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Naimoli and Thomas Honored at Commencement

Published: December 23, 2005
Tampa Bay Devil Rays chairman Vincent J. Naimoli and Thomas Financial Group founder/CEO Rick Thomas received the Champion of Higher Independent Education in Florida Award at UT’s winter Commencement on Dec. 17.

The C.H.I.E.F. Award is the highest honor presented by the President’s Council of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, the leadership of Florida independent higher education, and is bestowed only upon distinguished individuals who represent the greatest support of independent higher education in Florida. Previous award winners with ties to The University of Tampa include the late Ross Parker, Gov. Bob Martinez, and Van and Diane McNeel.

A Notre Dame graduate who has held top positions at 11 corporations, Naimoli is best known as the person who secured Tampa Bay’s long-awaited Major League Baseball franchise in 1995. A long-time supporter of UT, he has served the University as trustee and chairman of the board.  The Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy in UT’s John H. Sykes College of Business is named in his honor.

Thomas played on Coach Fran Curci’s 10-1 Spartan football team in 1970. He graduated in 1972, and has remained involved with the University ever since. He is a past president of the National Alumni Association, served on the board of trustees for more than two decades, and sits on the advisory board of the Sykes College of Business. The Thomas Parking Garage on the University campus is named in his honor.

For more information, contact the Office of Public Information at or (813) 253-6232.