Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Cements Stardom in Hollywood

By Robin Shear
UM News

Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s size 14 shoes and former pro wrestler mitts are immortalized in cement at the TCL Chinese in Hollywood. Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 21, 2015) – The earth stood still in Hollywood on Tuesday, May 19, as the star of the forthcoming earthquake-themed blockbuster San Andreas planted his powerful hands and feet in wet cement in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Following in the foot and handprints of such legends as Marilyn Monroe and Robert DeNiro, UM alumnus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, B.G.S. ’95, stepped into Hollywood history, immortalizing his size 14 shoes and former pro wrestler mitts ten days before the scheduled premiere of his new action movie, which opens May 29.

Surrounded by family and fans, Johnson, who has a string of winning films and TV appearances to his credit, underlined his personalized slab with the word “Blessed!” And right now he seems particularly so, heading into a summer that includes San Andreas, about a rescue helicopter pilot on a mission to save his estranged daughter in the wake of a massive earthquake in California, and Ballers, the new HBO series filmed partly on UM’s Coral Gables campus that’s set to debut June 21.

Introducing Johnson at Tuesday’s event, San Andreas director Brad Peyton said, “He’s humble, he’s gracious, he’s kind, he’s attentive.”

Thanking his family, team, and multitude of fans, Johnson recounted how seeing movie hero Indiana Jones at age 8 inspired him.

“I knew I wanted to be that guy who was charming with the ladies, cool. The tough guy—but doing it with a smile,” he said.

The future champion of Hurricanes football and World Wrestling Entertainment made his own whip out of a stick and string and then got his first pair of boxing gloves to start building himself physically—“anything I could do to change my life with my hands,” he explained.

Fast forward a few decades, and Steven Spielberg, the director of the movie that spawned Johnson’s  childhood hero, sent him a letter “out of the blue” that read, “You’re going for it. You keep going for it,” recalled Johnson before taking the cement plunge.

“I’m so proud of this moment. I’m so grateful. Not only does it symbolize hard work. It symbolizes the people I have around me supporting me in my hard work,” Johnson said, singling out his family, his team, and his fans, whom he called part of his “extended family.”

Johnson shares the iconic distinction with another UM alumnus and big-screen hero, Sylvester Stallone, B.F.A. ’98, who on June 29, 1983, became the 148th person to be honored by the theater.

This June 5, Stallone will be on hand during the University of Miami Alumni Association’s own blockbuster weekend in Los Angeles, California. The Rocky and Rambo star will be recognized for his outstanding career achievements with the Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award during the first-ever Regional Alumni Awards Ceremony.

The evening before, on June 4, the School of Communication and UM Alumni Association will join forces at the Directors Guild of America to present the 2015 ’Canes Film Showcase, featuring top student films from the Motion Pictures Program and a pantheon of judges from the industry, many of whom are alumni. The evening’s emcee will be Jason Kennedy, B.S.C. ’04, co-host of E! News.



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From Pizza to Mediterranean Cuisine, Food Trucks Beef Up Summer Fare

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Food Trucks

Frankie’s Pizza has been serving up its square slices for 55 years in Miami, and for two summers at The Rock.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 20, 2015) – It had become something of a tradition. After every Southwest Miami High School football game, Candy Jackson and a few of her classmates would drive over to Bird Road and order cheese and pepperoni pies from one of their favorite hangouts, Frankie’s Pizza.

“I guess you could say I was raised on Frankie’s,” said Jackson, who is now an assistant director in the University of Miami’s Office of Financial Assistance Services. Read the full story

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Miller Family’s $55M Gift Lifts Miller School, Momentum2 Over Goal

UM President Donna E. Shalala thanks Stuart Miller for his family's $55 million Momentum2 gift.

UM President Donna E. Shalala thanks Stuart Miller for his family’s $55 million Momentum2 gift.

UM News

Capping President Donna E. Shalala’s last commencement ceremony, Stuart Miller, chair of UM’s Board of Trustees and the Miller School of Medicine Momentum2 campaign, announced a “breakthrough” gift of $55 million from his family on May 9. The gift from UM’s longtime supporters was greeted with cheers by the medical school graduates, faculty, families and friends, and lifted the University over its $1.6 billion Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami goal, a stunning accomplishment that occurred more than a year ahead of schedule.

The Miller family’s gift will provide $50 million to build a new state-of-the-art medical education building on the campus of the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, which surpassed its school-based $1 billion fundraising goal. The remaining $5 million will support the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.

Combined with the $1.4 billion raised during the first Momentum campaign, President Shalala, who is stepping down at the end of the academic year, has raised more than $3 billion during a stellar 14-year term as president.

The total of $1,618,034,779 raised to date for Momentum2 is from a record 137,890 donors. During the campaign, donors contributed 261 gifts of $1 million or more. A total of 30 endowed chairs and professorships also were established, which will have a significant and enduring impact on the recruitment of outstanding faculty. The campaign also generated unprecedented levels of giving from University alumni, trustees, and parents, with total contributions from alumni at $401 million, trustees at $302 million, and parents at over $123 million. More than 30 percent of M2’s donors are alumni, constituting the largest number of alumni donations in UM’s campaign history.

