Building Tradition: Making the Presidential Chair

By Maya Bell
UM News

UMPresidentialChairCORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 22, 2016) — As a master furniture maker, Austin Matheson has crafted dozens of handmade chairs, most of them for dining room sets destined to become family heirlooms. He’s sawed, chiseled, and sculpted them from prized wood in numerous styles—from Shaker to Colonial West Indian to Arts and Crafts—but they all have one thing is common: “As soon as they leave my shop I never lay eyes on them again,’’ Matheson says.

That will not be the case with the one-of-kind University of Miami Presidential Chair that Matheson, an adjunct professor of architecture, created at the request of President Julio Frenk. Known as a cathedra, the chair is a traditional symbol of the seat of learning and will take its place on the commencement stage as a new symbol of the Office of the President.

Matheson, a fifth-generation Floridian whose own rich family history in South Florida predates the University’s 1925 founding, carved and joined what appear to be the seamless pieces of the simple but elegant chair emblazoned with the University seal and the more subtle detail of the ibis from a single slab of highly prized Cuban mahogany wood.

The cathedra, which took Matheson 120 hours of painstaking labor to complete at his Fine Handmade Furniture shop in Miami, will be on exhibit on Thursday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery, with a reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit, Building Tradition: The Making of the University of Miami Presidential Chair, will also feature the drawings, models, and patterns chronicling the process of creating the chair from tree to finished object.

Austin matheson works on the prototype of what would beciem theThe Univerisyt of Miami Presidential Chair in his mimi a woofurniute-makign shop.

Adjunct Professor Austin Matheson works on the prototype of what would become The University of Miami Presidential Chair at his handmade furniture  shop in Miami.

Originally weighing 200 pounds and measuring 7 feet long, 33 inches wide, and 4.5 inches thick, the slab of once-abundant Cuban mahogany was salvaged from a tree in nearby Coconut Grove that, fittingly for a University that opened amid the ruins of the 1926 hurricane, was felled decades later by another hurricane.

The fluidity of Matheson’s seemingly seamless design represents the idea that “We Are One U,” while his inventive incorporation of both a contemporary style and traditional flourishes represent the University’s rich past and promising future. “The chair is unique, it has no precedent. It stands alone,” Matheson said.

In what Matheson called “a tricky maneuver,” the Great Seal of the University of Miami was carefully etched by a computerized laser into a place of prominence, on the splat, or back of the chair. Matheson’s teaching assistant, Zach Anderson, performed that honor. “He practiced it about six or seven times,” Matheson recalls.

More subtle are the twin silhouettes of the ibis head, with its graceful beak, that adorn each side of the crest rail. Known for its invincible spirit when hurricanes approach, the marsh bird has been the school mascot since the University opened its doors, just a month after the hurricane of 1926 devastated Miami. And just like the ibis, Matheson and President Frenk hope the University of Miami Presidential Chair will continue to serve as a symbol of the University’s resilience and renewal through its new century, and long after.

“The University of Miami Presidential Chair brings together the intellectual and artistic resources of our faculty, the natural resources of our city, and the rich traditions of our University,” President Frenk said.

“It was a great project and I have to say I like it a lot,’’ added Matheson, who teaches furniture design and fabrication, one of the few non-theoretical, hands-on courses at the School of Architecture. “It was a long process, but since I was only making one, it was an honor to devote that kind of time to it. After all, it is something that will last a long, long time.”





Posted in News, UM PresentsComments (0)

Graduate School Recognizes Faculty, Staff, and Students

UM News

Graduate students from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science join Graduate School Dean Guillermo “Willy” Prado, left, as he presents Rosenstiel’s M. Danielle McDonald with the 2015-2016 faculty mentor of the year award.

Graduate students from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science join Graduate School Dean Guillermo “Willy” Prado, left, in presenting M. Danielle McDonald, center, with the 2015-2016 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 18, 2016)—The Graduate School recognized its top graduate students and faculty at the 2015-2016 Graduate Awards Ceremony, including the Miller School’s WayWay M. Hlaing as the Outstanding Graduate Program Director and the Rosenstiel School’s M. Danielle McDonald as Faculty Mentor of the Year.

The ceremony, held April 15 on the Moss Terrace at the Shalala Student Center, encourages the UM community to celebrate the work of all of its graduate students, faculty, and staff, focusing on accomplishments throughout each school and college. In addition to Hlaing, associate professor of epidemiology and director of the epidemiology Ph.D. program, and McDonald, associate professor of marine biology and ecology, seven students from multiple disciplines and all three campuses were honored in categories of Graduate Student Exemplar, Outstanding Research Assistant, and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant.

They are:

Outstanding Teaching Assistants:
Julia Wester, The Graduate School

Outstanding Research Assistants
Xin Gao, College of Engineering
Alejandro Mendez, Miller School of Medicine
Noah T. VanBergen, School of Business Administration

Graduate Student Exemplar
Rebecca P. Duncan, College of Arts and Sciences
Andrew Fisher, Miller School of Medicine & College of Arts and Sciences
Odelya Kadosh, School of Education and Human Development

View more pictures from the ceremony on Facebook.

Posted in Honors, NewsComments (0)

Commencement Speakers Bring Global View

By Maya Bell
UM News

Commencement Speakers EV

Jorge G. Castañeda, Stephen Lewis, and Gillian Tett will receive honorary degrees and share their advice during the May 5-6 commencement exercises.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 20, 2016)—The former foreign minister of Mexico who challenged his nation’s one-party rule, the Canadian co-director of AIDS-Free World who served the United Nations for two decades, and the British managing editor of the Financial Times who issued early warnings about the looming mortgage crisis will be among the distinguished speakers at the University of Miami’s 2016 spring commencement exercises May 5-7, when more than 3,500 graduates walk the stage at the BankUnited Center.

