Alumnus Shares His Journey from Musician to Global Advocate

By Robin Shear
UM News


Sam Daly-Harris returned to his alma mater to present the Distinguished Alumni Lecture.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 21, 2015) — When Sam Daley-Harris was in his senior year at the University of Miami, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The event so shook him that the musician questioned who he was and what his purpose in life would be for however long he had on this earth.

Forty-five years later, Daley-Harris, B.M. ’69, M.M. ’75, was back at his alma mater to share his journey from philosophical musician to global activist during the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Lecture held at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center.

“Making the Difference You’ve Always Dreamed of Making” was the title of his talk, and by the end it was clear Daley-Harris has done just that and then some.

The Miami native was a percussionist with the Miami Philharmonic Orchestra and a high school music teacher when he founded the anti-poverty lobbying group RESULTS and its sister organization RESULTS Educational Fund in 1980. His achievements in empowering millions of everyday citizens to demand action from Congress in the fight against poverty and hunger have earned international attention and accolades.

In 1994 his book on this topic, Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break between People and Government, was published. A year later Daley-Harris founded the Microcredit Summit Campaign along with Muhammad Yunus and FINCA founder John Hatch. Yunus, now a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, wrote the foreword for the 20th anniversary reissue of the book.

A chance meeting with UM President Donna E. Shalala brought Daley-Harris back to speak at his alma mater after four decades. They met during a reception for the 40th anniversary of The Children’s Defense Fund, he explained, where Daley-Harris’s wife has worked for the past 25 years. Shalala served as the fund’s board chair from 1992-93. Her interest during that meeting led Daley-Harris to reconnect with the UM Alumni Association.

Roughly 200 people gathered to hear Daley-Harris speak on January 15 at the Newman Alumni Center. Among them were his former percussion professor, Fred Wickstrom, his former classmates from college and high school, his former music students, as well as his mother, wife, and daughter.

Looking out over all the familiar faces in the audience, he remarked to laughter, “It’s like my bar mitzvah all over again.”

Daley-Harris went on to explain that RESULTS has been successful in increasing significant appropriations for key issues like microfinancing and child and maternal health because the group gives its volunteers the support and coaching necessary to go from their comfort zone (like writing checks or clicking a mouse) to the place “where the magic happens,” he said. “If you want greatness from volunteers, you have to provide them with a great structure of support.”’

He said RESULTS and other like-minded groups have empowered countless volunteers through monthly conference calls with guest speakers that enable them to ask questions and practice articulating their knowledge on issues. Role-playing and providing constructive feedback are also critical in strengthening the commitment and capabilities of volunteers, he said.

When met with cynicism or apathy toward the political process, Daley-Harris said he points to the achievement of groups like RESULTS and those he has coached. He shared that the Child Survival Fund, which has gone from receiving $25 million per year to receiving $700 million per year in appropriations since RESULTS began lobbying on child health issues in 1984. At the same time, he added, preventable child deaths have decreased from 41,000 per day in 1984 to 17,000 per day in 2014. “RESULTS didn’t vaccinate one child,” he said. “It created a center of advocacy that allowed that to happen.”

A group whose founder he coached, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has grown to 225 chapters globally since its launch in 2007. Pointing to its impact, Daley-Harris noted that CCL volunteers in the U.S. and Canada had 1,789 letters to the editor published in 2014 (up from 36 in 2010) and had 925 meetings with members of Congress, Parliament, or their staff.

In 2012 he created the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation (CCET) to help other nongovernmental organizations train their members to create champions in Congress and the media for their cause.

Toward the end of his talk, Daley-Harris shared a favorite anecdote illustrating why he’s so invested in his work. Speaking recently at another university, he was asked for his view of the single most important issue to tackle going into the next 50 years. He replied that while a scientist might say climate change and a political scientist might say campaign reform and someone else might highlight another global concern, for him, the most critical issue remains “why so few of us see ourselves as change makers. If we could change that,” he concluded, “there would be a barrage of us pouring in to address all of these other issues.”

