A Rare Violin in Honor of a Rare Woman

In the prodigious hands of Frost School of Music violin student Miclen LaiPang, a 300-year-old Guarneri violin makes its University of Miami debut while honoring community leader, philanthropist, and education advocate Sue Miller.

UM News

With the Miller siblings, Jeffrey, Leslie, and Stuart, and Dean Shelly Berg behind him, senior Miclen LaiPang plays the Sue Miller Viloin, a 1714 Guarneri.  

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 31, 2017)—The moon was rising over Miami Beach on a recent Friday night as friends and family arrived at the Miller family home to pay tribute to a beloved community jewel, the late Sue Miller, who passed away in November 2016.

The highlight of the evening was the debut of a rare 1714 Giuseppe Guarneri ‘filius Andreae’ violin, purchased recently by the Frost School of Music through a major donation from the Miller family in honor of their matriarch, an avid music lover and tireless community supporter. Now called the Sue Miller Violin, the instrument will be loaned to a talented Frost School violin student each year upon the recommendation of the string faculty.

During the evening, Frost senior Miclen LaiPang played one of the most daunting pieces in the violin repertoire, Paganini’s Nel cor più non mi sento (variations on a theme from the opera La Molinara by Paisiello) on the Guarneri violin. Next, Frost faculty violin artist Charles Castleman, playing his Stradivarius, joined LaiPang on the outdoor stage. Accompanied on the piano by Wideman Piano Competition winner Asiya Korepanova, D.M.A. ’16, they performed the beautiful slow movement of J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto.

“This Guarneri has silvery timbre in its high register that is so characteristic of a Stradivarius,” Castleman says. “But it also has the ability to ‘dig in’ and have a nice ‘growl’ in its low register, which devotees of Guarneri violins love. It’s got the best of both worlds in one instrument. I’m incredibly pleased that Miclen and other students of the Frost School will have such a fine instrument to help launch their careers.”

Sue Miller’s husband, the late Leonard M. Miller, who founded Lennar Homes, was a longtime member of UM’s Board of Trustees and served as its chair in the 1990s. Their three children, Stuart Miller, J.D. ’82, who also chaired the Board of Trustees; Jeffrey Miller, A.B. ’84, and Leslie Miller Saiontz, hosted the Guarneri’s unveiling, an event filled with music, laughter, and joyous reminiscing—“definitely the way our parents loved to entertain,” Jeffrey Miller said.

The Guarnari’s debut also launched the Miller Instrument Collection campaign to raise additional funds to purchase two dozen other high-end instruments for the Frost School. Before the tribute performance started, over $40,000 already had been donated or pledged for additional string, brass, and woodwind instruments.

Comedian Alonzo Bodden, who was introduced as an eminent musicologist and shared the Guarneri’s pedigree and design features with the audience, switched the rare instrument off stage with an inexpensive violin. He then proceeded to drop the instrument while handing it to Stuart Miller, who was on stage with his siblings for a close-up viewing. The move elicited big gasps and cries until his siblings revealed their ruse.

“It’s hard to pull anything over on Stuart,” said sister Leslie. Added Jeffrey, “He’s such a practical joker, the look on his face was priceless. I think it’s going to be pay-back time, big-time; I’d better be on my toes!”

Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg expressed his gratitude. “Thanks to a magnificent gift from the Miller family, Frost School of Music students will be privileged to play a 300-year-old masterpiece violin from one of the greatest of the Italian makers, dedicated to the memory of one of Miami’s most significant philanthropists, Sue Miller. Nothing could make me more proud.”

The Miller family’s generosity has left an indelible mark on the University of Miami, particularly its Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, with gifts totaling over $200 million since 2004, including $6 million to the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.

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A Champion for Children and the Arts

Dean Berg, right, with University of Miami Trustee Paul DiMare, a previous Twelve Good Men honoree

Dean Berg, right, with University of Miami Trustee Paul DiMare, a previous Twelve Good Men honoree

Frost School of Music Dean Shelton G. Berg was among the dozen outstanding men honored at the 25th annual Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Twelve Good Men Luncheon, which recognizes distinguished men whose contributions and community involvement enhance the well-being of children in South Florida.

Bestowed at the Coral Gables Country Club on April 25, the award comes on the heels of another community honor for the noted jazz and classical pianist, four-time Grammy nominee, and past president of the International Association for Jazz Education. In March, Berg received the Champion of the Arts Award from Citizens Interested in Arts (CIA), a nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to “keeping the arts alive in South Florida.”

Now in its 25th year, the Twelve Good Men Luncheon is the premier fundraising event for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida, which provides a home away from home to families of seriously ill children undergoing treatment at Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital. The event honors a dozen leading men who exemplify exceptional kindness, caring, sacrifice, and generosity for the needs and causes in our community.

“It is an honor to celebrate these men who have worked hard for the betterment of our community and who share our passion in helping those who are less fortunate,” said Soraya-Rivera Moya, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House.

Berg, who has served as dean of the Frost School for the past decade, has appeared in concert with orchestras around the world, including the Romanian National Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, and Dallas Symphony. But he is also well known for his artistic, civic, and educational contributions closer to home.

He was recently named artistic advisor for the JAZZ ROOTS series at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and was instrumental in the establishment of the Donna E. Shalala MusicReach program, which enables Frost School students to provide free, hands-on music instruction to hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students in Miami-Dade County.

