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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Wellness Center Accountant Keeps UM Moving Forward


Chris Booth

Christopher Booth says he owes the University of Miami a debt he can never repay. “I met my wife Melissa here when she was a student employee at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center,” says Booth, now a budget analyst at the Coral Gables center. Booth tries, though, by donating to the Department of Athletics’ scholarship fund as well as to United Way. “I want to help our teams succeed against the bigger schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference,” he says.

Growing up in West Virginia, Booth enjoyed baseball, hockey, and competitive roller-skating. He came to UM in 1994, earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and has worked at the Herbert Wellness Center since the day it opened in 1996. “Initially, I was a membership assistant, and I came on board full time in the spring of 1998,” he says. Now, Booth is in charge of purchasing, budget analysis, and managing daily cash operations for the center, which is open seven days a week.

“Our University has made a great investment in supporting healthy lifestyles,” he says, “and the Herbert Wellness Center is a wonderful benefit to the UM community.”

Along with working out four or five times a week, Booth enjoys watching ’Canes basketball, baseball, and football games with his wife, who earned her bachelor of arts in 2001, and his sister, J-Me Booth, another ’Cane who earned her bachelor of business administration in 2000. “We try to go to as many games as we can—even when I have to get up early for work,” he says.

Looking back, Booth is glad the U has been central to his life for the past 20 years—and he remains determined to at least try to pay off that debt. “All of us who work here are contributing to advance our University’s mission of educational excellence,” he says. “I believe that we should all give back in some way, large or small, to help keep UM moving forward.”



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The Lowe Dedicates New Art Research Center to Hands-On Learning

Special to UM News


UM alumna Stella Holmes, third from left, is honored at the dedication ceremony for the new Art Research Center made possible by her generosity. Standing with her are, from left, Senior Director of Development Adriana F. Verdeja, UM President Donna E. Shalala, and Lowe Art Museum Director Jill Deupi.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 19, 2015)—The new Stella M. Holmes Art Research Center (ARC) was officially dedicated in the heart of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Lowe Art Museum last Thursday, giving UM students even more unique opportunities for hands-on learning about the museum’s world-class collection.

“The Art Research Center will allow student curators in ArtLab to see and feel artifacts from the cultures they are studying more intimately than ever before,” said Holmes, a UM alumna and supporter whose generosity launched the museum’s innovative ArtLab series in 2009. “First-hand experience is a very valuable tool in museum studies programs, because it helps students to understand the soul of the art through investigation of its origins.”

The ARC’s walls are lined with built-in, museum-grade display cases that showcase a variety of objects, while smart technology makes the most of electronic resources and the Internet. More cases line the corridor adjacent to a classroom, engaging visitors before they enter the ARC. The area also has been redesigned to allow a direct view into the Lowe’s object storage, allowing guests to see a large number of pieces that are not currently on display. Designed for active learning, the ARC will host enhanced programming for all of the Lowe’s visitors.

“It’s a new capstone in our educational offerings,” said Jill Deupi, Beaux Arts director and chief curator. “We are thrilled with the ARC, which allows us to continue to expand and enhance our capacity to engage directly with our audiences.”

Home to a world-class collection of nearly 19,000 objects spanning 5,000 years of human history, the Lowe has long been committed to providing opportunities for the firsthand experience of works of art and enrichment of the community through education about arts and culture.

The phenomenal success of ArtLab, which touches the students involved, the Lowe’s 40,000 visitors each year, and countless others who access digital copies of the catalogs online, inspired the Lowe and Holmes to create the ARC, allowing even greater interaction and experience with the museum’s remarkable cultural and educational assets.

Led by a UM faculty member, ArtLab participants spend a full academic year delving into designated themes, which have included Spanish Colonial Art, the art of indigenous Panama, the convergence of Eastern and Western ideas in contemporary Japanese art, differing points of view in Islamic art, and the history of printmaking.

In addition to the direct study of objects in the Lowe’s collections, ArtLab students enjoy off-site immersive experiences, which in the past have included field research in Panama and Peru.

ArtLab culminates each spring with the curation and installation of a focus exhibition and a companion catalog authored by the students. This show remains on view in a prominent gallery in the Lowe (the Richard B. Bermont Family Focus Gallery) for a full year, allowing museum visitors to learn from participants’ investigative efforts.

In addition to Holmes’ generosity, support for the ARC was provided by Beaux Arts, the Rubin – Ladd Foundation, the Jensen Endowment, and the Coleman Foundation.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Maintenance Leader Keeps Buildings and the University Humming

Raimundo -Ray- Santamaria

Raimundo “Ray” Santamaria

Raimundo “Ray” Santamaria knows it takes time, talent and money to keep the University of Miami’s campuses in great shape.

