University of Central Florida President John Hitt is one of the four inductees to be recognized on Friday, November 4th at the Wyndham Resort on International Drive. He is currently the longest-serving president among Florida’s state universities and rates as one of Central Florida’s great modern history makers.

Hitt’s visionary leadership helped nearly triple enrollment, making UCF the largest university in Florida and the second largest in America.

Each year, the Dick Pope Awards acknowledge leadership that has significantly impacted the state as a premium destination for growth and development. Hitt’s drive to establish UCF as America’s leading partnership university has made UCF synonymous with the progress and prosperity of Central Florida and the Sunshine State. For instance, his work with state, local and federal government officials and the private sector led to construction of the UCF College of Medicine at Lake Nona. The college anchors an emerging medical city credited by many to be the biggest economic boost for Central Florida since Walt Disney World. He also co-founded the 23-county Florida High Tech Corridor Council.

Hitt joins inductees, Chef Steve Jayson of Universal Orlando, golfing great and philanthropist Arnold Palmer, and the late Gary Sain President of Visit Orlando. Their bronze likenesses will be immortalized on the new Dick Pope Hall of Fame wall being located within the newly renovated west wing of the Orange County Convention Center.

“It’s an honor, as a UCF alum, to produce the event immortalizing the tremendous works that President Hitt has accomplished for Central Florida and the University” said Dr. Mary Jo Ross, Executive Director of the Grand Tour Foundation.

The mission of the Grand Tour Gala Foundation is to raise and distribute funds to student scholarship foundations, and to non-profit organizations purposed to provide educational programs to students interested in a career in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The Dick Pope Legacy Luncheon and Foodstock Orlando, a multi-day destination festival, are in production to increase the support necessary for the high demand of scholarships and grants necessary within Florida’s hospitality education mecca. Attendees and corporate sponsors of the luncheon can register at For more information on Foodstock Orlando go to Click here to learn about previous inductees.

Jayson has been an integral part of the success of Universal Parks & Resorts since he began in 1989 as part of its inaugural opening team. As vice president, corporate executive chef for

In addition, UCF has become a major metropolitan research university of global impact and has launched more than $1 billion in new construction.

Universal Parks & Resorts, Chef Jayson has delivered an incredible level of culinary expertise and service to Universal’s guests over the years in Orlando and around the world. He has also been recognized by his peers for his contributions to his profession. He has received more than 150 culinary awards from various organizations, including being named National Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation in 2000.

Palmer has been known as one of the best sportsmen and businessmen in the world for nearly half a century. As a professional golfer, he has won 92 national and international championships, 62 of them on the PGA Tour, and seven majors led by four green jackets from The Masters. Palmer has been equally successful in the corporate world as President of Arnold Palmer Enterprises. Palmer has had a lasting impact on the Central Florida community by lending his name and helping to raise funds for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Sain is a posthumous inductee into the Dick Pope Legacy Award Hall of Fame. Sain, who was President and CEO of Visit Orlando for nearly six years. During his tenure as chief of Visit Orlando, the city recorded a record 51.5 million visitors in 2010, becoming the first U.S. destination to break the 50-million visitor milestone. Sain served as one of the community’s brand ambassadors, working tirelessly on behalf of the city and its tourism industry. He had previously held executive positions with Y Partnership, Premier Cruise Line, Hyatt Hotels, Ritz- Carlton and other companies. His career spanned over 40 years in the hospitality industry

About Dick Pope:

Richard Downing Pope, Sr. died in 1988 but is legacy lives on. Better known as Dick Pope, he was the founder of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. He is also known as “Mr. Florida”. Pope played a momentous role in the development of tourism in the state of Florida and the growth of theme parks as tourist destinations.