Daley-Harris concluded his lecture with a Q&A session and book signing. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife, Shannon, and their two children, Micah and Sophie.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: For This Couple, Giving Back Passes the Taste Test

Drs. Roper and Chaudhari

Nirupa Chaudhari and Stephen D. Roper

Two leading-edge researchers at the Miller School of Medicine have been contributing to the University of Miami since joining the faculty in 1995. “As teachers and researchers, our careers are all about giving back to our students, our university, and to society,” says Nirupa Chaudhari, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and director of the University-wide Neuroscience Graduate Training Program.

Her husband, Stephen D. Roper, Ph.D., also a professor of physiology and biophysics, is equally committed to enhancing University programs. “One of the most important reasons UM is well regarded locally is that faculty and staff contribute their time, effort, and funds to the community,” he says.

Over the years, Roper and Chaudhari have supported the Lowe Art Museum, the Miller School, and a number of other areas while raising their son, Peter. For two decades, they also have been Leadership Donors in UM’s United Way campaign—a giving level for employees who donate 1 percent or more of their salary.

While Roper and Chaudhari often collaborate in their studies, they have separate laboratories and pursue different research interests. “I am trying to understand the sense of taste,” says Roper, who received the 2010 Max Mozell Award for Distinguished Senior Chemosensory Scientist and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Physiology (London). “My work has implications for appetite control and obesity. While taste doesn’t determine how much we eat, it controls what we select to eat, from fruits and meats to high-calorie desserts.”

A molecular biologist, Chaudhari is studying the genetic factors that allow taste bud cells to detect sour, sweet, salty, or bitter flavors. “I am also interested in how the taste buds regenerate, grow new cells, and reconnect to the nerves that carry signals to the brain,” she says. “Those studies may have implications for patients with throat and neck cancers since chemotherapy or radiation destroys taste buds and may compromise the body’s taste system.”

For Chaudhari and Roper, ongoing funding for the University’s research, clinical, and educational programs is critical to its continued success. As Chaudhari says, “We feel it is essential for faculty members and other employees to support the next generation at UM and in the wider community.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Yoly Hernandez Peddles Her Passion for Cancer Research


Yolanda “Yoly” Hernandez

As director of special projects, Yolanda “Yoly” Hernandez, is passionate about raising funds for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our team of experts discover, develop, and deliver the world’s most effective ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer,” Hernandez says. “Most importantly, funds raised for Sylvester stay in South Florida, guaranteeing that the day you or a loved one may need cancer treatment, you won’t need to go very far.”

A cancer survivor who has been in remission for more than 25 years, Hernandez is also a top fundraiser for the Dolphins Cycling Challenge (DCC), the annual tri-county event held in partnership with the Miami Dolphins to raise funds for Sylvester. A virtual rider who will cheer for Team UM Sylvester and all the other cyclists during the fifth challenge February 7-8, Hernandez says the secret to her fundraising prowess is passing on her enthusiasm for the DCC to colleagues, family, friends, and grateful patients. “They understand the importance of this fundraiser and rally behind me every year.”

After earning her bachelor of arts degree, Hernandez began working at UM’s School of Medicine in 1972 as an assistant to Robert Zeppa, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery. She then worked for the Department of Oncology, chaired by G. Zubrod, as an assistant to Dr. Nathaniel Berlin. She became development officer at Sylvester in 1992. “I’m proud to say that I’ve been with Sylvester since the first day, and I’m still here,” she says. “This is a job I do with all my heart. Every day, I talk with our faculty, our nurses, and our patients about why Sylvester is so special. Every time our researchers make a new discovery, the whole benefits from their work.”

Along with her husband, Carlos, Hernandez raised a ’Cane—their daughter Rebecca, who in 2008 earned two UM degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Motion Pictures and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. She then continued her studies at New York University and graduated with a master’s degree as a specialist in film and media restoration and archiving.

“I believe it’s important for employees to support our University,” Hernandez says. “If you feel a connection with one of our schools or programs, you can show your gratitude by making a financial contribution. Every gift makes a difference, no matter how large or small.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Julie Kornfeld Fuels Passion for Public Health by Removing Barriers

Julie Kornfeld

Julie Kornfeld

Julie Kornfeld is so inspired by the graduate students she guides in the master’s in public health (M.P.H.) and the combined M.D./M.P.H programs at the Miller School of Medicine that she is compelled to help them succeed. “They are passionate about transforming the health of our communities,” says the assistant dean for public health in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “But graduate education is expensive, and I want to help remove the financial barriers for our students.”

