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Senate Salutes Faculty for Their Enduring Impact

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Senate Salutes Faculty for Their Enduring Impact


UM News

faculty senate awards 2016

From left are Eugene Schiff; Laurence Sands; Kristin Podack, widow of the late Eckhard Podack; and Richard L. Williamson, Jr.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 12, 2016)—The Faculty Senate last week bestowed its highest honors on Laurence R. Sands and Eugene R. Schiff, two pioneering physicians at the Miller School of Medicine, and Richard L. Williamson, Jr., a professor of law known for his pro bono service and international collaborations. For the first time, the Senate also conferred a Special Senate Award posthumously, recognizing Eckhard Podack, the late researcher at  Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, for his life-saving discoveries.

The annual Faculty Senate Awards ceremony took place April 11 in Storer Auditorium at the School of Business Administration. Senate Chair Tomás A. Salerno, chair gave remarks before a welcome video message from UM President Julio Frenk was broadcast.

“While I regret I cannot be with you in person today,” Frenk said, “I’m deeply honored to send this message recognizing four distinguished faculty members who have made a significant and enduring impact on our students, the University, and the creation of new knowledge as our most valuable product.”

Podack, a distinguished cancer researcher and educator at Sylvester, died October 8. His widow, Kristin,  accepted the Special Senate Award, presented by Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, in behalf of her husband. As Frenk noted in his video message, Podack was “a valued colleague and friend as well as a pioneer in the field of cancer research. His discoveries have translated into clinical treatments that will continue to restore hope and extend life for many individuals.”

The chair of the Miller School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology for 21 years, Podack was  honored for his dedication to teaching and the huge impact his discoveries have had on improving treatment for cancer patients. Perhaps the most significant were the discoveries of Perforin-1 and, more recently, Perforin-2 — antibacterial proteins that help the body’s immune system defend against infectious disease.

A native of Germany and a fellow in the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy who became interested in cancer research at an early age, Podack joined the Miller School in 1987 and became department chair in 1994. In the early 1990s, he created a monoclonal antibody to seek out and attach to CD-30, a receptor on lymphoma cells. He later sold the technology to Seattle Genetics, which developed SGN-35, a therapy designed to target only cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone.

He also developed a novel lung cancer vaccine using gp-96, a heat shock protein, to treat non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for most lung cancers, as well as tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 25 agonists and antagonists that allow the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively.

Williamson received the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award, presented by Senate Vice Chair Linda L. Neider and named for the cofounder of Burger King, for “service above and beyond the call of duty”–a hallmark of Williamson’s life. He is known for his gift for mentoring and his devotion to pro bono and community service.

Thanking Williamson for his “exceptional dedication to our University and beyond,” Frenk said, “In addition to your stellar 28 years of teaching and scholarship at the U, you have served in numerous leadership roles, including chair of the Faculty Senate for the second longest term in UM history.”

Serving as chair of the Faculty Senate from 2009-2014, Williamson also has served as associate dean of the School of Law, interim chair of the Department of International Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, and faculty advisor to the School of Law’s Honor Council.

As a former foreign service officer and division chief of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, he has used his extensive international experience to establish international liaisons between Miami Law and numerous international universities. Intended to be short-term, the initial intensive exchange seminar he organized between Leipzig University and UM is in its 14th year, and has led to the establishment of 17 semester-long exchange programs on four continents.

A treasured mentor to students here and abroad, Williamson also has employed his legal skills to advance the environment and international understanding. He drafted the founding documents and policy statements for UM’s Jayne and Leonard Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, and has hosted foreign high school students through Rotary International, for which he is a frequent speaker. The Rotary Club has recognized his selfless contributions by naming him a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor usually reserved for members.

As a member of the Opa-locka Brownfields Advisory Committee and chair of its Legal Sub-Committee, Williamson drafted policy documents and recommendations to help the community more efficiently utilize abandoned and contaminated property holdings. Through his efforts, Opa-locka was selected as one of the EPA’s showcase cities and received additional funding for assessing the use of brownfields to be used for green space purposes.

Williamson earned an A.B. in 1967 from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in 1977 from American University, and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1984. He received an honorary Doctorate of Laws (Doktor der Rechte (h.c.)) from the University of Leipzig in 2013. Prior to coming to Miami Law, he spent four years as an attorney with the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.

Sands, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center professor of clinical surgery, chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, and vice chair of medical education in the Department of Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine, received the Outstanding Teaching Award, presented by Laurence B. Gardner.

Sands has a distinguished record and commitment to providing students with the highest quality education and for inspiring them to strive for success. A leader in the use of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer, he is involved in every element of surgical education for medical students and post-graduate trainees and is known for using his energy and talent to provide students with the best education at every opportunity. For example, in response to a major concern of residents and students about the balance of clinical service and educational opportunities, he reorganized clinical/surgical rotations to increase educational opportunities.

