University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala accepted the Colombian Congressional Medal of Honor on behalf of the institution during a March 1 ceremony at Constitution Hall in Bogotá. The ceremony was part of a recent three-day trip to Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia, that was taken by a UM delegation of Shalala, top administrators, and scholars to help solidify existing partnerships with hospitals and teaching institutions in the South American country.
“The Congressional Medal of Honor will always represent the bond of friendship and mutual respect between the people of Colombia and our University,” President Shalala said in her remarks, noting UM’s founding 85 years ago as a center of higher learning with a Pan American mission.
Colombian Senator Efrain Torrado Garcia, who is enrolled in the UM School of Business Administration’s Spanish-language Executive MBA Program, arranged for the medal to be presented to UM and also presided over the ceremony.
In her remarks, President Shalala also said UM’s most extensive and comprehensive affiliations lie with “our many colleagues and friends in Latin America and the Caribbean.” President Shalala singled out UM programs like the Center for Latin American Studies, saying that the initiative brings together UM’s many resources focusing on the region.
Currently, 49 undergraduate students from Colombia are enrolled at UM. “They are your proud ambassadors, and when they graduate, they will be proud ambassadors of the University of Miami as well,” Shalala said.
Among the highlights of the three-day trip were meetings with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Health Minister Mauricio Santamaria Salamanca, Minister of Education Maria Fernanda Campo, representatives of the American Colombian Chamber of Commerce, and UM alumni, as well as a visit to Nuevo Hospital Bocagrande, a 150-bed private health care facility in Cartagena that signed an affiliation agreement with UM’s International Medicine Institute to provide education, training, and research. The delegation also made visits to the Universidad de Los Andes, where they explored potential collaborations with UM’s School of Business Administration and Miller School of Medicine; and the affiliated hospital Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota Medical Center, which is a partner in a National Institutes of Health grant on bioethics with the UM Ethics Programs.
In addition, the delegation met with Luis Carlos Sarmiento Gutierrez, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from UM in 1983 and is president of Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores, SA, a Colombian holding company engaged in a wide variety of financial activities. Four of his sisters (Luz Angela, Sonia, Maria Claudia, and Adriana) are also UM alums.
Daniel Haime, president of Grasco Group, a family business established in 1950 in Bogotá, hosted the delegation. Haime funded an international scholars program in UM’s business school, and his wife, Kathy F. Haime, is a 1983 graduate of UM.