William Ronald “Ron” Jeffries was born in 1937 in Lakeland, Florida and was a descendant of a pioneering Polk County family. In Lakeland High School he was a charter member of the FFA chapter and a district winner in the public speaking contest. After high school Ron enrolled in the University of Florida, where he was president of the Collegiate FFA and a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Ron graduated in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and accepted a position as vocational agriculture teacher at Zephyrhills High School. Under his leadership the FFA chapter membership grew, and within six years it was one of the top five in the state. The quality of the Zephyrhills agriculture program was demonstrated by many student accomplishments in FFA, including a state president, regional vice president, and state public speaking winner. Ron treated his students as part of his extended family, inviting them for dinner and holding judging classes at night in his home.
After eight years of achievement Ron moved on to a broader field for his efforts as he was hired by the Department of Education in Tallahassee in 1968. Working with educational and government leaders to strengthen vocational programs and vocational student organizations, including FFA, he served as a statewide consultant and then Area 1 Supervisor for vocational agriculture programs. Ron worked his way up to State Administrator for Agricultural Education programs and State Advisor for Florida FFA, and he then served seven years as Section Director for Vocational Programs and Staff Development in the Florida Department of Education.
In 1982 Ron decided he wanted to return home and took the job of Assistant Superintendent for Vocational and Adult Education in Polk County. There he worked with industry and local organizations and was a leader in developing programs that included the School-to-Work Program, which was named the number one program of its type in Florida. Ron retired in 1997 but stayed involved in agriculture by joining with family members to purchase and operate a small farm and citrus grove east of Lakeland on land settled by his grandfather, Hardin Combee.
He was awarded the Honorary State Farmer Degree in 1972 and was elected President of the Florida Vocational Association in 1988. In 1990 Ron received the FFA Blue and Gold Award and the Carl Proehl Distinguished Service Award for outstanding leadership in vocational, technical and adult education. In 1997 his efforts on behalf of Polk County’s workforce earned him the Central Florida Development Council’s outstanding service award, and he received the great honor of induction into the Florida Vocational Association’s Hall of Fame. He is still active in the Rotary Club, Farm Bureau, and his church, and he and Dot enjoy activities with their three children and four grandchildren.
Ron Jeffries was inducted into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame October 5, 2010.