Interview with WPI Alumna, Randy DeFoor

Randy DeFoor ’03 took time from her busy schedule to share her perspective on philanthropy with Caroline Brinton ’10 this month. Randy has a breadth of experiences to draw from as a 5th generation Jacksonville native, recently elected City Council Representative for District 14, and Senior Vice President and National Agency Counsel at Fidelity National Financial. She has served as a trustee at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Riverside Presbyterian Day School, and Florida State College at Jacksonville. She also serves on the Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, the Cathedral Arts Project, and the Innocence Project of Florida.

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Q: What do you do in your daily life?

A: I am a wife, mother and Senior Vice President, National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial and City Council Representative for District 14, Duval County Florida.

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Q: Whom do you consider to be your role models for giving?

A: There are many women role models that I admire beginning with my grandmother, Frances Barnett and mother, Marian Poitevent. Each of them, among many other contributions, educated children anonymously which was originally started by my great grandfather, Boykin. I also greatly admire Peggy Bryan. I have watched the work she has done with Gateway. I also admire Barbara Ketchum with her work over the years with women in prisons and Sara VanCleve with literacy. There are many women in our community who have given the gift of their resources, time and talent to so many social programs. I have tremendous respect for all of them.

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Q: How do you balance giving from your heart and your head?

A: There is so much pleasure in giving from the heart but possibly more impact is made when giving intellectually.

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Q: What concepts or experiences from participating in the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative have proven valuable to your philanthropy?

A: I know that I can go to The Community Foundation to receive guidance in giving. It is a tremendous resource on current social issues where communication and sharing of ideas can help guide others to give in a manner that will provide the best results.

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Q: What drew you to civic leadership?

A: I was taught to whom much is given, much is expected. I was truly drawn to giving back to the place we all call home. We are all so blessed to live in Jacksonville and for Jacksonville to succeed all areas of our City must succeed.

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Q: Which challenges facing Northeast Florida do you hope to take leadership on in your role on City Council?

A: We have many socio-economic challenges. In terms of taking a leadership role, I have a strong interest in justice reform which has led me to want to help the mentally ill. Our jail is the largest provider of mental health services. In South Florida, through the help of Judge Leifman, a mental health court has been instituted that provides full wrap around services including medical assistance, and by using their SSI benefits, provides for permanent housing. The end result has been a large drop in the recidivism rate and a reduction in jail beds by 25%. This is a huge savings both from a financial standpoint and a human one.

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Q: What role do you see philanthropy playing in Northeast Florida?

A: Jacksonville has always heavily relied on non-profits and philanthropy to provide social services, public art and educational resources. We have a community of givers. I see philanthropy continuing in this capacity.

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Q: What have been your biggest learning “aha moments” as a philanthropist?

A: I have seen where one philanthropist’s vision can really change a community for the better. Sometimes it takes courage and fortitude, but in the end everyone wins. So…my “aha moment” is don’t be afraid to give your money to something you believe in–sometimes other people are just waiting to get on the bus and when they see what you are doing, they will follow.