceedings at hand, who handled many arrangements during the meeting. The Director informed us which {other} nomination had been the Director's. After this exercise, we were told to turn in our papers. I objected, saying, "I made personal notations on these in pen, and don't think I can erase them." The Director allowed me to keep the papers. 

The meeting was promptly concluded, and I walked over to the Director, sat down and said I wanted to talk for a few minutes. The Director quickly rose and told me that the Director didn't have time, and began walking to the exit door with the associate. I followed and walked fast to keep up, and brought both to an immediate halt by saying, "I think the AGG should elect a vice-president, because per the by-laws they will become president after the current one." The Director looked at me, and said, "Repeat that," which I did, seemingly for the associate's benefit. Both strode off without saying anything further.

I was then excluded from all further discussion, preparation and planning for the AGG Hall of Fame Banquet on March 31, 2023.

Five weeks before the event, the Director published an image to the AGG Facebook group with the list of inductees, and details of the upcoming Hall of Fame event, and did not answer a response from an inductee who usually attends, who asked how to make a contribution. Five days before the Hall of Fame Banquet, I happened to chance upon the link to use to purchase tickets to the event, and published it to the Facebook group, as well as to the Facebook groups for the class members who were being inducted. I emailed the Director and expressed my embarrassment at having to simply discover the link to facilitate ticket purchase so close to the event, and also inconveniencing the 2,500 other alumni. 

I received an I'm sorry if you were embarrassed type reply, as of course it was not the Director's intention to embarrass me, but the Director will be excluding me from some things, though that had not been the norm, and asked for my trust.

At the event, I discovered a professional photographer had been engaged, though I have only ever seen 5-6 photos. Presumably, the others are available for sale at some location using information that has not been disclosed to me or 2,500 alumni. The Director did not speak to me that evening, or mention any AGG title besides that of the Director, and with one exception, did not allow my name to be publicly spoken. My nominee in acceptance thanked "all the people who nominated me." Near the end of the event, the Director thanked all the people who served on the selection committee and said, "Raise your hand when I call your name: Mitch Gans, {et al by name}."

I realized at that time I could not continue to serve as president of the AGG in that fashion, and at once removed myself from officers posted to the alumni Facebook group and website. On Monday morning, I asked Godby's webmaster to do the same.

I conduct business openly, and will not tolerate or be a party to bigotry, bullying or exclusion of others. 

Best wishes to all Godby alumni.

"Collaboration, not condescension" -- Nancy Pelosi

"Trust is not a request, Trust is earned." — Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Winning Travel Tips

Air Travel

  • In the airport
    • Hop on a courtesy tram as it goes by -- if going your direction.
  • On board
    • Ask for airline cards and wings -- and they'll laugh at you.
      • Delta gave out the last of theirs in the 1990's.
    • If travelling for pleasure, take your time finding just the right overhead compartment.
    • Unless your flight ticket specifies MEAL, bring food.
    • Wear a parachute -- ask to have it checked as baggage when they take it from you.
    • Be among the last to leave -- look for souvenirs.
    • Never steal the life preserver from under your OWN seat.


  • If you've chosen to stay at a decent hotel, they have sewing kits at the front desk. Ask for one.
  • Hotel towels -- have your personal towels seen better days?
    • Take inventory of what towels are in your room.
    • Note how many are missing, and ask for them.
    • Leave initial inventory behind when departing.
  • Still need LED lighting at home? 
    • Bring dead standard A19 incandescent bulbs. After last day's cleaning service, exchange them with your room's bulbs. While checking out, remark that lighting was substandard in your room.
  • If you really like the room's ice cube holder, immediately report it missing, as it's very important to have one in your room. Leave that one in your room.
  • Double-A and triple-A batteries cost at least a dollar apiece these days, If you're willing to wait a couple hours after arrival, is it no wonder there aren't any in your remote control? Pressing 0 on the hotel phone still usually reaches the front desk.
  • Complimentary hotel dining room breakfasts end on time. If you ate yours at 7 am and breakfast lasts until 9 am, be sure to return for that last cup of orange juice, hot chocolate or coffee. Bring breakfast to your room, if in need of dishes or silverware.
  • Bibles are rarely found in hotel rooms anymore. The Holy Bible is the most commonly stolen book.
  • Lobby and hallway cameras are everywhere -- refrain from moving DO NOT DISTURB signs.
  • It's ok to eat from trays left outside rooms, why care about cameras at this point?
  • If kitchenette glassware is really better than yours, be sure there is evidence of broken glass for any that was in your room.
  • "Lather, rinse and repeat" on the shampoo bottle necessitates quick usage of room toiletries. Ensure that they are replaced daily.
  • Visit an unattended service cart to address other room deficiencies such as pens/notepads, soap, toilet paper, or chocolates. Leave the wheels. Don't expect to find incendiary matches.  
  • Tip service staff appropriately. If you've managed to keep them out of your room except to address important deficiencies you've reported, make it worth both your while.

