Eileen Rodriguez awarded Jerry Cartwright Lifetime Achievement Award

Eileen Rodriguez After 24 years of service to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, Eileen Rodriguez will retire on August 6, leaving a long-lasting legacy behind.

The Florida SBDC Network state office has chosen Eileen as the recipient of this year’s Jerry Cartwright Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was named after Jerry Cartwright, former Florida SBDC Network state director, for his lifetime of work within the SBDC organization. He was recognized as an innovator in developing new programs.

Eileen initially joined the Florida SBDC at USF as a consultant in February 1997. As a minority business owner herself, she found a niche assisting small business owners through business certification and international trade efforts, while also teaching seminars in both English and Spanish.

As a regional director, Eileen was a proven leader. She was responsible for policy development, strategic planning, human resources management, and the administrative oversight of a $3.1 million budget for the region.

While she has been known to say that she had no idea what she was doing when she was named regional director, one would never know it by watching her performance. Much of Eileen’s work over the years focused on developing outreach programs and attracting additional funding for the Florida SBDC at USF region. These activities played a central role in developing partnerships between USF and the larger Tampa Bay community, enabling the Center to continue to extend its technical services.

Her work within the community has led to many awards over the years, including the Hispanic Leadership Class Award in Business from Tampa Hispanic Heritage in 2013, the Chairman’s Award from Florida Minority Supplier Development Council in 2016, the Minority Business Advocate Award from MED Corp in 2017, and the USF Pathways Award in 2018. She was also a finalist for the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Business Woman of the Year in 2011. Her office is littered with plaques and trophies from various speaking engagements and awards from the past 24 years.

Eileen will be remembered as a leader within the Tampa Bay community and beyond – a leader amongst leaders. The Florida SBDC at USF is more diversified and resilient today because she had the intellectual agility to be in front, leading the charge.

Eileen was also a vocal advocate for positive change within the Florida SBDC Network at the state level. Janice Donaldson, retired Florida SBDC at University of North Florida regional director, said, ”I could always call [her] or email [her] when I was worried, upset, frustrated or didn’t know what to do about a problem. I never once questioned whether it was good advice or not because it always was, and she’s done that for every regional director.”