Santamaria ran his own electrical business for more than a decade before joining the University in 2011 as a zone electrician. Since then, he has worked his way into a lead maintenance position for Facilities Management, supervising a team of technicians responsible for the upkeep of buildings on the Coral Gables campus. He’s also a generous supporter of the United Way and the President’s Initiatives Fund, giving 1 percent of his salary back to UM.

“I feel grateful for the opportunity to work here,” says Santamaria, who grew up in Miami and has been a ’Canes sports fan since the 1980s. “I also try to make other employees aware of why it’s so important to give back to our University. Every contribution helps. Whether large or small, your donations have an impact on our future.”

He and his wife, Liza, have two children, ages 8 and 9, who already have plenty of opportunities to see the campus themselves. “We follow the teams and come to the Fan Fests to feel the energy here,” he says. “I remember coming here as a teenager, and I’m glad to give my children a taste of what it means to be a ’Cane.”

Reflecting on his upbringing, Santamaria says, “Our family did not have a lot of money when I was growing up, but we were always able to give something back to our church and community. Today, I believe that’s a very important value for all of us who work for our great University.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: For This Couple, Giving Back Passes the Taste Test

Drs. Roper and Chaudhari

Nirupa Chaudhari and Stephen D. Roper

Two leading-edge researchers at the Miller School of Medicine have been contributing to the University of Miami since joining the faculty in 1995. “As teachers and researchers, our careers are all about giving back to our students, our university, and to society,” says Nirupa Chaudhari, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and director of the University-wide Neuroscience Graduate Training Program.

Her husband, Stephen D. Roper, Ph.D., also a professor of physiology and biophysics, is equally committed to enhancing University programs. “One of the most important reasons UM is well regarded locally is that faculty and staff contribute their time, effort, and funds to the community,” he says.

Over the years, Roper and Chaudhari have supported the Lowe Art Museum, the Miller School, and a number of other areas while raising their son, Peter. For two decades, they also have been Leadership Donors in UM’s United Way campaign—a giving level for employees who donate 1 percent or more of their salary.

While Roper and Chaudhari often collaborate in their studies, they have separate laboratories and pursue different research interests. “I am trying to understand the sense of taste,” says Roper, who received the 2010 Max Mozell Award for Distinguished Senior Chemosensory Scientist and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Physiology (London). “My work has implications for appetite control and obesity. While taste doesn’t determine how much we eat, it controls what we select to eat, from fruits and meats to high-calorie desserts.”

A molecular biologist, Chaudhari is studying the genetic factors that allow taste bud cells to detect sour, sweet, salty, or bitter flavors. “I am also interested in how the taste buds regenerate, grow new cells, and reconnect to the nerves that carry signals to the brain,” she says. “Those studies may have implications for patients with throat and neck cancers since chemotherapy or radiation destroys taste buds and may compromise the body’s taste system.”

For Chaudhari and Roper, ongoing funding for the University’s research, clinical, and educational programs is critical to its continued success. As Chaudhari says, “We feel it is essential for faculty members and other employees to support the next generation at UM and in the wider community.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Yoly Hernandez Peddles Her Passion for Cancer Research


Yolanda “Yoly” Hernandez

As director of special projects, Yolanda “Yoly” Hernandez, is passionate about raising funds for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our team of experts discover, develop, and deliver the world’s most effective ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer,” Hernandez says. “Most importantly, funds raised for Sylvester stay in South Florida, guaranteeing that the day you or a loved one may need cancer treatment, you won’t need to go very far.”

A cancer survivor who has been in remission for more than 25 years, Hernandez is also a top fundraiser for the Dolphins Cycling Challenge (DCC), the annual tri-county event held in partnership with the Miami Dolphins to raise funds for Sylvester. A virtual rider who will cheer for Team UM Sylvester and all the other cyclists during the fifth challenge February 7-8, Hernandez says the secret to her fundraising prowess is passing on her enthusiasm for the DCC to colleagues, family, friends, and grateful patients. “They understand the importance of this fundraiser and rally behind me every year.”

After earning her bachelor of arts degree, Hernandez began working at UM’s School of Medicine in 1972 as an assistant to Robert Zeppa, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery. She then worked for the Department of Oncology, chaired by G. Zubrod, as an assistant to Dr. Nathaniel Berlin. She became development officer at Sylvester in 1992. “I’m proud to say that I’ve been with Sylvester since the first day, and I’m still here,” she says. “This is a job I do with all my heart. Every day, I talk with our faculty, our nurses, and our patients about why Sylvester is so special. Every time our researchers make a new discovery, the whole benefits from their work.”

Along with her husband, Carlos, Hernandez raised a ’Cane—their daughter Rebecca, who in 2008 earned two UM degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Motion Pictures and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. She then continued her studies at New York University and graduated with a master’s degree as a specialist in film and media restoration and archiving.

“I believe it’s important for employees to support our University,” Hernandez says. “If you feel a connection with one of our schools or programs, you can show your gratitude by making a financial contribution. Every gift makes a difference, no matter how large or small.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

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