At Sea

  • Meet the Captain, have a photo taken with him or her. Remember Capt. Francesco Schettino.
  • If you don't imbibe alcohol, purchase your duty-free limit and re-sell it to friends and neighbors.
    • If you drink, save your money. You'll need it for your own cocktails.
  • Ship casinos are closed while in port.

  • Televisions are bolted down for a reason.
  • Delivery and caller ID services are now ubiquitous -- don't make prank delivery calls, even while away from home.
  • Resorts are huge. Since you keep track of must-have toys and model numbers from Christmas, visit their Lost and Found department and lament your specific loss.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

All Our Yesterdays

An initiative began earlier this year by the Class of 1981 will bring all Godby High School's yearbooks' content to public view for free.

On January 18, 2019, Phyllis Goodman Williamson forwarded me an email sent by Leon High School's principal to their students'  parents, telling them that Leon had partnered with FSU Libraries to scan in all their yearbooks and other historical documents, which were then newly available for public viewing. Phyllis suggested that perhaps they could also do Godby's.

I made several phone calls, and spoke with personnel at Leon High School and then FSU Libraries Digital Archivist Krystal Thomas. I introduced myself and connection with Godby, and told her that although we don't have Faye Dunaway, we are a young school with only fifty graduating classes, and asked whether FSU Libraries would be interested in undertaking a scanning project of all our school's yearbooks.

A week later, Krystal confirmed that FSU Libraries would be happy to scan in all our yearbooks. In late February, we met with Godby Principal Desmond Cole, and received his approval.

Over the next two months, I determined which yearbooks were not already at Godby, and made arrangements with several alumni to temporarily provide us with those issues.

I have just returned from meeting with Mr. Cole, Ms. Thomas, and Ms. Jennifer Fain, and the scanning project has officially begun. Every page of every yearbook will be made available for free public viewing, well before our upcoming all-inclusive first 50-year reunion in early June 2020.

We will make an announcement in Summer when all images are available.

Godby Yearbook Project Team
L to R: Ms. Jennifer Fain, Principal Desmond Cole, Mitch Gans, Ms. Krystal Thomas

Many thanks to all who collaborated on this effort

Phyllis Goodman Williamson (1981) for bringing Leon's project to our attention

FSU Libraries Digital Archivists Krystal Thomas and Jennifer Fain

Godby High School Principal Desmond Cole

Marsha Wilson Long (1971), Karen Albritton (1973), Carol Marchant (1976), Donna Bruce Longfellow (1986), Jim Reilly (1988), and Jacklyn Burkett (1997), for loaning us their yearbooks to be scanned

July 17, 2019: All Godby yearbooks 1969-2018 are now available for free public viewing here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your First Class Reunion

Hopefully, it's been only eight or nine years since you suited up to receive a blank High School diploma to be mailed later -- if you behaved yourself in late May and June.

If you're already a few months away from ten years, the following still applies, but often in an abbreviated, rarely unhurried fashion.

The Reunion Planning Committee: The group of classmates entrusted to periodically meet and make general plans and decisions on behalf of the class, not to include a large subset of the class, as progress attained is inversely proportional to the size of the group. An odd number of committee members is most conducive to resolving debates.

At least one, and as many as possible of the committee members should be local and available to meet on a regular basis, and provide progress updates to the class.

These minimum, not necessarily mutually exclusive roles should be established at the first committee meeting: Chair, Treasurer, and Public Relations.

The Chair is more than a figurehead, as most public announcements require that a contact person be specified, and venue contracts necessitate a responsible signature.

A Treasurer when activated, is responsible for receiving attendees' fees and making payments to service providers, as well as providing complete periodic financial reports. The Treasurer is expected to know Treasury Balance and Guest Count at all times. Assets = Liabilities + Capital is a most useful equation.

A class that schedules only pay-as-you-go events will likely not need a formal Treasurer. This more often occurs when an expected guest count cannot be easily determined, or when there remains too little time to collect fees and/or make deposits to secure venues.

If setting up a class bank account for the reunion, consider that there may be associated account maintenance fees and restrictions, and you will likely need to acquire and provide a federal Electronic Identification (EID) Number.

Many class Treasurers use their personal bank accounts for financial transactions for the reunion.

Decide if you will accept electronic payment of fees, and if so, set up a secure website to facilitate payments. If accepting checks by mail, determine the payee's name and address.