Kornfeld has been contributing to the University for more than 20 years through the United Way and Momentum2 campaigns. “My donations have primarily been focused on providing scholarships for our public health students,” she says. “My dream is for every qualified student to be able to afford the training they need to address our nation’s public health problems.”

Kornfeld grew up in Philadelphia and worked in television and the nonprofit sector before joining the University 21 years ago. A double UM alumna, she earned a master’s degree in public health in 1997 and a doctoral degree in 2009. Her husband, Fred Silverman, a TV producer and communications consultant who also has taught at UM, is now enrolled at the University as a graduate film student. They have three children, Dylan, Morgan, and Ely.

“We all volunteer our time and raise funds for nonprofit organizations,” she says. “There are so many needs in our community, and we believe it’s important to give something back.”

At the University, Kornfeld plays a critical role in the development and implementation of the Miller School’s public health curriculum. Since 2010, she has served as the co-principal investigator on an educational development grant to accelerate the M.D./M.P.H. program so students can obtain both degrees in four years rather than five. She is also an active instructor for a wide variety of public health courses, including special seminars for dual degree programs at the law and medical schools.

Reflecting on the importance of donations, Kornfeld says, “I believe that all faculty and staff members should support UM. It’s important for our University’s future and it demonstrates to our students and co-workers that we truly believe in what we do every day.”

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UM’s Newest ’Canes Urged to ‘Tackle Big Problems’

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 18, 2014) – With final exams now over, the last research papers written, and master’s and doctoral theses already vigorously defended, graduates at the University of Miami’s 2014 fall commencement were issued a daunting challenge Thursday before their college degrees were even conferred: “Help us build and grow a society that is willing to tackle big problems,” Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and the moderator of the network’s flagship Meet the Press Sunday morning public affairs program, told them.

“You’ve lived through two decades of political paralysis, so this is your challenge—lead us out of this mess,” said Todd.

A self-described political junkie who has earned a reputation as one of the most passionate journalists and sharpest analysts in American media, Todd told graduates that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers had failed them, noting the two wars, financial crisis, and rapid polarization they have witnessed in their lifetime.

“We have left a mess, a real leadership void,” he said. “The greatest strides we’ve made have been in the world of technology. Then again, what have we done with this technology? We didn’t cure cancer.” Social media, which was supposed to bring people closer together, he said, has been used “to help segregate us as a society. … These new social networks, while prolific, have become monolithic. And it’s really had a negative impact on society, especially on our politics. Somehow, despite the access we have to everyone around the world, we’ve allowed ourselves to become more isolated.”

Todd, who was named an Honorary Alumnus at the ceremony, urged UM’s newest ’Canes to realize how much the country needs “you to get us past this division and selfish behavior,” referring to the well-publicized rifts between Democrats and Republicans.

His sage advice to the students: love what you do for a living, always remember that the little things matter, find a way to say “yes,” take risks early in life, and never take family for granted.

A Miami native who turned down a music scholarship to attend UM because his mother wanted him to experience life outside his hometown, Todd reminded students that he still has passion and love for the U. He noted that some of his life’s most memorable moments occurred on the UM campus—from his first French horn solo at Gusman Concert Hall to his first Little League base hit at Mark Light Stadium.

UM, he said, is just as important to his upbringing as his education at George Washington University, where he attended college. “I always say when you go to the University of Miami, it looks like America in the 21st century,” he said.

Two honorary degrees were conferred at the ceremony. Husband and wife economists Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program at Brookings and the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, and Sidney G. Winter, professor emeritus of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the leading figures in the revival of evolutionary economics, both received honorary doctoral degrees of humane letters.

More than 1,000 undergraduate, graduate, and law students received their newly minted degrees at the ceremony, held at the BankUnited Center. Read profiles of some of UM’s stellar graduates, including the School of Communication’s Iris Barrios and Miami Law’s Vanessa Joseph and Brendan Corrigan.

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