In the Loop
Faculty News : Jun 8, 2018

Wonder Woman of the Arts leaves behind a heroic legacy

College of the Arts Dean Lucinda Lavelli retires

By Brandon McKinley

“The world's first and foremost female superhero, Wonder Woman at once embodies the unrivaled force and supreme grace of a born warrior, and the genuine compassion and understanding of a true humanitarian.”

Much like Wonder Woman, Lucinda Lavelli has used her power, courage and strength to be a warrior and advocate for the arts at the University of Florida. She began her journey as the dean of the UF College of the Arts in 2006. After 12 years of service, she is retiring from deanship on June 30, 2018.

Her passion for the arts, university and broader community has distinguished her as a remarkable leader who successfully raised the visibility and prominence of the College of the Arts.

“Her championing of the arts is heroic because she sincerely believes that the arts make better lives and have the potential to make the world a better place,” said Dr. Jerry Dickey, director of the UF School of Theatre + Dance.

As one of the leaders for the arts on campus, Lavelli established a record of thought institutionally for the inclusion of creative thinking. In 2010, she drafted a talking paper titled the “Creative Corporation,” from which many ideas appear in the UF Innovation Academy. Her colleagues attribute the flow and inclusivity of new ideas to her willingness to listen and eagerness to build relationships.

 “She always listens to any perspective,” said James Oliverio, founder and director of the UF Digital Worlds Institute. “In my own experience, she offers back a perspective that often opens up a panorama.”

Lavelli championed the merits of interdisciplinary work reflective of national trends with the support of the college’s school directors. She spearheaded the Creative B Summer Programming, a program for students at UF that consolidates the collective resources and talents of the many creative programs on campus. Her advocacy extends to her work with the Creativity in Arts and Science Event (CASE), which attracted donor support for art/science presenters; the Science, Engineering and the Arts Change (SEA Change) Committee; and the Arts and Humanities Steering Committee, which raises the visibility and importance of the arts through a campus-wide celebration of National Arts and Humanities month.

“There has truly been a ‘sea change’ here at the university in the past decade due to Lucinda’s leadership,” said Jill Sonke, director of the UF Center for Arts in Medicine. “Interdisciplinarity is no longer just a topic that we talk about around the table. It’s being funded, and it’s making a difference on our campus.”

As a national arts leader, Lavelli has advocated for higher education and the arts in numerous legislative halls from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C. She succeeded with Representative Ted Yoho joining the national STEAM caucus and with State Representative Keith Perry developing a position for funding K-12 arts and securing planning phase funding for a new UF School of Music building. In the national higher education scene, she was the founding institutional member of the Arts Alliance for Research Universities (a2ru) and is the past president of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans (ICFAD) and the Florida Higher Education Arts Network (FHEAN).

At the forefront of connecting the university with the City of Gainesville, Lavelli led a campus and community planning committee that resulted in the Aligning Strategic Initiatives Through the Arts Report. The effort sought to harmonize the arts and culture of the university and City of Gainesville. She also served locally as a member of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and Gainesville Women’s Forum as well as on the board of directors for Dance Alive, the Cade Museum, and other organizations.

“Her leadership and service is leadership as service,” said Lynn Tomaszewski, director of the UF School of Art + Art History.

Lavelli’s commitment to the arts has led to a 12-year tenure full of creativity, innovation and success that has dignified the College of the Arts as a model that demonstrates the importance of the arts in a top 10 research institution. Her strategic vision has empowered the faculty and staff to continue to create a positive academic, artistic and research environment for the college’s talented students.

“Lucinda Lavelli is a guiding light, a force for good—not brute force, but a force of kindness, openness, and collaboration. A force that brings people together, builds consensus and fosters mutual respect,” UF School of Music Director Dr. Kevin Orr said.

A true Wonder Woman of the arts, her heroism has influenced scores of accomplished and upcoming artists and academics. Through her passion and enthusiasm, she has inspired alumni and friends to support the college’s programs and students for years to come.

“She may have started out as a lonely voice,” said Joseph Glover, UF provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, “but thanks to her efforts, there is now a chorus singing in harmony.”

Lucinda Lavelli has had a career-long interest in the business of the arts, and in honor of her retirement, her husband, Kenneth Webster, made a lead gift to establish the Lucinda Lavelli Business of the Arts Fund.

College of the Arts alumni have expressed a need to support the development of entrepreneurial, financial and business management skills necessary to work as an artist or in a creative industry. The fund will support these endeavors by building business skills within the arts curriculum.  

To give online, visit For more information, contact Jennifer Coolidge, Senior Director of Advancement and Alumni Affairs, at 352-846-1211 or