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Traditions are honored as UM celebrates Alumni Weekend and Homecoming

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    Lauryn Hill gives an electrifying performance during Alumni Weekend and Homecoming festivities on the Coral Gables campus.

    Throughout the day, they returned to the classroom for lectures on topics such as music business, the evolution of the American press, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    By the evening, the activities had switched to the outdoors, where everything from a pep rally and parade to a fireworks display and concert had attendees cheering.

    The University of Miami’s 2010 Alumni Weekend and Homecoming saw hundreds of its sons and daughters return to campus on Friday for events that had the entire institution buzzing with activity.

    Colleges and schools held alumni barbecues. Former roommates renewed friendships. Many were greeted by members of the UM Alumni Association. And members of graduation classes of decades past walked about the Coral Gables campus, getting their first glimpse of new buildings such as the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center.

    Built entirely through alumni donations, the four-story structure, which has an 8-foot-tall statue of Sebastian the Ibis out front, was a hub of organized bustle, serving as the registration site for those who had signed up for events like the Audrey R. Finkelstein UM Experience and hosting a breakfast by the College of Engineering, which became the first college or school to host an alumni event at the center.

    At that breakfast, President Donna E. Shalala told engineering alumni and guests about the progress the University has made in the past year. She noted that UM has been awarded more than $100 million in stimulus funding, surpassing all other institutions in Florida and placing the University 14th in the nation among private schools receiving such funding.

    She also gave alumni more to be proud of when she reminded them of UM’s rise in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, up to No. 47 this year, making it the highest-ranked school in the state. Annual alumni giving, one of the measures used by the magazine to rank schools, has increased for UM, Shalala said.

    UM “students and facilities are getting better,” she said, and the institution is making students’ degrees “more valuable.”

    Later that Friday, the signature events of Alumni Weekend and Homecoming got under way. In cool yet comfortable weather that reminded many that fall is in full swing, crowds lined both sides of Stanford Drive for the parade, which included floats and student organizations such as the Indian Students Association and Relay for Life.

    Along the parade route, students mingled with alumni and visitors, as small children accompanied by their parents peered through gaps in the cordon of people to get a glimpse of some of the parade participants.

    Alonzo Highsmith, a member of the Hurricanes’ 1983 National Championship team and a former NFL player, served as grand marshal. President Shalala, Sebastian the Ibis, Iron Arrow, the Band of the Hour, and UM cheerleaders also were in the parade.

    Reunion parties were held for recent graduates and old timers. Among the other traditions observed: a pep rally and fireworks display along the waterfront of Lake Osceola. This year’s homecoming marked a first: the traditional fireworks set off to the beat of a soundtrack.

    Capping off the night was an energetic performance by American recording artist, musician, and actress Lauryn Hill.

    The events were the culmination of months of work. “We begin preparations for Homecoming in the spring,” said UM student Molly Piccione, chair of the 2010 Homecoming Executive Committee, which includes 38 students. “Because Homecoming is such a large event that requires the collaboration and coordination of many student organizations, departments, and off-campus businesses, it’s important that preparations begin early.”

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