By Robert Jones Jr.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 7, 2015) — Along with the fireworks, food trucks, and fun that marked another Homecoming celebration on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus Friday evening, a history lesson on wheels helped educate revelers about some of the important milestones and moments in UM’s past.
It came in the form of parade floats designed by students, who themed their rolling platforms around different decades as part of Homecoming’s “For My City” concept recognizing the spirit and tradition that make the University and Greater Miami community unique.
With their 1960s-themed float, students from Hecht College Council and the Association of Commuter Students gave parade-goers a mini-tutorial on some of the iconic figures who visited UM during that decade, dressing up as Martin Luther King Jr., Janis Joplin, and members of The Beatles. One student even dressed up as UM’s third president, Henry King Stanford, whose administration ushered in groundbreaking changes at the University, such as establishing an Office of Minority Affairs to promote diversity in admissions and becoming the first major college in the Deep South with a black football player, Ray Bellamy, on scholarship.
A shovel embedded in a pile of dirt to mark UM’s 1925 founding and wooden exteriors of 1930s-era Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach were among the features of a float designed by Zeta Tau Alpha and Pi Kappa Phi. But coming up with the different elements for their 1925 to 1939-themed float “wasn’t easy,” admits senior Melissa Wyatt, who made good use of the Otto G. Richter Library’s extensive archives to learn more about UM and local history.
A float designed by the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO), Alpha Kappa Psi, and Spectrum, the University’s undergraduate LGBTQ organization, didn’t look like a float at all, but one of the popular gliders located outside UM’s new Rathskeller. The glider-styled float was themed around the 1970s, when UM’s original Rathskeller was built.
It was the culmination of a planning process that started back in February for the student-run Homecoming Executive Committee and Division of Student Affairs, and it was the first Homecoming celebration for new UM President Julio Frenk and his wife, Dr. Felicia Knaul.
“We wanted to show how UM impacts the Miami community, and also how Greater Miami impacts UM,” said senior O’Shane Elliott, chair of the Homecoming Executive Committee. “We really wanted to increase participation in a way that everyone at UM could relate to one theme.”
And that’s where the “For My City” idea came in, Elliott said.
Reggie Wayne, B.L.A. ’01, a former Hurricanes star wide receiver drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, served as grand marshal of the parade.
Of course, Homecoming was more than just a march. A weeklong slate of events included the Alma Mater Competition, King and Queen Pageant, Organized Cheer, a Hurricane Productions concert, the Miami Hurricanes versus Virginia Cavaliers football game at Sun Life Stadium, and more.
Meanwhile, thousands of alumni returned to campus for Alumni Weekend activities, joining the the University of Miami Alumni Association on Alumni Avenue for mojitos and jambalaya at a Mardi Gras-themed event that harkened back to the Carni Gras festivals students held on campus for 40 years