If collecting fees for the event, consider that planning committee members should be among the first to pay, to not only promote confidence in the venture, but also accumulate capital for deposits to secure venue and entertainment.

Will you allow family members, friends and acquaintances? If collecting money, the more the merrier, and more likely you are to surpass any minimum attendance requirements.

When all this information is known, prepare a reunion announcement flyer in PDF format to be published to the class community.

The person with the Public Relations role is responsible for providing announcement content to classmates, community events calendars, school and alumni websites, and social media.

Sub-committees may eventually be formed to recommend potential reunion dates, venues, entertainment, menu selection, and for event planning and decorations.

Meet as soon as possible for the first time with an agenda to establish roles, prospective dates and venues, assign tasks, and agree to the next meeting date before adjourning. Exchange contact information.

Popular reunion event ideas include a casual Meet and Greet event on either the Thursday or Friday before the main reunion, and a Saturday family event. 

Consider alternative dietary requirements of the guests. Vegetarian and gluten-free menu options are frequently requested.

First class reunions are most often held in the summer months, to accommodate public school schedules of families with small children.

A Few General Ideas

Actively look for "missing" classmates. Scan in the Senior photo pages from the Yearbook and the Commencement list as included in the program at Graduation, and use them to locate classmates.

Recognize and honor the deceased. At my class reunions, a representative recites the names of the departed and lights a memorial candle in their honor.

Wild, public, open-ended questions regarding reunion preferences will encourage discussion to meander and continue far past any time by which you intended to make a decision. People will respond to that thread long afterwards, having just read the question for the first time.

Consider having donated door prizes that will travel well awarded in hourly drawings to keep classmates in attendance throughout the evening. I personally keep a roll of double-raffle tickets for these occasions.

Name tags can be as simple as purchasing "Hello My Name is...." tags and providing self-serve markers, or the technically inclined have printed yearbook photos with names on pinnable name tags.

Promote early payment of fees by having the fees increase over time. Advertise an early-bird discount, or a small discount for couples or families, and be prepared to add a premium cost for those who decide to attend at the last minute. Some come to a public Meet and Greet event and decide that they'd like to attend the main event after all. You've likely had to have already supplied an accurate guest count to the caterers by that time, so in general, you want to discourage too many late payments. Fortunately, most professional caterers will also build a cushion into their provisioning planning.

Some early respondents suggest a Reunion Cruise. Great idea, let a travel agent handle all the planning and collection of money, and everyone sails away together! Lots leap at the prospect until they discover they have to fork over a $50 deposit several months in advance, and then will have to come up with more than $500 per person to attend.

There have been five highly successful Godby alumni reunion cruises, but they have always been open to all class years, and I have sailed on four of them. The Class of 1974 has invited all Godby graduates, family and friends to join them on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas in April 2019.

Enlist volunteers to serve as Designated Drivers. I attended a class reunion Meet and Greet event in 2012, and one of the graduates didn't make it home alive. The next evening's main event began very somberly.

Some area hotels will provide a reunion discount, but be wary of establishments that require a deposit or a hold on someone's credit card to do so en masse.

Proper planning will prevent budget deficits, but there may be a surplus beyond what is relegated to event costs. Some classes will provide each attendee with a complimentary drink ticket to reduce the surplus, while surpluses may not be known until some guests remit cash fees the evening of the main event. Some choose a responsible person to hold onto the money for another five to ten years. Others have donated surfeit funds to the Association of Godby Graduates Legacy Scholarship Fund towards future education of Godby graduates.

What the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) Can Do for You

The Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) is an academic booster club founded by Godby graduates in 2003 to foster, recognize and reward academic excellence and lifetime achievement. Each year, we host an annual alumni Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Godby Media Center, Friday evening before the annual Springtime Tallahassee Parade, and all proceeds benefit the AGG Legacy Scholarship Fund. We have given away more than $80,000 so that Godby alumni can further their educations. We facilitate class reunions.

The AGG has a database of contact email addresses for each class as provided to us by alumni at one time or another, and can give them to reunion planners. As graduates who supplied those email addresses would have had to update us whenever their contact info changes, you can expect to experience some undeliverable emails.

We will publish your reunion event at our alumni website and Facebook group which has more than 2,000 members.

I am happy to attend reunion planning meetings as possible, serve as volunteer photographer for the reunion events, make digital photos publicly available for free, and to pay the same fees as the other attendees. All I ask is for a few minutes at the main reunion event to talk about our alumni organization.

Please refer any other related questions you may have to me.


Mitch Gans graduated from Godby High School, is one of the founding members of the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG), and has served to plan and attend forty Godby High School class reunions.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why I Wear My Hat

Why I Wear My Hat

For my Great-Aunt Gus*, 97, who emailed and asked me last Thursday

By early 1981, I had participated in two Springtime Tallahassee parades with the Godby High School Drama Club since my family's arrival to town on September 1, 1978. The Godby Drama Club was welcome to walk behind the Godby Cougar Marching Band in the Springtime Tallahassee parades.

