Homecoming Pageantry and Pride Animate Campus

Floats, fireworks, food trucks, and football helped make Homecoming and Alumni Weekend 2014 a memorable occasion for thousands of alumni, students, faculty, and staff. Reaching a crescendo on Halloween night with a pyrotechnics display, boat-burning ceremony, and parade that featured Hurricanes football great and cancer survivor Jim Kelly as grand marshal, the weeklong slate of homecoming activities included a Hurricanes Help the Hometown day of service, blood drive, organized cheer, Homecoming king and queen competition, alma mater singing contest, concert, and more—all under the theme “Animate Your Story,” which colored Disney’s Pixar Animation with ’Cane spirit. It was Donna E. Shalala’s last Homecoming and Alumni Weekend as UM president. Earlier this year, she announced she is stepping down at the end of the 2014-15 academic year. The Homecoming Executive Committee composed of students organized the week of events. View the slideshow.

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New Iron Arrow Tappees Humbled and Honored

Thirty one students, faculty, staff and alumni were tapped into the University’s highest honor last week.

By Mike Piacentino
Special to UM News

David Birnbach is

Vice Provost David Birnbach is inked with the University’s colors, part of the Iron Arrow tapping ritual.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (Oct. 31, 2014) – David Birnbach, vice provost for faculty affairs and director of the University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Hospital Center for Patient Safety, thought he was meeting with Provost Thomas J. Leblanc when the tribe interrupted the meeting.

“At first, as I heard the drum, I thought about who might be the recipient, and it never dawned on me that they were here for me,” said Birnbach. “When the door crashed open and I was flung into the whirlwind of activity, I was at first shocked, then thrilled, and ultimately humbled by the great honor.”

As vice provost, Birnbach oversees the promotion and tenure process, faculty mentoring programs, faculty diversity, and faculty development and recognition programs. Birnbach was recently named senior associate dean for Quality, Safety and Risk.

Thirty one students, faculty, staff, and alumni were tapped last Wednesday and Thursday into the University of Miami Iron Arrow Honor Society.

Iron Arrow was started in 1926, about a month after the University of Miami opened. It honors individuals who show a love of alma mater and embody the qualities of good character, leadership, scholarship, and humility. There are more than 2,900 members.

Christian Garcia, executive director of the Toppel Career Center, had the rare opportunity Thursday to tap his predecessor, Jim Smart, who is now executive director of Housing and Residential Life, into the “highest honor attained at the University of Miami.”

Iron Arrow members frequently use fake meetings or ask soon-to-be-tappees for a quick coffee break in order to secure a tapping time and location. So Smart had his “meeting” with Brenden Kollar, a former resident assistant who is working on the University’s new housing plan. But the meeting was soon interrupted by the familiar beating of the drum, and Garcia and Matt McCabe, a UM alumnus and former resident assistant in Hecht Residential College, pulled their mentor from his chair and presented him for the ritual tapping.

“Much of Toppel’s success is the direct result of Jim’s leadership and vision as director,” said Garcia, who was tapped in the spring 2014. “I jumped at the opportunity to recognize my mentor and predecessor for his passion and dedication to UM.”

Smart was a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community at UM and served as the founding advisor for the University’s first student organization supporting LGBTQ students. Since then, Smart has continued to ensure that all University of Miami students feel at home during their time at UM.

“Jim is most deserving of this honor,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “He is an outstanding and dedicated leader at the University of Miami and has served our students with distinction for more than 24 years.”

Shane McDermott, a UM senior and offensive lineman for the Hurricanes football team, was tapped into the tribe during a special tapping ceremony on Wednesday evening. In front of his coaches, trainers, teammates, and mother, McDermott was watching film when the tap of the arrow fell upon his chest.

The full Fall 2014 tappee list includes:

Daniel Atherton

David Birnbach

Patricia Byers

Nejla Calvo

Phillip Chan

David Coulter

Douglas “Doug” Crawford

Melissa Damas

Ryan Dauer

Juan Carlos del-Valle

Nicole Garcia

Barry Gelman

Michael Genden

Kysha Harriell

Hope Hua

Erin Kobetz

Ken Lee

Vinay Madhusoodanan

Michael Maguire

Ashley McBride

Shane McDermott

Angelica Melillo

Charles Mercer

Julie Piccione

David Rivero

Mitchell Roffer

James “Jim” Smart

Heather Stephens

Guerdiana Thelomar

Richard Thurer

Kristy Whyte


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Fall 2014 Commencement: Dates and Regalia Information

The Fall 2014 Commencement Ceremony will be held in the BankUnited Center on Thursday, December 18 at 10 a.m. for all graduate and undergraduate degrees awarded from all of the following schools and colleges:

  • School of Architecture
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Business Administration
  • School of Communication
  • School of Education and Human Development
  • College of Engineering
  • Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
  • Miller School of Medicine (non-M.D. degrees)
  • School of Law
  • Frost School of Music
  • School of Nursing and Health Studies


Faculty are to pick up their regalia at the Toppel Career Center during the distribution days on December 16 and 17. For more information please contact the Toppel Career Center directly at 305-284-5451.  If you are attending as a dissertation advisor, please e-mail commencement@miami.edu and include your candidate(s) name. If you need further information regarding commencement, call 305-284-1821 or email the director, Lexi Matiash, at LMatiash@miami.edu.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Graduate Degree Ceremony

Friday, May 8, 2015

Undergraduate Degree Ceremonies


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Alumnus’ Gift to Launch Speaker Series on the First Amendment

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 30,2014)—James Hoffman, A.B. ’80, has made a $50,000 pledge that will create the James Hoffman Family Endowed Speaker Series in the School of Communication at the University of Miami. The gift will be used to fund an annual lecture on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Our founders knew how tyranny operated, and this knowledge offered them the insight to craft the First Amendment to the Constitution,” said Hoffman, a businessman in the Denver area. “This led to a set of rights that became the fabric of the new society. It is essential that students are forever mindful of these rights that guarantee our democracy.”

Hoffman, a longtime UM volunteer and past president of the UM Alumni Association’s Denver Alumni Club, and his wife, Joy, are pleased to present this gift to the School of Communication “with the hope of continuing free expression in all its forms.”

Professor Sam Terilli, chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Management, expressed his gratitude to Hoffman and his family for this commitment.

“The First Amendment and journalism are inextricably linked not just through the free press clause, but through all of the freedoms encompassed by the amendment,” Terilli said. “These freedoms are the subject of daily news coverage and public debate. This series will allow us to offer students, faculty, and the public a wonderful opportunity each year to look beneath the surface and understand the deeper issues.”


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Faculty Senate to Meet on Medical Campus October 29

The Faculty Senate will meet Wednesday, October 29, at 3:30 p.m. at the Lois Pope LIFE Center, seventh-floor auditorium, on the Miller School of Medicine campus. All faculty members are welcome to attend. There is no set agenda, but this meeting offers a special opportunity to address your questions and concerns directly to the president. For more information, visit the Faculty Senate Webpage.

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