Many of us have heard the adage: “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But how many are so lucky to discover that love early in life and then turn that passion into not only a successful career, but one that benefits the community? Jon Hughes, president of Track Shack/EMMI and director of Disney Marathon/runDisney, began running long distances at Winter Park High School in the early 1970s, and has never stopped.
He credits both the education he received at Seminole State College of Florida as well as the guidance under former track and field head coach Terry Long with helping him to become the success story he is today.
Hughes, who graduated with an associate degree in business from Seminole State in 1977, was offered a scholarship to join the track and field program at the College. Interestingly, Coach Long had been known to produce some of the state’s top sprinters, but the incoming class of freshman in 1975 included many recently graduated high school students whose talent was in long-distance running. Hughes was now teammates with those he had previously competed against from Oviedo High School, Evans High School and Edgewater High School, just to name a few. Hughes marvels at how Coach Long was able to shift his coaching style to meet the needs of the long-distance runners, and recalls the impact that Coach Long had on the athletes.
“Coach Long was so much more than a traditional coach to us; he was more of a life coach,” Hughes stated.
After his stint at Seminole State College, Coach Long followed in his father’s footsteps and coached the track and field program at Florida State University for 15 years. Long has coached 272 all-conference athletes, nine Olympians and 82 All-Americans.
In addition to spending time with his teammates on Seminole State’s track and field team, Hughes took the opportunity to dig into the curriculum offered in the College’s business program. He looks back fondly at how well he was prepared by coursework in accounting, economics, business law and oral interpretation to eventually run his own businesses. Hughes and his wife, Betsy, founded what is now the nation’s best-attended running event, the Disney Marathon. Additionally, they own and manage Track Shack, a specialty running store near downtown Orlando that has served the running and walking community since 1977. They also own Event Marketing and Management International (or Track Shack Events), the sister company to Track Shack that manages and produces many running-related events throughout the region. Through the success of these organizations, the Hughes family has established the Track Shack Youth Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization with the purpose of promoting health and fitness with an emphasis on youth programs. Since it was started in 1994, the foundation has touched the lives of thousands of people and contributed more than $2 million to the greater Central Florida community, primarily serving Orange, Osceola, Lake, Seminole, Brevard and Volusia counties.
“When I think about what makes me most proud in our career achievements, it’s the impact that we’re able to make on the community,” added Hughes. “We have an event that attracts more than 18,000 participants – many who don’t consider themselves runners – which encourages collaboration and camaraderie among businesses in Central Florida. The Corporate 5K has grown to become a can’t-miss event here. And we attract people from all over the world to Central Florida for some of our Disney events; proving what I already know… that we’ve got something really special going on in this community.”
Hughes’s impact stretches far beyond Central Florida. He was one of the youngest inductees into the Florida Track & Field Hall of Fame; admitted in 1987 at the age of 29. In 2008, he and Betsy were inducted into the Running Event Hall of Fame, and the Running USA Hall of Champions in 2009.
To this day, Hughes encourages students to consider state colleges as an affordable alternative to starting at a four-year college or university, stating that the caliber of education students receive at Seminole State College is second-to-none.
Seminole State College Alumni Association: The Seminole State College Alumni Association provides benefits and services for alumni as they continue their lifelong connection with Seminole State College of Florida, providing opportunities for them to network with one another, interact with the student body and support the College. To learn more, visit the Alumni Association website.
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