Momentum2 was launched publicly in February 2012 with a lead gift of $100 million from the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Other high notes include more than $210 million raised for scholarships and student support, and more than $226 million for buildings and equipment, including 28 facility projects that will transform the face of the University in the years ahead. UM already has seen the impact of the campaign through the recent onset of construction or openings of the Donna E. Shalala Student Center, the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, the Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios, and the renovations of the Toppel Career Center and the Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life.

“Our family couldn’t be prouder of our commitment to the University,”  Stuart Miller said. “We felt our gift was a significant way to continue the advancement of the UM medical school enterprise that is such an important segment of our community, to honor President Shalala’s many contributions to the University and our community, and to recognize the leadership of Momentum2 campaign co-chairs Leonard and Jayne Abess, and Sergio Gonzalez and his team, whose tireless efforts have made it all possible. Our community has a lot to be proud of. Raising $3 billion is an incredible feat.”

The Millers are one of Miami’s most distinguished and civically engaged families, and their latest gift builds on the family’s $100 million donation to UM in November 2004, the largest gift from a family in University history, which named the school in honor of the late Leonard M. Miller, a UM lifetime trustee and former chair of the UM Board of Trustees. In October, UM announced that The Lennar Foundation, the charitable arm of The Lennar Corporation—which Leonard Miller founded and where his son Stuart, the current chair of the UM board, is chief executive officer —gave a lead gift of $50 million to make possible The Lennar Foundation Medical Center on the Coral Gables Campus. Including their most recent gift, the Miller family’s total giving to the University represents more than $221 million investment in higher education and health care.

“The Miller family truly believes in the University of Miami,” said President Shalala. “This latest gift to fund a new educational building for our Miller School of Medicine is an investment in a new generation of leaders in medicine and health care. Ultimately, our entire community will benefit from this gift.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth, who led the $1 billion campaign for the Miller School with Stuart Miller, said, “The Miller family’s exceptional generosity will allow UM to attract and train the very best and brightest medical students, who will now be educated in the most technically advanced educational environment in the country, and to transform health care not only for South Florida, but for the entire U.S. and beyond.”

The Miller family’s philanthropy has touched many areas of the University, including the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life at UM Hillel. Both Leonard Miller and his wife, Sue, received honorary doctoral degrees from UM, and Stuart is a University of Miami alumnus. In addition, Stuart’s brother, Jeffrey, and brother-in-law and UM trustee Steven Saiontz also graduated from the University. His sister, Leslie, is a well-known philanthropist in the community.

The capital campaign has been led by a prominent and dedicated group of volunteers who serve as university-wide campaign chairs and vice chairs and school-based campaign chairs.

“This campaign has been about people wanting to make a difference in the world and giving to an institution that does so much for our community and beyond,” said Leonard Abess, former chair of UM’s Board of Trustees and Momentum2 co-chair with his wife, Jayne. “We salute the Miller family and believe that their dedication will inspire others to continue to support an institution that truly benefits the people of South Florida.”

The University’s first billion-dollar fundraising effort, Momentum: The Campaign for the University of Miami, surpassed its $1 billion goal ahead of schedule and then went on to raise an unprecedented total of $1.4 billion by its completion in 2007. That marked the first time that a private university established in the 20th century had reached a billion-dollar fundraising goal.

“The Miller family has been crucial in the success of both Momentum campaigns,” said Sergio M. Gonzalez, UM Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs. “Their extraordinary generosity has raised the bar on philanthropic leadership in a way that is deeply personal, inspiring, and humbling. We are so grateful to all our donors who helped us surpass the $3 billion milestone. Every gift is making a meaningful and lasting difference.”

To learn more about the University of Miami’s successful Momentum2 campaign, visit www.miami.edu/m2.

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UM-Based Consortium Awarded $125M for Marine and Atmospheric Studies

UM News

The Surge-Structure-Atmosphere-Interaction, or SUSTAINfacility

The Rosenstiel School’s new SUrge STructure Atmosphere INteraction (SUSTAIN) facility, which can simulate surge produced by category 5 hurricane force winds, will now be available to NOAA through CIMAS.

MIAMI, Fla. (May 20, 2015)—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) up to $125 million to fund the consortium’s activities over the next five years. CIMAS, which is based at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, brings together the research and educational resources of ten partner universities to increase scientific understanding of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere within the context of NOAA’s mission.

The renewal award and increase in funding was based upon an “Outstanding” rating CIMAS received during the current award period’s performance review (2010-2015) by a NOAA Science Advisory Board subcommittee. Under the new cooperative agreement, Florida Institute of Technology has joined the Florida and Caribbean-based university consortium, which includes Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Nova Southeastern University, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of the Virgin Islands.

“CIMAS has rapidly grown in recent years and now serves a much broader NOAA community in addressing NOAA’s climate, weather, and ecosystem goals,” said Peter Ortner, CIMAS director and research professor at the Rosenstiel School.

