After the deaths of her husband and only child to cancer, Mildred Adicks knew she wanted to pay tribute to their dedication to education by establishing endowed scholarships in their memory: The Dr. Richard R. Adicks Jr. Memorial Scholarship for English Education and the Jennifer Adicks Harnage Memorial Scholarship for Communication Sciences and Disorders.

The former scholarship is for students in the College of Community Innovation and Education who will be dedicated to inspiring their students to expand their horizons and enrich their lives through education, just as Professor Adicks did. Through the scholarship she established in memory of her daughter, Jennifer, Mildred Adicks hopes that the students who benefit from it will also enjoy a rewarding career as a speech-language pathologist. Her daughter made a positive difference in the lives of everyone she met, whether as a friend, a colleague, or as a teacher.

Mildred’s husband, Richard, was a charter faculty member at UCF who died in 2015 from pancreatic cancer after a brief but valiant fight. Their daughter, Jennifer Adicks Harnage, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017 after an initial misdiagnosis and passed away in 2021. She and her family worked together to fight against the disease and to increase its awareness. Mildred says the pain from losing her husband and daughter still lingers, but she has her faith and a lifetime of wonderful memories to sustain her. She hopes the scholarships she created in their honor will keep those memories alive.

Two Florida Families Begin Their Story

Mildred Carlton met Richard Adicks in 1956 when they were first-year teachers at Plant City High School. Both were from Florida families whose history went back for generations, and they were the first in their families to earn a college degree. Continuing their education through study and travel was a priority throughout their 56 years of marriage. After Richard earned his PhD degree at Tulane University, he taught for two years at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.  While there, the Adickses learned about a new university, FTU, that was being built in Orlando. They moved back to Florida; Richard became a charter faculty member on FTU’s staff and Mildred a public-school Librarian/Media Specialist.

For more than 30 years, Richard taught over 30 courses in UCF’s English department at the undergraduate and graduate levels on subjects ranging from Victorian literature to Homeric epics and the Bible as literature. In 1997-1998 he was a Fulbright Lecturer at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. He volunteered to mentor students at the local high school, taught classes at his church, and served as a Boy Scout Leader. He also instrumental in helping to start a local Historical Society in the early 1970s. Richard talked to the long-time Oviedo residents whose ancestors settled in the  area after the Civil War and began working on a written history to preserve their stories. He and co-author Donna Neely spent eight years researching and writing the town’s history from the Civil War days up to the dramatic change caused by the impact of UCF on the area. The result of their efforts became Oviedo: Biography of a Town.

Reaching Students through Speech-Language Pathology

After meeting one of her father’s colleagues, Dr. David Ingram, then chair of UCF’s communicative disorders program, Jennifer became interested in speech-language pathology. She received her bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders from UCF in 1986, and later her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from FSU. She worked in various clinical settings throughout her career but landed at the Willis Peters Exceptional Student Center in Hillsborough County. “My daughter understood that the ability to communicate is the most human quality that we can share with each other,” Mildred says. “Her true calling was to serve and to help developmentally disabled students in the public-school setting.”

Mildred says Jennifer often talked about her students, and how gratifying it was to watch them overcome their challenges and improve their communication skills. She started each class by singing a welcome song to get their attention. Even while receiving chemo treatments, she continued providing therapy to her students via Zoom sessions throughout the pandemic, wearing a clear mask so her hearing-impaired students could read her lips. When she was too sick to teach, Jennifer’s colleagues — faculty, staff, lunchroom workers and janitorial staff — formed a caravan of about 36 cars and conspired with her husband to have her sitting in her front yard while they drove by with posters and balloons attached to their cars to say farewell.

Remembering and Celebrating Jennifer and Richard

After Jennifer’s death in 2021, Mildred learned that an artistic staff member painted a decorative mural on a wall facing the playground and she incorporated the lyrics of Jen’s welcome song.  The mural was unveiled on the day the staff paid a loving tribute to Jennifer and her dedication to her students and the school.

Richard’s students also frequently sent cards and letters to him, all of which he kept in his files. “I can’t tell you what a treasure trove that is,” Mildred says. “One of them wrote, ‘Your knowledge of literature, history, and of life in general was so impressive and appreciated; I feel like I have stepped onto a whole new plateau of learning.’” After reading letters from her late husband’s students, Mildred thought he deserved to have a scholarship at UCF named after him. “He was such a humble guy and probably would have told me not to bother,” she says. “But I miss both of them every day, and I wanted to establish the scholarships in honor of their accomplishments and their compassion and dedication to their students.

Mildred says her fondest hope for the students who will receive the scholarships is that they enjoy helping others and have fulfilling careers. “I hope they will also enrich the lives of their own students by encouraging them to continue in their education as far as they can go,” she says. “Richard and I knew how much it helped us when we received that kind of encouragement, and I hope they can continue that tradition.”

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Written by Camille Dolan ’98


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