Demonstrating their gratitude for his inspiration and dedication to their education, the Miller School’s 2011 graduating class selected Sands for the 2010 George Paff Teaching Award.

Describing Sands as a “brilliant surgeon” and an “inspirational teacher,” Frenk also praised him for establishing the Laurence R. Sands, M.D. Endowed Research Chair at the Miller School. “You have provided much-needed support for advances in colon and rectal surgery, particularly using noninvasive techniques, to continue in perpetuity.”

Schiff, Leonard Miller Professor of Medicine, Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid chair in the Division of Hepatology, the director of the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases, and the director of the Hepatology Research Laboratory at the Miller School of Medicine, received the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, presented by Emmanuel Thomas, an assistant professor at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

A renowned gastroenterologist and of the world’s leading authorities on liver diseases, Schiff was honored for his outstanding scholarly achievements and presented a short lecture on his research, titled “The Eradication of Hepatitis C.”

For decades, Schiff has led the University’s clinical research aimed at developing improved treatments and cures for hepatitis B, C and D, cirrhosis, and the entire spectrum of liver and biliary tract disorders.

In 2011, he became the first holder of the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases, the successor to the informal Center for Liver Diseases he and his late father, Leon, established in 1982.

Co-editor of the Eleventh Edition of Schiff’s Diseases of the Liver, Schiff has authored and co-authored more than 400 articles, books, and book chapters concerning liver diseases and related topics. He is a former president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (his father was the first president), past chairman of the Biliary Section of the American Gastroenterological Association and past governor of the American College of Physicians for the state of Florida, a post he held for four years. He was a member of the Gastroenterology Subspecialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine and former Chair of the FDA Advisory Committee on gastrointestinal drugs. He is also the recipient of numerous honors and awards.

Frenk congratulated Schiff on being honored for his “47 years of remarkable energy, insight, and productivity.”

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Michael Higer, J.D. ’85, Named President of the Florida Bar for 2017


Michael Higer

Michael Higer

The Florida Bar has named Michael J. Higer, J.D.’85, president for 2017. The Miami Beach native will be sworn in at the Florida Bar Convention in Orlando in June to lead the more than 100,000 member organization.

“We are delighted to have another Miami Law alumnus as president of The Florida Bar,” said School of Law Dean Patricia D. White.

While at Miami Law, Higer served as editor of the University of Miami Law Review, was a member of the Trial Advocacy Program, and graduated cum laude.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to be representing Miami Law and the U as president-elect designate of The Florida Bar,” said Higer, a partner at Berger Singerman’s Dispute Resolution Team. “Miami Law is where I learned to be a critical thinker and met some of my best friends and colleagues. It is where my love for the law blossomed.  My law school education at Miami Law was and is the foundation for my career.”

Higer is a both an experienced commercial litigator and civil trial attorney admitted to practice in Florida, Washington, D.C., and the United States Supreme Court. He has been an active member of the Florida Bar, serving on the Board of Governors and the Executive Committee.

After law school, Higer worked as a commercial litigator at Fine Jacobson Schwartz Nash Block & England before joining Coll Davidson Carter Smith Salter & Barkett, where the founding shareholders named him the first non-founding shareholder. In 2006, he formed Higer Lichter & Givner. He joined Berger Singerman in 2014.

Both the Associated Press and Daily Business Review announced the appointment.

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Senate Taps Two Faculty for Top Honors


UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 3, 2015) — The Faculty Senate has unanimously voted to honor School of Law Professor Richard L. Williamson with the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award and, for the first time, to bestow a Special Faculty Senate Award posthumously, honoring the life and work of Eckhard Podack, a distinguished cancer researcher and educator at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center who passed away October 8.

The awards, which will be presented at the 2016 Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony next spring, are among the University’s highest honors. Williamson, who is known for his gift for mentoring and his devotion to pro bono and community service, is being recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to the University and community, a hallmark of his life.

Podack, who chaired the Miller School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology for 21 years, will be honored with the Special Faculty Senate Award for his dedication to teaching and the huge impact his discoveries have had on improving treatment for cancer patients. Faculty Senate Chair Tomas Salerno, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, announced the award, which the Senate has bestowed only 12 times and never before posthumously, at Podack’s November 21 memorial service. Nearly 300 colleagues, friends, family, and admirers from around the world attended the service in the Shalala Student Center.

Williamson

Richard L. Williamson

For more than 20 years, Williamson, the former associate dean of the School of Law, interim chair of the Department of International Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, and chair of the Faculty Senate from 2009-2014, has been faculty advisor to the School of Law’s Honor Council.

