The president of Williams Consulting Group, Renee Vaughn lives in the Beach Park area of Tampa with her husband Ronald Vaughn, the president of the University of Tampa. Over the years, Renee has been actively involved with a number of charitable organizations but for almost two decades has focused much of her philanthropic efforts on advancing and preserving one of her long-lasting passions, UT.
How did you become involved in the University of Tampa?
My involvement with the University of Tampa became more focused over the past few years when I began dating and then married the president, Ron Vaughn. However, I often say that I loved the University long before its president because I joined the Board of Fellows 17 years ago. My master’s degree is in regional and city planning and I know that universities in an urban core are key ingredients to the success of a city. It’s a vibrant, beautiful campus with over a $600 million annual economic impact.
What is one of your favorite memories from working with UT?
There are many—but the best is probably when Ron proposed to me in a minaret overlooking the city at sunset.
What is one of your favorite charity events in Tampa and why?
Ron and I are involved with a number of charities, and I have chaired several charity events over the years, so I could get into some real trouble here. We always enjoy the Chiselers’ Preview Party in March of each year. Plant Hall comes to life as a marketplace and it is a great tradition in Tampa. Another favorite is the Broadway Ball at the Straz Center. Its theme changes each year. Dining on the stage of Morsani Hall is a unique and enchanting experience and the entertainment is always memorable.
As a leading lady, what is one of your proudest accomplishments?
I started my own public relations company in 2003 and was able to grow and sustain it into a successful business in a waning economy.
Who do you most admire in Tampa?
John and Susan Sykes. They’re wonderful, down-to-earth people who have raised the bar for philanthropy in this city and helped to transform our community.
What are a couple of your cherished holiday traditions?
I have a huge collection of Christmas bears—hundreds—who appear throughout our home during the holidays. I also volunteer at the HB Plant Museum Victorian Christmas Stroll every year.
Which Bay area spots do you take your out-of-town guests to really show off our city?
The University of Tampa and Henry B. Plant Museum are tops on my list, especially during the holidays when the Victorian Christmas Stroll is taking place. You also can’t beat the views of Tampa from the University Club and Tampa Club, two favorites.
What are your favorite kinds of gifts to give and receive?
During the year, I listen to what people admire or say they like and then try to get/find that gift for them. Also, I hand-make most of my greeting cards—each one is unique.
What advice would you pass on to younger generations?
Do what you love, love what you do and deliver more than you promise. Sister Rosalie Henderson, who founded Alpha House, passed on this saying to me.
What is your favorite hero of fiction?
Peter Pan. I hope I never truly “grow up.”
If you had one wish this holiday season, what would it be?
There’s a lot of unemployment, hopelessness and anger in our world today. I wish that everyone who could do something for others would do it. Adopt a family or provide a meal/clothing/toys for someone in need—one person can make a difference in another’s life.
What is your motto or words you live by?
A quote by Goethe -Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now.
ROSEMARY SWEET POTATO SALAD
5 large sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 cup diced celery
½ cup chopped green onion
Honey Rosemary Vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
½ cup honey
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbs chopped garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1. Bring diced sweet potatoes to a boil in a pot with enough water to cover
2. Turn heat down and simmer until potatoes are Al Dente
3. Drain and refrigerate potatoes until cooled—add chopped celery and onion
4. Mix all ingredients for the vinaigrette in a food processor until smooth and emulsified (I like to reserve some chopped Rosemary to sprinkle on the top)
5. In a large bowl, mix sweet potato mixture with vinaigrette until evenly covered (sprinkle remaining chopped fresh rosemary on top)
6. Chill until ready to eat