COS Distinguished Alumni Award Winner 2016: Carol Lawrence



Not many University of Central Florida graduates can say that they knew the esteemed John T. Washington, UCF’s first African-American faculty member. Alumna Carol Lawrence, ’71, and her husband, Jim Lawrence, ’71, had him officiate their wedding.

“The late Dr. John Washington for whom the ‘old’ UCF student union building is named was a friend of ours,” Carol said. “John T. Washington and my husband Jim worked together at the post office while both were undergraduates and he married us in December 1972.”

A woman intertwined with UCF’s history, Carol Lawrence, J.D., ’71, was honored on March 3 as a 2016 College of Sciences Outstanding AlumKnight award recipient by the Department of Political Science. Carol and her husband have remained active with UCF as philanthropists and as proud Knight fans.

The Department of Political Science nominated Carol as an Outstanding AlumKnight based on her accomplishments as a professional, her extensive community engagement, and her continued partnership with UCF.

“I am honored to count Carol Lawrence as our AlumKnight,” said Kerstin Hamann, Ph.D., pegasus professor and chair of the political science department. “Carol embodies UCF values through her professional success, community involvement, and her enduring dedication to UCF. She is a wonderful role model for our students and we are delighted to present her the award.”

Lawrence and Hamann

Dr. Kerstin Hamann and Carol Lawrence

In early August, the Lawrences established the Jim and Carol Lawrence Funds, making a generous donation to UCF.

“UCF is the reason we have been married almost 44 years so we wanted to acknowledge its contribution to our relationship,” Carol said. “Also, because we benefited greatly from our FTU educations, we felt it would be appropriate to give back to UCF by leaving it a portion of our estate.”

These funds will support departments, clubs and organizations across the university for which Jim and Carol maintain a passionate advocacy.

70 percent of the gift will support six different academic departments and initiatives, with half of their gift allocated to the Department of Psychology and the Department of Political Science – Jim’s and Carol’s majors, respectively.

The fund will also create an endowed fund in sociology, coastal research, public administration, and Africana studies. This support will be used for scholarships, resources, faculty salaries and grants. In addition, the funds will provide operational support for the UCF Equestrian Club and the UCF Alumni Association.

Being unwavering Knight Fans, the Lawrences also designated 25 percent of the fund to support UCF athletics to establish student-athlete scholarships.

The Lawrences attended the University of Central Florida (UCF) when it was titled Florida Technological University (FTU), just a few years after FTU welcomed its inaugural class.

Jim graduated in 1971 with his undergraduate degree from UCF in psychology before earning his master’s degree in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University and doctoral degree in psychology and child development from University of Kansas.

Carol graduated with her undergraduate degree in political science/public administration in 1971.

“That graduating class was so small, maybe 400 or less,” Carol recalled.  “The graduation ceremony was held off campus at University High School.”

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Lawrence’s Bachelor of Arts degree

After graduating from UCF, Carol earned her master’s degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University and went on to work as a research associate at the FAU-FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems. There she worked with the late Dr. John M. DeGrove, the architect of Florida’s 1985 landmark growth management legislation.

In 1976, Carol left the Center to work for Miami-Dade County as a budget analyst and lobbyist to the Florida Legislature. And in 1980 the Lawrences moved back to central Florida where both found success as licensed real estate brokers. The Lawrences remain active brokers of their 32-year old RE/MAX office.

However, after more than 25 years after leaving UCF, Carol decided in 1998 that being owner and manager of a company wasn’t her only end goal and enrolled in the University of Orlando School Of Law, now known as Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law.

“I was 56 years old when I enrolled,” Lawrence said. “That’s an age when most people are contemplating retirement and I set out to fulfill the dream of being an attorney that I had since I was 14 years old.”

Upon passing the exam in 2002, Lawrence was sworn in as a member of the Florida Bar. After years of working only for herself, she describes the move to start her own law firm as a natural progression.

She opened her law firm in 2003 and a title insurance agency in 2006, both of which she still owns and operates today in addition to being an owner and broker of her and Jim’s RE/MAX franchise.

Despite now working up to 13 hours per day at three different jobs and volunteering for numerous community activities, Carol has no intention of giving up her dynamic life.

“When someone asks me why I haven’t retired, I have a go-to reply,” she says. “‘Retire? Why, I’m just getting started.’”

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