Women Who Move the City 2018

Meet some of the business, civic and educational leaders who work to bring about positive change and enhance the quality of life in our community.

Vaco Orlando is a talent and solutions firm founded by Denise Bennett-Walls in 2005. Thirteen years later, Vaco has Florida locations in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa. In 2017, Vaco’s revenues exceeded $450 million, and is also part of a global network with offices in Canada, the United Kingdom and India.

The greatest part of the journey for Bennett-Walls has been building Vaco side by side with incredible partners in one of the best communities in the country. Choosing the right team is the single most important step to success.

“It takes a great team to build a great company built to last,” says Bennett-Walls, Vaco Orlando’s Managing Partner.

Vaco’s mission is to help leading companies find talent to grow their
businesses and to connect people to their dream jobs.

Vaco’s Florida team spends half its time supporting local leaders by recruiting top talent for their companies, providing subject matter experts on a project basis, temporaries for staff augmentation and outsourced solutions.

In 2018, Vaco’s CPA’s will work with clients to implement the new FASB pronouncements. Small businesses not quite big enough for full-time executives will leverage the experience of Vaco’s
part-time executives (CEO, CHR, CFO, CIO, CMO, CSO). Companies will continue to invest in technology, and Vaco’s financial analysts will jump into more data-driven initiatives.    

The company’s Florida team also meets with professionals to discuss their career goals, the right position based on their career cycle, and how Vaco can best support them.

Vaco will continue to grow organically and through acquisition in 2018.

“We are very interested in speaking to staffing and consulting companies in Florida ready to take their business to the next level,” Bennett-Walls says.

“Every year I try to give equal weight to my personal and professional goals,” said Bennett-Walls. “This year I committed to help the Central Florida Leukemia and Lymphoma society (LLS) in any way I can because the search for a cure will never be found without personal and professional support from our community. It is too often that we are meeting people that are affected by cancer in one way or another, we need a cure to this disease.  If you would like to partner with me to support the Central Florida chapter of LLS, please go to
vacofightingcancer.org, for more details.”

485 N. Keller Road | Suite 451 | Maitland, FL 32751 | Phone: 321-445-2100 | vacoorlando.com


Leticia Diaz is a woman of great determination, integrity, and perseverance.

It took all of these attributes to pivot from a burgeoning career as an organic chemist to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and pursue a career in the law. After completing her Ph.D. and J.D., then spending some time in practice, Diaz set her sights on the next phase of her career: legal education.

Diaz was part of the administration that guided Barry University, a private, Catholic school, as it became the first Orlando law school to receive full accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). With that recognition, Diaz became the first Cuban-American woman to hold the position of Dean at an ABA-accredited law school in the United States.

While all are worthy individual accomplishments, perhaps the most shining example of Diaz’s resolve is the exemplary work she’s done during the past decade as Dean of Barry University School of Law. A mother of two lawyers (one of whom is a Barry Law alumnus), Diaz has been committed to building a familial and mission-oriented approach to legal education, and this personal touch has resonated with the diverse student base. She has led the law school from its infancy to its status as a pillar of the Orlando community. Barry University now boasts an alumni base of more than 2,700 attorneys.

Year after year, the law school receives accolades for diversity and inclusiveness from well-established publications. U.S. News & World Report ranked Barry Law in the top 10 nationally among law schools for diversity, and PreLaw Magazine has given the law school an A+ ranking for its diverse staff, faculty, and student body multiple years in a row.

Dean Diaz’s impact has garnered many acknowledgments of her accomplishments.  In recent years, she was honored by Onyx Magazine as one of its Women on the Move. She then received the Floridian Award from the Cuban Women’s Club, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.  She was also named a Woman Worth Watching by the Profiles in Diversity Journal.

Previously, Diaz was named to the Lawyers of Color Power List twice and to the National Jurist’s Top 20 Leaders in Diversity.

But to hear Diaz describe it, the success of Barry Law isn’t about numbers or individual accolades; it’s about the law school’s mission.

“It is the charge of the Barry lawyer to use the skills learned here to help deliver social justice and to embrace the ideals that initially attracted them to the study of law,” Diaz says. “Our students arrive on campus intent on changing the world. It is my honor to facilitate that process.”

6441 East Colonial Drive | Orlando, FL 32807 | Phone: 321-206-5600 | barry.edu/law


Fannie Hillman + Associates was established in 1981 by single mother, entrepreneur, real estate visionary Fannie Hillman, and has blossomed into the largest independent real estate company in Winter Park.  A true leader in the real estate industry, we have built a reputation for delivering the highest quality real estate services to Central Florida. The women at Fannie Hillman + Associates are some of the highest-producing real estate agents in Central Florida; they are extensively involved in the community and they strive to stay on top of the latest market trends.  Fannie Hillman + Associates is proud to have the women agents pictured above representing us, and we know they will continue to make great strides in the community we all love.