All three luminaries—political scientist and prolific writer Jorge G. Castañeda, diplomat and AIDS advocate Stephen Lewis, and anthropologist-turned-financial journalist Gillian Tett—also will receive honorary degrees at, respectively, the 4 p.m. Graduate School ceremony on Thursday, May 5, the 1 p.m. multi-school undergraduate ceremony on Friday, May 6, and the 5 p.m. undergraduate ceremony for the School of Business Administration and the College of Engineering at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 6.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias, Costa Rican’s two-time president who continues to promote human development, peace and democracy, and demilitarization in the developing world, also will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, at the third undergraduate ceremony at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 6, when 770 graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences celebrate their graduation. Stuart A. Miller, the out-going chairman of the University of Miami Board of Trustees and CEO of the Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, will deliver advice to the graduates during that ceremony.

Rounding out this year’s commencement speakers are documentary filmmaker, art collector, and philanthropist Dennis Scholl, a 1981 alumnus of the School of Law, who will deliver the address at his alma mater’s commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, and UM President Julio Frenk, who will give his first commencement address as UM’s sixth president. A physician and public health expert who headed Mexico’s Ministry of Health, Frenk will share his advice with the nearly 200 new doctors who are graduating in the Miller School of Medicine’s Class of 2016 at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 7.

Castañeda, the Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, was one of the architects of former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s 2000 National Action Party candidacy, which ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s seven decades of one-party rule. Appointed Fox’s foreign minister, Castañeda refocused Mexico’s foreign policy on human rights and democracy, and later ran, unsuccessfully, as an independent candidate for Mexico’s president.

He will address more than 970 students who are expected to walk the stage for their master’s and doctorate degrees.

Lewis, who served as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006, co-founded AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization that exposes the social ills—injustice, abuse, and inequality—that underpin and continue to sustain HIV. Prior to serving as Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, he was deputy executive director of UNICEF at the organization’s global headquarters in New York, and Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

He will address about 700 graduates from the School of Architecture, the School of Communication, the School of Education and Human Development, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music, and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Tett, an award-winning journalist and preeminent authority on capital markets who earned a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Cambridge University, is widely credited with being the first mainstream journalist to warn about the bubbling financial crisis that exploded into the headlines, with worldwide repercussions, in 2008. She is author of The New York Times bestseller Fool’s Gold, the gripping tale of how a team of Wall Street bankers created the world of “shadow banking,” and then lost control of their creation. Her newest book is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and The Promise of Breaking Down Barriers.

She will address more than 600 graduates of the School of Business Administration and the College of Engineering.

Miller, a member of the University Board of Trustees since 2002, is the standard-bearer of his family’s outstanding tradition of generosity and commitment to the University. Over the past 16 years, and through multiple gifts exceeding $200 million, the Miller family and The Lennar Foundation, the charitable arm of Lennar Corporation, have helped transform the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and UHealth—University of Miami Health System into a world-class medical education and health care center for students, employees, the community, and beyond.


Posted in NewsComments (0)

Pick Up Commencement Regalia May 3-4

The May 2016 Graduate and Undergraduate Degree ceremonies will be held at the BankUnited Center at the following dates and times:

Thursday, May 5, 2016 4:00 p.m.
All Schools and Colleges, all graduate degrees (except Law and M.D. degrees)

Friday, May 6, 2016 8:30 a.m.
College of Arts and Sciences
Division of Continuing and International Education

Friday, May 6, 2016 1 p.m.
School of Architecture
School of Communication
School of Education and Human Development
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Frost School of Music
School of Nursing and Health Studies

Friday, May 6, 2016 5 p.m.
School of Business Administration
College of Engineering

If you are a doctoral advisor walking with a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Degree Ceremony on Thursday, please report to the Graduate Lineup Site at the Fieldhouse with your doctoral candidate. The Doctoral Advisors and General Faculty are part of the academic procession, which begins 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the ceremony. For more information, call 305-284-1821.

Regalia distribution (excluding School of Law and Miller School of Medicine) will be held the following dates and times at the Toppel Career Center located at 5225 Ponce De Leon Blvd:

  • Tuesday, May 3, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 4, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information regarding cap and gown distribution, please call 305-284-5451 or email [email protected]. For more information on commencement, including event locations and times, visit www.miami.edu/commencement.




Posted in NewsComments (0)

Take the e-Veritas Reader Survey and Be Eligible to Win an iPad

As the university-wide e-newsletter providing pertinent news and information to faculty and staff throughout the University of Miami, e-Veritas is an essential element of internal communications at UM. It’s been several years since University Communications launched the current version of the publication—an email linked to full content online—and we are now engaged in a process to implement changes to make it more relevant and reader-friendly.

To that end, we seek your input on a range of matters concerning e-Veritas. Please take a few moments to complete the brief survey linked to this message, and you’ll be eligible to win one of two iPads being raffled among participants. The survey will remain open through April 29.

We appreciate your feedback, which will help us serve you better.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

  • Features
  • Tags
  • Popular
  • Subscribe
  • Subscribe to the Veritas RSS Feed
    Get updates to all of the latest Veritas posts by clicking the logo at the right.

    You can also subscribe to specific categories by browsing to a particular section on our site and clicking the RSS icon below each section's header.

UM Facebook

UM Twitter