A former foreign service officer and division chief of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, he has used his extensive international experience to establish international liaisons between Miami Law and numerous international universities. Intended to be short-term, the initial intensive exchange seminar he organized between Leipzig University and UM is in its 14th year, and has led to the establishment of 17 semester-long exchange programs on four continents.

A treasured mentor to students here and abroad, Williamson also has employed his legal skills to advance the environment and international understanding. He drafted the founding documents and policy statements for UM’s Jayne and Leonard Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, and has hosted foreign high school students through Rotary International, for which he is a frequent speaker. The Rotary Club has recognized his selfless contributions by naming him a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor usually reserved for members.

As a member of the Opa-locka Brownfields Advisory Committee and chair of its Legal Sub-Committee, Williamson drafted policy documents and recommendations to help the community more efficiently utilize abandoned and contaminated property holdings. Through his efforts, Opa-locka was selected as one of the EPA’s showcase cities and received additional funding for assessing the use of brownfields to be used for green space purposes.

Eckhardt Podack

Eckhard Podack

Podack, a giant in the field of cancer research who was widely respected around the world for his pioneering laboratory studies, made a series of discoveries that ultimately will extend or save the lives of many others.

Perhaps the most significant were the discoveries of Perforin-1 and, more recently, Perforin-2 — antibacterial proteins that help the body’s immune system defend against infectious disease. One of Podack’s last published studies, “Perforin-2 is essential for intracellular defense of parenchymal cells and phagocytes against pathogenic bacteria,” appeared online September 24 in the eLife Sciences Journal. It is one of more than 305 professional articles, books, and monographs Podack wrote or contributed to over his career.

A native of Germany and a fellow in the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy who became interested in cancer research at an early age, Podack joined the Miller School in 1987 and became department chair in 1994. In the early 1990s, he created a monoclonal antibody to seek out and attach to CD-30, a receptor on lymphoma cells. He later sold the technology to Seattle Genetics, which developed SGN-35, a therapy designed to target only cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone.

He also developed a novel lung cancer vaccine using gp-96, a heat shock protein, to treat non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for most lung cancers, as well as tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 25 agonists and antagonists that allow the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively.

In order to translate his discoveries into clinical treatments, Podack launched Heat Biologics in 2008 to develop “ImPACT” (Immune Pan-Antigen Cytotoxic Therapy), a proprietary cell-based immunotherapy for use in the treatment of a wide range of cancers. Heat Biologics completed a successful initial public offering in 2013 and continues to develop its leading-edge therapy.

All members of the University community are invited to attend the Faculty Senate Awards ceremony, which also will include the awarding of the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award and the Outstanding Teaching Award on April 11, 2016, at 5 p.m. in Storer Auditorium at the School of Business Administration.

 

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Alumni, Associate Dean Honored by Hispanic Bar Association


CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 13, 2015) – Three attorneys with connections to the University of Miami were recognized Thursday evening during a regional celebration of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Held at the Biltmore and attended by more than 150 people, the HNBA was celebrating Florida’s National HNBA Leaders, who were originally recognized during the association’s annual convention in Boston in September.

Wifredo Ferrer, A.B. ’87, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, was presented the 2015 Latino Lawyer of the Year Award during the Boston event.

Raquel Matas, associate dean for administration at the School of Law and counsel to the dean, was recognized for her role with the HNBA as National VP of External Affairs.

And Martha R. Mora, A.B. ’00, a commissioner of the HNBA Latina Commission, was recognized with the 2015 HNBA Region VIII Distinguished Services Award.

The School of Law’s Hispanic Law Student Association also was recognized as the 2015 National Law Student Organization of the Year.

The Hispanic National Bar Association was founded in 1972 and represents Hispanic legal professionals in the U.S. and its territories.

At Thursday’s event, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice “Betty” Butchko made the presentations.

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Miami Law Alumnus Named Microsoft General Counsel

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Miami Law Alumnus Named Microsoft General Counsel


By Mary Lynn Lyke
Special to UM News

Horacio Gutierrez 2013

Horacio Gutierrez

CORAL GABLES. Fla. (November 10,2015)—Microsoft Corporation has elevated Miami Law alumnus Horacio Gutierrez to the post of general counsel. Gutierrez, who joined the leading tech company after earning his J.D. from the University of Miami in 1998, has served as Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel since 2006. As general counsel, he will head Microsoft’s large team of legal, regulatory, and corporate affairs professionals throughout the globe.

Robert T. Maldonado, national president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, called Gutierrez “a role model to Latino law students and lawyers across the country.”

When he came to the University of Miami School of Law, Gutierrez already had three legal degrees. He was also a full-time international consultant for a Miami law firm. But the native Venezuelan needed a J.D. degree before he could sit for the state bar, so he signed onto an exhausting schedule at Miami Law.

