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Florida State presents rare Westcott Medal to key legislative staffer David Coburn

David Coburn

The Florida State University has presented one of its most distinguished and rare awards — the James D. Westcott Medal — to alumnus David Coburn, who has had a distinguished three-decade career in public service.

The award came as a surprise announcement at the Florida State University Alumni Association's Homecoming Awards Breakfast held Oct. 31 at the Oglesby Union.

Currently staff director for the Senate Rules Committee, Coburn has been chief of staff in both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives. He has been staff director of both the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. He has served as staff director of the Rules Committee in both chambers of the Legislature. He has served as well in the executive branch as the Governor's director of the Office of Planning and Budgeting.

Coburn is a three-time Florida State University alumnus, with a bachelor's in social sciences, a master's in planning and a law degree.

The James D. Westcott Distinguished Service Medal, one of the university's highest tributes, is named after the first benefactor of the university. According to the award criteria, the recipient of this medal must be a person whose distinguished service merits exceptional recognition and whose life and work exemplify the values of Vires, Artes, Mores — Strength, Skill and Character — which the university seeks to nurture in its students.

According to Florida State President T.K. Wetherell, "David Coburn has remained a friend and supporter of the university over the decades. More important, during a 30-year career in public service, he has been an advocate for the people of Florida. He truly exemplifies the values of this university. He leads for the greater good. He lives the values of Strength, Skill and Character."

In the words of the award citation, "Leaders of all stripes have sought Mr. Coburn's counsel for his measured sense of direction and his sensitivity to the issues facing Florida. In scores of protracted and highly contentious negotiations, he has managed to wrest solutions from knotty problems without losing the trust of those involved."

The citation continues, "Mr. Coburn works quietly and effectively behind the scenes. He has served as a trusted advisor to Senate Presidents, House Speakers, governors, appropriation chairs and agency heads. Through all these years, he has managed to provide this advice with the upmost integrity, credibility and respect."

Faculty Senate guidelines specify that the Westcott Medal will be presented infrequently and is regarded as one of the University's highest tributes. This is just the seventh medal to be awarded. Past recipients are:

  • Gov. LeRoy Collins —1989
  • Rep. Herb Morgan —1991
  • Gus Turnbull (former Florida State provost) —1991
  • Sen. Bob Johnson —1995
  • Norm Thagard (astronaut who serves on the Florida State faculty) —1995
  • Steve Edwards (former Florida State dean of the faculties) — 2003

Coburn's wife, Mary Coburn, is vice president of student affairs at Florida State.

By Fran Conaway

"David Coburn has remained a friend and supporter of the university over the decades."

T.K. Wetherell
Florida State University President