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Valenstein and Vitelli Named University of Florida Outstanding Young Alumni

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumni Noah Valenstein and Chris Vitelli are two of only 30 University of Florida alumni who received this year’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Valenstein, a 1999 environmental science graduate, was appointed secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by Governor Rick Scott in May 2017. Prior to this role, he served as executive director for the Suwannee River Water Management District, where he oversaw the protection and conservation of water and land resources across 15 counties. In addition to his education at UF, he earned a juris doctorate from Florida State University.

“My future will continue to be focused on Florida’s amazing natural and agricultural resources,” Valenstein said.

Vitelli, a 2003 agricultural education and communication graduate, is superintendent and president of Merced College in Merced, California. In addition to his degree from UF, he earned a master of education from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a doctor of education degree from Arizona State University. While a student at UF, Vitelli was involved in Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and UF Student Government. He is a member of Florida Blue Key.

“My family inspires me,” Vitelli said. “My wife and son are the loves of my life and give me hope and inspiration. My hard-working and supportive parents made sure my dreams were their top priority.”

CALS Dean Elaine Turner presented the awards.

“We’re so proud to have both of these accomplished individuals in the CALS family,” she said. “They both strive to make the world a better place, one by preserving our natural resources and the other by educating tomorrow’s leaders.”

The University of Florida Alumni Association presents the Outstanding Young Alumni Award annually with this year’s awards ceremony occurring on April 14. The program was established in 2006 to recognize alumni under age 40 whose achievements positively reflect the Gator Nation®. Criteria for the award include making a significant impact on their industry and having professional accomplishments at the state, national or international level.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes graduates from all of UF’s 16 colleges. This year’s winners range from doctors and pharmacists to entrepreneurs and artists. Past award winners include meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, politician Adam Putnam, and sportscaster and television personality Erin Andrews.

To learn more about the UF Alumni Association, please visit


The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.