He studied at night, on weekends, in the summer, working full time, helping raise his family, and graduating summa cum laude. “Were it not for the understanding that the dean of the law school and the dean of students had of my situation, the flexibility they showed, the mentorship they offered me to be able to navigate the requirements, I may not have gone to law school and attained a J.D. anywhere in the U.S.,” said Gutierrez, a distinguished 50-year-old who speaks with a light Latin American lilt, his hands emphasizing his words.

Since 2006 he has held the influential role of corporate vice president and deputy general counsel in charge of Microsoft’s worldwide intellectual property group, responsible for protecting, developing, and maintaining a massive portfolio of more than 37,000 patented innovations. In this role, Gutierrez waged and won his share of fierce legal battles protecting Microsoft’s patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. It’s a Herculean task at a company that invests more than $10 billion a year on research and development innovations.

But he became best known for his skills as a savvy deal-maker, an IP boss whose Microsoft team would rather negotiate than litigate, cutting headline-grabbing licensing agreements with the Novells, Nokias, and Samsungs of the high-tech world.

Licensing agreements allow companies to use intellectual property rights as a kind of currency to trade with one another and make deals in a “business-like manner,” outside courts, said Gutierrez.

Bartering IP rights is a new way of doing business in an era of rapid-fire technological advances. It speeds products to market faster and spurs innovation, said Gutierrez. Several decades ago, a company might have created every component of its products in-house. Today, a single product from a company can have patented components from hundreds of companies.

Gutierrez points to the smartphone, which contains what might have been dozens of devices a decade ago. It’s a phone, a digital music player, a GPS device, a high-definition camera, and video recorder. Apply a software-enabled app and it can be almost anything: flashlight, star-finder, Scrabble board, drawing tablet. All those separate components are developed by separate companies with separate patents, linked through a 21st-century labyrinth of licensing.

“When you get any consumer electronics product in your house—a television set, a stereo—you pull it out, unwrap it, plug it into the wall, and you start using it. You can feel it, see it, touch it. What you don’t see is the intricate web of intellectual property licensing arrangements that preceded the purchase of the device by you and existed among dozens of Asian, European, and U.S. companies,” said the Miami Law alumnus, who was named the No. 1 most influential global IP market maker by the Intellectual Asset Management Report.

Along with a reputation for making deals, Gutierrez, who was the Hispanic National Bar Association Region XVI President for Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington from 2012 to 2014, has earned a reputation for making a difference in his field. He founded the groundbreaking HNBA/Microsoft Intellectual Property Law Institute, a week-long program that introduces Latino law students to the profession and its practitioners. The goal is to boost what he describes as the “severely” low number of Hispanics practicing IP law.

“The HNBA is proud that such an active and committed member of the HNBA family continues to rise through the ranks of the corporate legal and tech community,” said Maldonado. “We commend Horacio not only for his professional achievements, but also for his dedication to advancing the cause of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”

Gutierrez grew up a lawyer’s son in Maracaibo, Venezuela. At the age of 16, he talked his parents into letting him move to the capital of Caracas to study law at the prestigious Universidad Católica Andrés Bello; on summer break, he enrolled in his first software coding class and “fell in love.”

At the Caracas university, he earned two degrees: a bachelor of laws degree and a specialization diploma in corporate and commercial law. Degree No. 3 brought him to America for studies as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Law School. He earned his LL.M. there in 1991.

Studying for his fourth degree at Miami Law, Gutierrez, who’d come from a civil law background in Venezuela, immersed himself in the U.S. common law system, taking foundational courses in constitutional law, contracts, torts, and other building blocks of the American legal system. He weighed the two systems, studying differences and commonalities. “For me, every class was an exercise in comparative law.”

He describes the environment at Miami Law as encouraging and supportive. Over the course of his studies, his professors became his mentors and his friends. Many remain so today. “That experience is unlike anything I had anywhere else,” said Gutierrez, who has also served as adjunct lecturer at the school and in 2013 was named Lawyer for the Americas by the school’s Inter-American Law Review.

Gutierrez had just graduated from Miami Law when Microsoft started calling. He signed on in 1998 as lead attorney for corporate and commercial legal matters in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. The software giant’s “cutting-edge legal opportunities” have immersed him in everything from international contracts to cross-border counterfeiting, government surveillance, telecommunications, and privacy rights. Before taking the IP lead, he had a four-year stint in Paris as associate general counsel for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. More recently he had taken on a new leadership role as corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Microsoft’s products and services group.

A year before his promotion to general counsel was announced this November 6, the keen legal scholar told Miami Law Magazine he was ready for whatever came next. “No one at Microsoft has put a limitation on what I am expected to do,” he said. “And I certainly haven’t put one of myself.”

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Miami Law Magazine.

 

 

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