205 W. Fairbanks Ave | Winter Park, FL 32789 | Phone: 407-644-1234 | fanniehillman.com  


Marnie Forestieri is an education entrepreneur, teacher, author and speaker on a mission: to inspire the next generation of innovators and prepare them for careers of the future.

Marnie is an advocate for introducing young children to an inquiry-based thinking model starting in preschool. In addition to presenting and writing about 21st-century skills and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), Marnie has brought together a team of university professors, preschool teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, technology experts and community leaders to create a new teaching methodology for young children. The methodology introduces them to 21st century skills and STEAM learning through the power of collaboration and diversity.

In the past, Forestieri was disappointed to read the statistics on American children and STEM studies. “By the time kids were reaching third grade, a high percentage of them had already ruled out STEM careers,” says Forestieri. She adds that she didn’t want to be part of the group that kept doing the same thing but that expected different results.

Forestieri immersed herself in research. She spent 10 years as the owner of a child care franchise. Finally, with the guidance and support of a group of collaborators, Forestieri purchased a struggling school in 2015, converted it into the first Amazing Explorers Academy and it became a success. The Academy’s inquiry-based, STEAM-centered curriculum encourages the growth of “a 21st-century skill set for life,” says Forestieri. This year, Amazing Explorers will open new locations in Central Florida.

Forestieri, an accomplished speaker and entrepreneur, is also an author. She co-wrote “SIMPLE STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6,” a resource book for parents. She has also written the first in a children’s book series called “Grow in STEAM.”

13635 Walcott Avenue | Orlando, FL 32827 | aexplorers.com | marnieforestieri.com | Facebook: @marnieforestieri | Twitter: @mforestieri01 | Instagram: @Marnie_Forestieri


Dr. Kelly LaFave has provided compassionate, cutting-edge patient care to thousands of Florida patients for over 12 years. During her career, she has conducted research, published in scientific journals, authored textbook chapters, and presented at national meetings.  Additionally, she has participated in numerous clinical trials and served in leadership roles on several hospital committees.  Her particular clinical interests include breast, gynecological, lung, brain, skin, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, lymphomas and head and neck cancer.

Dr. LaFave earned her bachelor’s degree with Honors and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, where she was awarded the Research Presentation Award. She completed her radiation oncology residency at the University of Miami, where she was appointed as the Chief Radiation Oncology Resident and was awarded the Clinical Service Award and the American College of Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting Travel Award. Dr. LaFave is board certified in Radiation Oncology.

As the Co-Founder and Co-Medical Director of Florida Radiation Oncology, one of the many positive changes Dr. LaFave is most proud of is providing a totally patient-centered, caring and calming outpatient radiation therapy center for patients while also using the most advanced and precise radiation technology available.  “I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to co-found Florida Radiation Oncology to provide state-of–the-art cancer care to patients in the Orlando area,’’ she says. “It is an honor and a privilege to care for patients with cancer.”  Services provided at the center include stereotactic body radiotherapy, frameless stereotactic brain radiosurgery, image-guided and intensity modulated radiation therapy, high dose rate brachytherapy and radiopharmaceuticals.

She strives to provide personalized cancer care based on each patient’s unique needs, all coordinated with the medical providers on the patient’s care team.  “As an independent center, we can work with all the physicians throughout our community, not just affiliated with one particular hospital system,” she says. Dr. LaFave is continually inspired by her cancer patients in the Orlando region and is proud to serve the community as a board member of the American Cancer Society. She is committed to keeping her patients well-informed about all of the cancer treatment options available to them. What sets her radiation oncology practice apart is advanced technology, her attention to detail and the personalized patient experience she provides.

483 N. Semoran Blvd., Suite 107 | Winter Park, FL 32792 | PHONE: 407-539-0722 | Fax: 407-539-0723 | appointments@flradiation.com | flradiation.com


Kelly L. Price has been moving people in and around The City Beautiful since 1992. An expert in the local real estate market, her Winter Park-based firm, Kelly Price & Company, represents community and family, exemplifying the commitment that is required to provide each and every client with superior, award-winning service. Founded on principles based on Integrity, Loyalty, and Unwavering Enthusiasm, Kelly is a charismatic ambassador who is continually finding new ways to give back to the community she’s called home for more than 40 years.

A graduate of Winter Park High School and an MBA Graduate of the Crummer School of Business, Kelly has lived in Winter Park since she was 12 years old. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Maitland, she’s a small-town girl at heart, and you can bet she knows all the good swimming holes.

When she launched her company in 2002, she promised to bring a new level of exceptional professionalism to the real estate industry, and that’s just what she’s done. With her open-door policy, buyers and sellers from New Smyrna Beach to Windermere are welcome to stop by 7 days a week to meet with an agent who can answer any questions they might have. Blending today’s technology with impeccable style, Kelly’s brand consistently produces top dollar for clients—which is the best reward.

