450th Commissioner: Dr. Michael Gannon

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Michael Gannon is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Florida.

Born in Oklahoma, he attended high school in St. Augustine, Florida. He holds graduate degrees from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the Université de Louvain in Belgium, and the University of Florida.

Dr. Gannon has had a long interest in the Spanish colonial history of Florida, about which he has written extensively. Two of his books, Rebel Bishop (1964, reprinted 1997) and The Cross in the Sand (1965, reprinted 1999) treat the early history of the Catholic Church in the state.

He is co-author of two other books and a contributor to numerous others on the region, including Spanish Influence in the Caribbean, Florida and Louisiana, 1500-1800, published at Madrid, Spain, and The Hispanic Experience in North America, published by the Ohio State University.

His Florida: A Short History was published in 1993 by the University Press of Florida, and a revised and updated edition was published in 2003. In 1994 HarperCollins published his Secret Missions, a Florida-based historical novel set in World War II, which was chosen by Readers Digest Condensed Books. In 1996 he edited and contributed to The New History of Florida, the first comprehensive history of the state in a quarter of a century.

In 1972 he was honored as Gainesville’s “Citizen of the Year” (Community Service Award) in recognition of his mediation of student-administration-police conflicts in 1970, 1971 and 1972. The Florida Historical Society awarded him the first Arthur W. Thompson Prize in Florida History. In 1978 he was named “Teacher of the Year” in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 1979 the University of Florida National Alumni Association awarded him its first Distinguished Alumni Professorship in recognition of “the impact that he has had on students’ lives and careers.” In a 36-year teaching career at UF he taught over 16,000 students.

In June 1990 the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, conferred on him the highest academic award of that country, Knight Commander of the Order of Isabel la Católica. In 2000 he was named by The Gainesville Sun one of the 50 most “notable citizens” of Gainesville and north central Florida during the 20th century. In 2004 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Historical Society. In 2005 the steel and concrete bridge at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine was dedicated as Michael Gannon Bridge.

His most recent books are a history of the Catholic Church in Florida, entitled, The Florida Catholic Historical Trail and Michael Gannon’s History of Florida in Forty Minutes, the latter published in both print and audio formats by the University Press of Florida. In 2007 Michael Gannon was awarded the highest decoration of the City of St. Augustine, the Order of La Florida.

Congress established the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and charged it with ensuring a suitable national observance of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by complementing the programs and activities of the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine. The members were appointed by U. S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar after considering the recommendations of the Mayor of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine City Commission, and the Chancellor of the University System of Florida, the Governor of Florida, and the Florida delegation in Congress.

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