By Pamela Edward
Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 16, 2017)—When Kristi Brownlee was growing up in Memphis, she faced two obstacles to realizing her dream of becoming the first in her family to earn a four-year degree: a difficult home life and a lack of financial resources. She excelled in high school and forged ahead with college applications, all while dealing with significant family challenges.
At her father’s urging, Brownlee took a leap of faith and applied to the University of Miami—uncertain of her chances of acceptance, much less of finding the necessary funding. She was accepted, and her attendance was made possible by the scholarships she was awarded. Now a senior pursuing a dual-degree program in public health, she is living proof of the power of philanthropy to transform lives.
Brownlee spoke at UM’s annual Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon, held last Wednesday in the Shalala Student Center ballroom. She was among the scores of students who gathered to thank the many donors who have enabled talented young people to pursue their dreams of higher education.
Receiving her scholarships has made Brownlee “so very grateful for those who were generous enough to invest in my future.”
Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc echoed Brownlee’s sentiments. “Right now, at your table, you may have a future CEO, a future president, someone who is going to change the world—and that is a wonderful investment.”
Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, highlighted the Access to Excellence Roadmap Initiative, by which UM aims to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for admitted students by its centennial in 2025. The event’s guest speaker, UM Trustee and alumnus Pete Piechoski, related how his experiences as an undergraduate sparked a desire to give back to the U, which he has done by endowing three scholarships.
President Julio Frenk spoke of the students’ “incredible potential.” He praised the donors, whose generosity makes “something truly magical happen.” Their philanthropy enables scholarship recipients to fulfill their potential, and “go out and make the world a better place.”
In keeping with tradition, Frenk concluded his remarks by asking the students to pledge to “pay it forward” and support scholarship initiatives after they graduate and attain professional success.