Since its 1997 inception, CIA has awarded nearly $1 million in grants to members of the arts community, including one of the first to a New World School of the Arts student who this year sang alongside Placido Domingo in Verdi’s Nabucco at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

In honoring Berg, the organization recognized his lifelong commitment to the arts.











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USF Honors Frenk with Honorary Degree

05-15-17-USF-Frenk-608x342Before conferring nearly 3,800 degrees to the University of Miami’s spring 2017 graduates last week, UM President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., received another degree of his own—from the University of South Florida where he delivered the commencement address at the USF Health Ceremony.

USF System President Judy Genshaft and Charles J. Lockwood, M.D., senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, presented the USF Honorary Degree to Frenk at their May 5 ceremony when 450 newly minted nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and other health professionals walked the stage in Tampa.

Frenk, the former health minister of Mexico and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, congratulated the  students for making “an existential commitment to improving the human condition through your unique blend of knowledge, skills, experience, and compassionate care.”

He also told them their graduation coincides with a moment in history that can be characterized with two words: change and complexity. “In particular,” he said, “health care is being shaped and challenged by unprecedented economic, technological, and social forces. It is changing from a system that rewards volume to one that rewards value; from care that is fragmented across highly specialized silos into care that is integrated across collaborative teams of health professionals.”


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Fernandez and Ronda Honored for Embodying Public School Success


Rudy Fernandez and Barbara Ronda

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 11, 2017) — Two University of Miami leaders—Rudy Fernandez, vice president for government and community relations and chief of staff to President Julio Frenk, and Barbara Ronda, associate vice president and chief administrative officer for the University of Miami Health System—were among the high-achieving graduates of Miami-Dade County Public Schools honored last week by The Education Fund.

Fernandez and Ronda, both 1991 graduates of Southwest High School, and 23 other community and business leaders received the Sapoznik Insurance Public School Alumni Achievement Awards at the fund’s annual For the Love of Art charity auction at the Miami Airport Convention Center on May 10 for embodying the success of a public school education.

The Education Fund, a nonprofit, works with the private sector to support and promote quality public education in Miami-Dade’s public schools by providing teachers and students with resources they need to be successful. Each year, the organization honors distinguished alumni who have made an impact on Miami-Dade County, which Fernandez and Ronda  have—and which their early leadership roles portended. Back in 1991, he was Southwest’s student government president and she its senior class president.

Today, Fernandez, who also serves on the boards of the United Way of Miami-Dade, the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the third class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a national leadership development initiative that draws upon the resources of three U.S. presidential centers.

Prior to joining UM in 2007, Fernandez served as special assistant to the president in the George W. Bush White House and held senior positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Bush-Cheney 2004 Campaign, and the Republican National Committee.

In addition to her duties at UM, Ronda serves on the board of directors of the Health Foundation of South Florida, which promotes health and disease prevention in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. She also was selected last year for the inaugural class of the Carol Emmott Fellowship, a cutting-edge program that accelerates the leadership capacity and impact of women leaders in health care.

Ronda, who joined UM in 2013, previously served as assistant vice president for strategic operations and business development at the  International Medicine Institute and as director of strategic operations and business development for managed care.

Prior to joining UM, she held several positions in the Jackson Health System and at Miami Children’s Hospital.






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Josh Brandfon Elected to NACA Board

UM News


Josh Brandfon

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 11, 2017)—Joshua R. Brandfon, director of Student Activities, Student Organizations, and Student Center Complex programs at the University of Miami, has been elected to the board of directors of the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) by the organization’s members. Earlier this year, the national organization dedicated to promoting student learning through engagement in campus life, awarded Brandfon one of its top achievement awards, the NACA Legacy Award.

At UM, Brandfon has helped create a climate that promotes and encourages student involvement and engagement. He also helps oversee the implementation of major university events, including distinguished guest lectures and dignitary visits, and serves as the primary administrator responsible for the management of more than 750 student organization accounts.

Brandfon, who began his relationship with NACA as a member of the Northeast Region Showcase Selection Committee, was a 2006 recipient of a NACA Educational Foundation McCullough Graduate Student Scholarship. Since then, he’s won many NACA awards for his leadership and service: the Outstanding Service Award in 2007, the NACA South C. Shaw Smith Founders Award in 2010, the Outstanding Service Citation in 2012, and this year’s NACA Legacy Award.

Over the years, he has chaired both the South Regional Conference Program Committee and the National Convention Program Committee. More recently, he served on the NACA Research and Scholarship Group, the Strategic Plan Task Force, and the inaugural cohort for NACA LEAP (Leadership and Effectiveness in Association Practices).

“With over ten years of experience with NACA’s various positions, Josh’s extensive knowledge of our association will serve us well as we begin the execution of a new strategic plan,” said Toby Cummings, NACA’s executive director. “Josh is a favorite presenter at our conferences and has been published in Campus Activities Programming magazine. He will be a wonderful addition to the leadership team.”

Brandfon received his B.A. in politics and economics from Brandeis University and his M.A. in educational leadership from the University of Connecticut. He anticipates completing his doctor of education from the University of Miami in 2018.

Established in 1960, NACA is the recognized leader in higher education for providing members with knowledge, ideas, and resources to promote student learning through engagement in campus life. NACA offers a variety of events, educational institutes, publications and networking opportunities for colleges and universities across the country. The association’s programs focus on program planning, risk management, multicultural education, concert management, student and professional leadership development, student government and more. For more information visit www.naca.org.

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