Aside from the demands of leading a top brokerage firm, Kelly enjoys spending time with her beloved four-legged children, Scout and Ella, as well as her longtime boyfriend, Doug. In her limited spare time Kelly can sometimes be found globetrotting and experiencing new sites and cultures, but you’ll always hear her say “there’s no place like home.”

Devoted, authentic and ready to serve her community, Kelly L. Price is a powerhouse broker and a local advocate, proudly  representing Central Florida’s most distinguished homes for more than 25 years.

243 W. Park Ave., Winter Park, FL  32789 | Phone: 407-645-4321 | kellypriceandcompany.com


Orlando is an exciting, vibrant, growing community that provides a wonderful foundation for small, independently owned businesses. Working and living in downtown Orlando is exciting. Many positive changes have occurred in our community such as our new performing arts center, our burgeoning arts district, and our unique, independent restaurant scene. Our community is more involved than ever in creating and supporting avenues for small businesses to flourish and this is a community where I am proud to be a part. With so many of today’s medical and dental practices being overtaken by corporations, it is making it very difficult for sole owner operated practices to thrive. Women, as practice owners, are particularly challenged, to juggle the demands of patient care, business ownership, and family life. The next generation of female dentists and physicians face increasingly mounting student debt loans making it virtually impossible to own and run autonomous practices. Insurance companies, with their leverages and requirements make it even harder to deliver appropriate care to patients. Thanks to the distinctiveness of our community, there is plenty of support to overcome these challenges and operate thriving independent small businesses within our city.

1600 Hillcrest Street | Orlando, FL 32803 | Phone: 407-641-2213 | dsdorlando.com


Anne Rue is the founder and principal designer leading the team at her firm, Anne Rue Interiors. Better known to locals as ARI, her boutique design firm, located in Central Florida, has been creating the dream spaces of luxury clients for over 20 years and specializes in luxury residential, model merchandising, multi-family housing and senior living. Aside from being a celebrated designer locally, Anne was also the fan-favorite contestant on HGTV’s Design Star and the lead designer on Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Outside of running her successful firm, Anne finds her greatest joy to be managing the busy household she shares with her three active sons. Anne and her team at Anne Rue Interiors know all the foundation rules of design, but they also know when to break them. By exceeding client expectations and creating meaningful partnerships with other home industry experts like builders and architects, Anne Rue Interiors has made a name for themselves in Florida and around the country. With a bold and dynamic team of designers, an unmatched knowledge of their industry, and their signature touch of timeless sophistication it is no wonder ARI is thriving alongside their fearless leader Anne Rue.

4260 Church Street, Suite 1300 | Sanford, FL 32771 | Phone: 407-322-6742 | Annerue.com


JoAnn Newman’s first encounter with Orlando Science Center was as a mom, chaperoning her daughter’s fifth-grade class during a sleepover. What resonated with her most about that overnight adventure, beyond the fact that no one slept, was how the Science Center made science come to life through iconic experiences. Today, as the Science Center’s President and CEO, JoAnn continues to be inspired by that memory.

“I still remember the excitement of those kids, and I see how experiences like that helped shape my own daughter,” she says. Running the Science Center has allowed JoAnn to merge lifelong passions of engineering and community service with the endless possibilities that a hands-on science museum provides. She came there after a decades-long engineering career and rose to the ranks of VP of Operations and then Chief Operating Officer before becoming President and CEO in 2009.

During her tenure, Orlando Science Center has grown to engage more than 627,000 people annually. “We’ve roughly doubled everything—attendance, revenue, and staff.  People often ask how we’ve done that, and I believe it starts with a devotion to the quality of the experience,” she says. National recognition has followed with prestigious grants from NASA and the Office of Naval Research. In 2017, the Science Center was recognized with Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders Award. In 2017 and 2018, it was a finalist for the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal—the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries.

JoAnn is dedicated to an educational, authentic and relevant experience for all. The unveiling of the all-new KidsTown exhibit in 2016 was the first phase of a $30 million multi-year campaign to revitalize experiences and expand resources. Phase 2 was recently completed with the premieres of three new offerings: a flight lab that uses virtual reality to turn visitors into fighter pilots; an updated suite of cutting-edge lab spaces to support field trips, break camps and teacher training; and an original makerspace to inspire visitors’ creativity with laser cutters, 3D printers, sewing machines and woodworking tools. Fundraising continues with Phase 3, which is focused on a massive new exhibit with live animals and immersive interactive experiences that will create lasting connections to nature and the environment.

“I like to tell people we’re in the inspiration business,” JoAnn says. “We spark curiosity and inspire wonder. And inspiration leads to innovation. And innovation can change the world.”

777 E. Princeton Street | Orlando, FL 32803 | Phone: 407-514-2000 | OSC.org

Categories: Highlights