In 1981, the date of the annual Thespian Festival in Jacksonville, Florida coincided with the weekend of Springtime Tallahassee. I was one of a few who could not attend due to other commitments, and received approval from the Drama Club to march with the parade in their stead.

In the last few days before the parade, My First Halloween buddies and I, along with the Godby Wargames Club, my late brother Mike, and sundry friends, built a boat from wood, cardboard and an old baby carriage, and called it a float. I visited the Magic and Fun Costume Shop in Tallahassee and purchased a Captain's hat for $3.09. At parade time, we perched a cockatiel in a cage at its prow, and we alternatingly pushed and pulled it through the 1.1 mile parade route to the delight and astonishment of many thousands.

If we gave our boat float a name, it eludes me after all these years. No photos to my knowledge still exist, but there were at least seven of us involved in that crazy outing, and my wildest parade experiences were still several years away.

We didn't save the boat, and I didn't remember saving the hat until shortly before preparing for a move across town in Spring of 1990, when I noticed it in a box of costume paraphernalia that had not been unpacked since several moves earlier. I made major changes in my life beginning with that move, and completely forgot about the hat again for two more years.

In my early years in Tallahassee, I often enjoyed playing volleyball at Tom Brown Park on the weekends during high school, and then much less frequently after graduation. In Spring of 1992, I heard about Tallahassee Community College's annual Student/Faculty Day festivities including volleyball, and attended.

I ate a burger for lunch and played volleyball all afternoon. I hadn't played so much volleyball at one time in several years, and loved every moment of it.

Until later, when I stepped in the shower and realized I'd sunburned my head.

I wouldn't begin regularly playing softball for another year. I had just moved a few weeks before, and knew where my captain's hat was. It was the only hat I owned. I immediately needed a prophylactic for my head, and the hat seemed to agree with and please me.

Since then, and now more than twenty years later, unless I am playing softball, sleeping or swimming, I am generally wearing the hat. I've been going to the Magic and Fun Costume Shop for my specialty costume needs since they opened in 1979, and continued to purchase my captain's hats there until the owner retired and closed the shop in 2018. I consume two or three a year depending upon my activities, and keep a pristine dress hat for special occasions, and use the more worn ones for painting, yard work and the like before their eventual disposition,

On rare occasions, I will encounter someone else wearing the same style hat, and have had much success in asking these individuals to pose for a photo with me. I have a "Captains" Facebook photo album with these and photos with other Captains I've met. I especially enjoy wearing my hat on cruises, and with Halloween costumes that are complemented by it.

 Halloween 2011
Halloween 2011

* Great-Aunt Gus is my grandfather's sister Augusta, who married my grandmother's brother Elmer.
* Great-Aunt Gus passed away at 100, on January 27, 2020.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Godby High School Reunion Designated Driver Program

Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) President Roger Day and I attend as many class reunions as we can each year to help with the reunions in any way we can, and to talk about our alumni organization.

It was at the Friday night social at the downtown Tallahassee Center for the Class of 1982 last year that I met one of the reunion attendees for the first time, and no one would see him alive again after the party. Saturday's main reunion event began quite somberly the next day, and shortly afterward, I began hearing from many people who wished that they had been there to provide a safe ride home.

This year, we began the Reunion Designated Driver Program. Alumni volunteers from various class years, not at all necessarily from each particular reunion year, stand ready throughout the evening in case they are needed to guarantee a safe ride home to those who need it.

We are not a taxi service, and we are not there for people who intend to party heartily and then get a free ride home. We serve to ensure that a preventable tragedy associated with Godby High School and its precious alumni does not happen to someone who should have limited their consumption earlier in the evening. We also hope to serve as a deterrent to those who do not wish to unduly impose on their fellow alumni because of their own irresponsible drinking.

It is with that last hour or so of the reunion event evening we are most concerned, because responsible partiers typically make arrangements with sober drivers or public transportation earlier. We recognize that the time could have slipped by or taxi service might be less accessible later in the evening, so we stand by to prevent the worst of occurrences.

Whenever we can, we encourage planners to make their class reunions as inclusive as possible, because the Designated Driver Program does not discriminate against dissimilar graduation years, and neither do we.

Thanks to all who have volunteered to be reunion designated drivers. Your service is greatly appreciated by the Association of Godby Graduates and Family.

Roger Day, Class of 1980
Mitch Gans, Class of 1981
Mitch Gans, Roger Day at the Class of 1983 Reunion, July 20, 2013