By Pam Edward
Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 22, 2016) — When someone travels outside his or her comfort zone—be it geographic, cultural, or academic—it can be a genuinely transformative experience. Just ask the four University of Miami students who spoke of their studies abroad at the 27th Annual Heritage Society Luncheon, held at the Newman Alumni Center last Thursday, to thank donors who have made planned gifts to the University and induct the Society’s newest members, including Ann House, associate vice president for Advancement Services, who will retire in May after a 39-year career at the University.
The students, who were featured in the luncheon’s keynote remarks by Devika Milner, director of Study Abroad, included Vinessa Burnett, ’16, who was inspired by her time in Sydney, Australia, to launch an organization that encourages African-American UM students to pursue study abroad.
Melissa Haun, ’16, called her stay at UBuenos Aires, Argentina, “an exercise in adaptation, humility, and changing the way I thought about the world.” Shelby Koos, ’16, who studied in Cusco, Peru, volunteered in the local community and learned to speak Quechua, the main indigenous language of the Andean region. And Danielle Ellis, A.B. ’15, currently a student in the School of Law, has traveled to Argentina and India, realizing along the way “how diverse the world is and how much I have to learn from others.”
The Heritage Society recognizes those who have included the University in their estate plan or who have used a planned giving vehicle to make a gift. Since the Society’s inception in 1988, more than 1,500 individuals, living and deceased, have been inducted. On this occasion, the Society welcomed its 61 newest members with 138 distinguished guests, including University leadership, trustees, and current Society members, looking on.
In his remarks at the luncheon, President Julio Frenk spoke about the vision for the University’s next ten years that he first articulated in his inaugural address. In particular, he highlighted the initiatives underway to ensure “Access with Excellence,” which means ensuring that students can complete their studies and graduate without undue financial burdens, and to develop a university-wide platform for educational innovation. He cited study abroad as a key effort in these areas, and saluted the Heritage Society for being vital to the University’s long-term success. He told the assembled members “you provide a lasting legacy of leadership in learning, discovery, and service.”
Thomas J. LeBlanc, the University’s executive vice president and provost, spoke eloquently about his own experiences as a high-school student studying in Brazil. He called it a truly life-changing opportunity, and so strongly does he believe in the power of study abroad that, in 2012, he and his wife Anne established the Tom and Anne LeBlanc Study Abroad Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide undergraduate students with financial need the opportunity to participate in one of UM’s Study Abroad Programs.
As associate vice president for Advancement Services, House, M.B.A. ’84, manages a team of 39 professionals who perform the critical functions—ranging from gift processing to talent management—that support fundraising, alumni relations, and donor communication.
As a proud donor, alumna, and parent of a former UM student, House is a big part of why employee giving is so ingrained in the culture of the University. Her journey at UM began in 1976, when she started as a file clerk in the controller’s office earning $2.68 an hour. As she moved up the ranks in advancement, her job at UM evolved into a career and, ultimately, a passion.
House has worked nationally to improve the advancement profession, and has spearheaded initiatives that have a positive impact on the whole University. She is passionate about giving back. “I believe there are enough good things being done at UM that everyone can find something they feel strongly about. My bequest is to support the Elysa K. Mestril Endowed Scholarship at the University, which was created in memory of the daughter of Ana Fernandez (formerly Mestril), one of my direct reports. I became a member of the Heritage Society because people give to people. So when my colleagues asked, I gave.”
Whether for study abroad, student scholarships, or any of the many other areas where our institution benefits from donor generosity, planned giving is among the most powerful tools donors can use to support the University. As Sergio Gonzalez, UM’s senior vice president of advancement and external affairs remarked, “planned gifts have made a significant difference in our continued trajectory of excellence, and will continue to be the cornerstone of our institution’s growth for years to come.”
For more information about the various ways you can leave your legacy at the University of Miami, contact Cynthia L. Beamish, executive director of the Office of Estate and Gift Planning, at 305-284-2914 or visit www.miami.edu/plannedgiving.