Toni Jennings Biography

Toni Jennings (middle) with two TJEEI Scholars.

Many people in the state of Florida know Toni Jennings as a leader of leaders and her beginnings illustrate just how early the origins of her leadership were founded. In 1948, her father, Jack Jennings, established Jack Jennings & Sons — a family-owned and -operated business in Orlando. Within a year, Jack and wife Margaret started a family — first Toni and then her twin brothers John and Jeff. Throughout their childhood, Jack stressed the importance of ethics in business — hard work and honesty.

It is not surprising that Toni Jennings reflected her father's ethics throughout her impressive career. She began as a fifth-grade teacher at Killarney Elementary School in neighboring Winter Park. Later, she moved to Tallahassee for a political career of many firsts. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, and in 1980, was elected to the Florida Senate. She was the first female Republican president of the senate and served an unprecedented, two-consecutive term from 1996 to 2000. In 2003, she became Florida’s first female lieutenant governor, serving under Florida Governor Jeb Bush until December 2006. Toni Jennings worked on important issues throughout her political career including education, healthcare, hurricane preparedness, disaster relief, and business and industry in Florida. Governor Bush said he felt fortunate that Toni Jennings accepted his offer  – "She is a leader. She has humility. She is smart as all get-out. She is principled and tough but in a way that draws people toward the cause, not away from it."

In 2007, Toni Jennings returned to her role as chairwoman of Jack Jennings & Sons, Inc. She and her brothers maintain their business reputation dedicated to personal service. Toni Jennings continues to spend most of her time paying “civic rent” — something her father taught each of his children. She continues to give to the Central Florida community as a member of the board of managers for the Nemours Foundation, and serves on the board of directors for Brown & Brown, Inc. and the Florida Power and Light Group. She is also a trustee for Rollins College and was involved with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Florida, Inc. and the UCF Foundation. She is also a member of the steering committee for the Florida Children’s Movement of Florida — a citizen-led, non-partisan movement working to encourage the people and leaders of Florida to make the well-being and education of our children the state’s highest priority.

At UCF, we can count on Toni Jennings — an educational leader who continues to influence the work we are committed to — teaching, learning and service. She is a strong, caring community leader who works hard to make a difference in the lives of our Central Florida children and their families.