Ally Profile: John Delaney

John Delaney_FP_Print
After serving as Jacksonville’s mayor from 1995-2003, John A. Delaney became the University of North Florida’s fifth president in 2003. As mayor, Delaney spearheaded major initiatives including The Better Jacksonville Plan, a $2.2 billion improvement plan that gave the city new public facilities and other amenities. He also created the Preservation Project, a massive land conservation program giving Jacksonville the distinction of having the largest urban park system in the United States. Prior to that, he served as the chief assistant state attorney, the number two prosecutor for Northeast Florida and as the general counsel for the City of Jacksonville.

As UNF President, John A. Delaney oversees a campus of more than 16,000 students, 600 faculty and more than 1,000 staff. The 1,381 acre campus in Northeast Florida is considered a driver in the region, with an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion. Under his direction, UNF reaffirmed its commitment to students, by offering individualized attention and offering transformational learning opportunities.

Delaney is considered UNF’s chief fundraiser, nearly doubling the university’s privately funded endowment. In April 2013, the Power of Transformation campaign exceeded its goal, raising more than $130 million. The campaign was publicly launched in 2009 with an ambitious goal of $110 million. His presidency continues a distinguished career as a public servant. Delaney has also served on numerous non-profit and corporate boards. He and his wife Gena have four children and twin grandsons.

John explains why the Human Rights Ordinance in the city of Jacksonville is important, not only to him, but to the city of Jacksonville: “If we want a strong workforce and a strong educational system, we need to recognize the rights and contributions of LGBT individuals in the workplace and throughout society.  It’s the smart thing to do as well as the ethically and morally right course to follow.”

Ronald Breaker, CW2, US Army (Ret)

Ronald E. Breaker is a native of Jacksonville’s Eastside.  He served 21 years in the United States Army.  His journey to becoming a straight ally began by re-evaluating his old thoughts and beliefs.  In his statement, he encourages why it’s time for Jacksonville to do the same.  Read more from his ally profile here:

PRESS: Allies for Change

Arbus Allies for Change

We Are Straight Allies sends a huge “thank you” to Arbus Magazine, along with publisher Cinda Sherman and journalist Wesley Grissom, for their feature article in this month’s edition and their unwavering commitment to equality.

View the article in its entirety here:


Ally Profile: The Calise Family

Calise_FP_PrintMeet Matthew and Jill Calise.  Matthew J. Calise is a native of Jacksonville, Florida and a proud supporter of his hometown. With a diverse upbringing, he found a passion in the arts. Matthew graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and now proudly serves on the Alumni Board. He has been a long time friend, volunteer, and advocate of Theatre Jacksonville, Players by the Sea, and the 5 & Dime Theatre Company. After high school, he attended Florida State College at Jacksonville where he received his Associate in the Arts degree. Matthew then moved to Tallahassee to pursue one of his dreams of graduating from Florida State University with degrees in both marketing and management. He began his professional career with the Wounded Warrior Project, and is now a marketing coordinator for Swisher International, Inc.

Jill Flowers Calise was born in 1954 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Max and Lantha Flowers (a proud Navy family) along with their first daughter, Cindy. Jill attended Duval County Public Schools, Cedar Hills Elementary, JEB Stuart Jr. High School and N. B. Forrest High School. She pursued a teaching degree at the University of Florida and attained a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida.

Jill considers herself a patriot and LOVES America. She is passionate about teaching and loves the students she serves. She goes home every day from teaching to two of her other great passions, gardening and her little dog, Gizmo.

We are incredibly grateful that Matthew visited our booth at One Spark this year and bravely chose to  share his family’s story with us.  Matthew’s parents, James (Jimmy) and Jill Calise, were married a little more than 25 years ago.  It was through her sister, Cindy, and her daughter, Jill Anne, that Jill met Jimmy in 1987.  One month before their wedding day,  Jimmy learned that he was HIV positive.  After sharing the news with Jill, he thought maybe they should call off the ceremony.  After careful consideration, Jill knew she still very much wanted to marry Jimmy.  Above all, they loved each other very much and she knew that would get them through any challenge life had ready for them.

In 1988, Jimmy and Jill married and the next year in May of 1989, they had Matthew.  His name means, “gift from God.” Jimmy and Jill lived as a couple for 8 years before deciding that Jimmy needed to openly live his truth.  So, when Matthew was 7-years-old, his father came out to him as gay.  At the time, Matthew says he didn’t fully understand what ‘being gay’ meant, but he clearly remembers how challenging life had been for his parents because of this fact.   Jimmy was disowned by by some of his family members and friends.   Matthew also found it difficult to be open with his friends about who his father was.

It wasn’t until Matthew was almost to middle school that his father’s HIV had progressed into AIDS.  Knowing that he didn’t have much time left, Jimmy’s only hope was that he would live long enough to see Matthew graduate from high school.  Matthew was just shy of 16 when his father passed away.  To honor the impact that Jimmy had on their lives, the wonderful father he was, and the great man he had been, Matthew and Jill each got a tattoo that they display with great pride.  Jill and Matthew are still very close. She tells those she meets, that they are “as thick as thieves.”

Their story seems uncommon, but they are not alone.  Today, many people live ‘under cover’ for fear of discrimination, abandonment, or threats of violence simply because of who they are, or who they love.  We have lost millions of spouses, loved ones, children, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers due to complications from AIDS while millions more currently live with HIV.  In their statement, Matthew and Jill explain why it was important to them to join the ‘We Are Straight Allies’ community, “In our family, we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. We also believe it takes a village to make a change and create a movement. Today, we become a proud part of that community. One that believes in both love and equality for all.”

We appreciate the Calise family’s willingness to share their story in hopes that our community will begin to celebrate our differences, rather than fear them.

We’d also like to thank the Florida Times-Union for also sharing Matthew and Jill’s story with their readers on this very special Father’s Day.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, please visit

We are straight allies coming out in support of our LGBT community and the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance.


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