The cooperative institute’s current research priorities, which include improved hurricane forecasting, facilitating the implementation of ecosystem-based ocean management, prediction of climate on increasingly short time scales, and support of the Global Ocean Observing System, are expected to continue over the next five years.

Unique new research facilities now available to NOAA through CIMAS  include the Rosenstiel School’s SUrge STructure Atmosphere INteraction (SUSTAIN) facility, which is capable of simulating 3D wind-wave flow and surge produced by category 5 hurricane force winds, and Nova Southeastern University’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research.

The renewed partnership allows investigators from UM and partner institutions to receive NOAA, as well as other federal agency, support for research projects, and facilitates collaboration with NOAA scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, National Hurricane Center, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, as well as other NOAA facilities and cooperative institutes nationwide.  NOAA currently supports 16 cooperative institutes that promote research, education, training, and outreach aligned with its mission and promotes the involvement of students and postdoctoral scientists in NOAA-funded research.

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In a ‘Celebration of the Possible,’ UM Inducts New Heritage Society Members

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

UM Motion Picture Students

From left are film students Italome Ohikhuare, Zulena Segarra-Berrios, Nicholas Katzenbach, Amanda Quintos, Joseph Picozzi, and Laura Falcone.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 13, 2015) – Could the next Steven Spielberg or Kathryn Bigelow already be enrolled at the University of Miami?

After viewing short clips from some of the films produced by students in the School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, many of the guests at a recent UM donor recognition event probably think so, and for good reason. The films—which range from a movie about a goofy but brilliant college student who is recruited to help the CIA on a top-secret mission, to a story about a man who realizes that Cuba is no place to raise a child and concocts a plan to become a “Marielito”—took top honors at UM’s recent ’Canes Film Showcase and are now headed to Los Angeles, where they will be screened for top Hollywood producers.

Planned gifts sometimes play a major role in helping such students achieve success, and on May 13, in a ceremony UM President Donna E. Shalala described as “a celebration of the possible,” UM honored those who have made planned gifts to or included UM in their estate plans, when the University hosted its 26th annual Heritage Society Luncheon.

“People who do planned giving really are optimistic,” Shalala said at the induction ceremony, a luncheon held in the first-floor ballroom of the Newman Alumni Center. “They not only have faith in a better future but are making sure they’re a part of making [that future] happen.”

During the luncheon, attendees got a look at that future in the form of the five, young student filmmakers who were in attendance, and they learned about the School of Communication’s plans for a $2 million interactive media center that will house a student-run agency offering advertising, design, public relations, Web, and other services.

Guests also learned about the tremendous impact of UM’s Heritage Society. Since it was established in 1988, more than 1,500 philanthropists have joined the organization, making gifts that Shalala said have a transformative impact on the University.

Over the years, UM faculty and staff have been well represented among the society’s membership, and at the May 13 ceremony, two representatives from the University’s workforce—one a newcomer, the other a recent retiree—were inducted.

Rodolphe el-Khoury, who last year became dean of UM’s School of Architecture, made a planned gift that will support a much-needed design studio building at the school.

“We’re really a collection of buildings, and we think of ourselves as a campus within a campus,” said el-Khoury, noting that many of the school’s classrooms—part of a Marion Manley-designed network of structures originally built as housing for returning World War II veterans—can accommodate only small classes. “We lack the big studio space where our students can work together in large groups. And that’s what the new building will offer—a gigantic area where they can work on their projects and see and learn from what their peers are doing.”

The future Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building, so named for the president and CEO of the major South Florida builder, Coastal Construction, which pledged $3.5 million for its creation, will include presentation areas, review spaces, and a computer lab. El-Khoury believes his planned gift in support of the building speaks louder than anything else “I could do to demonstrate my commitment to our school’s cause.”

New Heritage Society inductee Norman C. Parsons Jr., the former executive director of wellness and recreation whose name became synonymous with “health and fitness” over his 43 years at the University, directed his planned gift to a UM athletics program he hopes will be revived one day. “The U needs a men’s golf team, and I pray it happens soon,” said Parsons, who coached the sport to national prominence in the 1980s before it was dropped in 1993.

Parsons, who could not attend the ceremony, said he hopes “many others will join me in this most important endeavor.”

It is an endeavor that lays a “foundation for the future,” said Shalala. Some planned gifts have been pledged so long ago that sometimes they fall off the radar, eventually benefiting the University when least expected. “Every once in a while, a gift pops up that we actually didn’t know about, from a person who years ago had a wonderful experience at the University—either as a student or parent, or they received care at our medical center—and never forgot the wonderful contribution we made,” said Shalala. “Some of our largest gifts have come from people who have put us in their estate plans.”

She noted that during the Momentum2 campaign, UM focused more attention on this area of philanthropy, securing more than $270 million in planned giving. “For a young university, that’s a tremendous achievement that will benefit future generations,” said Shalala.

Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, echoed Shalala’s remarks, noting that the institution has exceeded its goal for endowment giving and that such giving helps fund programs in perpetuity that range from professorships to student scholarships.

Said Gonzalez, “Planned giving touches lives.”


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