Many people in the state of Florida know Toni Jennings as a leader of leaders, but those who really know Toni Jennings begin telling her story by going back to 1948, when her father, Jack Jennings, established a family owned and operated business, Jack Jennings & Sons, in Orlando, Florida. That same year, Jack Jennings started a family, and as his children began to grow, he stressed the qualities of his business ethic with them – hard work and honesty.
Toni Jennings began her impressive career as a fifth grade teacher at Killarney Elementary School in Winter Park, Florida. However, the people of Florida needed her, so she moved to Tallahassee! Her political career included many “firsts.” She was the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and in 1980, she was elected to the Florida Senate. She was the first Republic woman President of the Senate, and served an unprecedented two consecutive terms from 1996 to 2000. In 2003 she became Florida’s first female Lieutenant Governor, serving under Florida Governor Jeb Bush until December 2006. During her time in that position, Toni Jennings worked on important issues including education, health care, hurricane preparedness, disaster relief, and business and industry in Florida. Governor Bush said that he was fortunate that Toni Jennings accepted being his Lieutenant Governor – “She is a leader. She has humility. She is smart as all get-out. She is principled and tough, but in a way that draw people toward the cause, not away from it.”
In 2007, Toni Jennings went back to her roots — as Chairwoman of Jack Jennings & Sons, Inc. She and her brothers, Jeff and John Jennings, continue to maintain their business reputation dedicated to personal service in the general contractor and construction management business established by their father in 1948. Toni Jennings continues to spend most of her time paying “civic rent” – something her father taught each of his children. She continues to give to the central Florida community as a member of the Board of Managers for the Nemours Foundation, and she is on the Board of Directors for Brown & Brown, Inc., and the Florida Power and Light Group. She is also a Trustee for Rollins College, and she has been involved with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Florida, Inc, and the University of Central Florida Foundation. She is also a member of the Steering Committee for the Florida Children’s Movement of Florida — a citizen-led, non-partisan movement working to encourage the people and leaders of Florida to make the well-being and education of our children the state’s highest priority, especially when it comes to the investment of public resources in programs that make a real difference in the lives and futures of children.
At UCF, we can count on Toni Jennings as an educational leader who continues to influence the work we are committed to — teaching, learning and service. She is a strong, caring community leader who works to make a difference in the lives of our children and their families in central Florida.