Achieving OurNext Horizon
The generous philanthropy of FIU’s supporters lifted the comprehensive campaign above its $750 million goal, impacting the people we serve and advancing our mission.
$5 MILLION from Humberto “Burt” Cabañas ’76 and his wife, Hermys, for various university projects.
$5 MILLION from John McKibbon ’75 and his wife, Letitia, to the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management that will enhance alumni outreach, implement formal integration of technology and innovation into the curriculum, and create student scholarships.
$2.5 MILLION from the George and Bernice Cooke Scholarship Foundation for Women to establish an endowment to provide scholarships to nontraditional and veteran/military FIU students.
$1.25 MILLION from Café Bustelo & Pilon, coffee brands in The J.M. Smucker Co. portfolio, for student scholarships at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and for the future construction of FIU CasaCuba.
$1.2 MILLION from Tina Vidal-Duart ’02, MIB ’04 and Carlos Duart ’94, MS ’99 to the FIU Honors College to establish two student scholarship endowments. It is the largest gift the Honors College has received from its alumni to date.
$1 MILLION gift from an alumni couple to match dollar-for-dollar any new gifts ranging from $50–$25,000 to FIU from fellow alumni.
$1 MILLION from Baptist Health South Florida in support of the Green Family Foundation Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program (NeighborhoodHELP), the innovative platform for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s community-engaged mission emphasizing social accountability and holistic, household-centered care.
$750,000 from Wells Fargo to StartUP FIU Food, a small business incubator that serves food and beverage micro-entrepreneurs in South Florida, to offer online resources to more than 1,000 small businesses to help them recover and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
$750,000 from Abraham S. Ovadia JD ’09 to establish an endowed scholarship fund that assists outstanding South Florida students who have completed their first year of law school and demonstrate leadership or entrepreneurial abilities.
$500,000 from City National Bank of Florida to support the construction of FIU CasaCuba, a center to celebrate and preserve Cuban culture and study Cuban affairs through educational, research, and arts programs.
total raised for the Next Horizon campaign, surpassing the $750M goal
Bells Creating A Center For Spiritual Life
A striking building will soon be arising on a central, lakeside location on the MMC campus that will be one of the most significant structures in the history of FIU: the Trish and Dan Bell Chapel.
The Bells, noted South Florida philanthropists, announced plans for the creation of the interfaith chapel and a $5 million gift at the Next Horizon campaign kickoff celebration in January 2019. Subsequent gifts in support of the chapel have brought their total support to $14 million for the facility.
“The idea for a unique, freestanding facility – for use by students, faculty, and staff, regardless of their faith – to permit and encourage spiritual discovery and enrichment, and to promote multi-faith understanding and harmony resonated with us,” Trish said. “Our faith and our spiritual commitment is the core of our life and the foundation of essentially all we have done in building our lives together.”
While there are many faiths represented at FIU, this will be the first place for people of all faiths to gather and to strengthen their spirit. The Bells believe the chapel will be a vital space for activities to promote understanding and connection between those from different spiritual traditions – and much more.
“We expect the chapel will play an ever-widening role in the life of FIU,” Dan said. “Initially, we expect it quickly to become the center of the spiritual and religious life on campus. We would imagine it being used, on a regular basis, not only by the various religious groups on campus, but also as a place to welcome speeches or discussions led by important national and international spiritual, religious, and cultural speakers.”
The chapel, designed by architect Gurrimatute, is slated for groundbreaking in early 2023 and completion in 2024. The primary space in the 17,000-square-foot facility will be a sanctuary that can seat 250 people; it will also have two reflection/prayer rooms and multipurpose and conference rooms. In addition, the surrounding landscaped gardens and grounds will be a venue for a variety of events. The Bells collaborated with the architect and FIU’s facilities team to conceive a structure that would reflect their vision.
“We believe the chapel has enormous potential for good on the campus,” Trish added. “Our strong desire is to make the chapel available and welcoming to all.”
President Kenneth A. Jessell noted: “The Bell Chapel will be an exceptional gathering place for people to join together for spiritual activities and contemplation. FIU has long needed a place to strengthen the life of the spirit, and we are grateful to Trish and Dan Bell for making the chapel a reality.”
Dan & Trish Bell
GSIPA II: New Structure Will Foster Synergy And School’s Continued Rise
GSIPA II, as the building is known, is an 85,000-squarefoot, five-story $40 million building that will bring most of the school’s eight departments and 17 centers in one facility, thereby fostering increased connections and collaborations among students and faculty – synergy that lifts learning, scholarship, and research.
The structure was made possible through a mix of philanthropy and public funding: $15 million from Ambassador Steven J. Green, wife Dorothea Green, daughter Kimberly Green, and the Green Family Foundation, along with $12.7 million from the State of Florida.
“On behalf of the entire Green Family and the Green Family Foundation Trust, we thank Dean Stack for his dedication, the students for their enthusiasm, and the leadership at FIU for their commitment,” Ambassador Green said. “This new building will serve as a legacy to all who seek to achieve those goals.”
The building is designed by world-renowned architect Yann Weymouth, known for his work with I.M. Pei on the Louvre in Paris. He noted that the design – shared spaces with natural light to allow “the outside in” – draws inspiration from the Green School’s mission and reflects its collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit.
The LEED-certified building is both high-tech and energy efficient, with its west facade oriented to reduce substantial afternoon sun and heat load. A covered walkway and bridges on floors two through five will link GSIPA II to the original GSIPA building, plus a terrace on the third floor will house an “art in public spaces” installation.
The growth of the school’s physical footprint parallels its formal ascension in the academic world, noted Green School Interim Dean Shlomi Dinar.
“In 2021, the Green School joined an elite group of schools when it was named a full member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, making it the first university in Florida to achieve the prestigious designation and one of only 25 U.S. and 40 ASPIA member schools in the world,’’ said Dinar. “FIU is the youngest institution among U.S. members, which includes universities such as Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford. We are incredibly proud of this accomplishment and know that it will lead to more great collaborations and opportunities for our students.’’
Alumnus Establishes Scholarship To Help Law Students Forge Their Own Paths
Today, 12 years after founding his own practice, Ovadia Law Group has offices in four cities. Ovadia’s impactful experience at FIU Law and subsequent success inspired him to stay connected through his philanthropy. His gifts extend a hand to younger versions of himself, helping students overcome obstacles.
Ovadia made his first major gift in 2013: $400,000 to the college’s Career Planning & Placement Office, which was named in his honor. In 2022, he made a $750,000 gift to establish the Abraham S. Ovadia Scholarship, which assists students from South Florida who have passed their first year of law school and show an interest in becoming leaders and business owners. It’s a way to lift up students economically and to avail himself to them as a mentor.
By investing in these students, he carries the collaborative spirit of the FIU Law community forward, which he hopes will inspire more alumni to give. “Don’t be shy,” he advises alumni considering making gifts, “because where students are standing now, we were there before, and they need our support and our know-how.”
Committed To Increase Black Presence In The Medical Profession
“Five percent of physicians in the United States are Black or African American. That is a very small percentage when you consider that we make up 13 percent of the population,” said Dr. Crapp, who received his undergraduate degree at FIU and attended Meharry Medical College for his medical studies.
After working in group practice and hospital settings, Dr. Crapp founded South Florida Radiology and its subsidiary, Pediatric Teleradiology Partners. He is vice president of the Florida chapter of the National Medical Association, a professional organization of African American physicians. Dr. Crapp is now executive vice president and chief medical officer of Leading Edge Surgicenters. For his service to the community, Dr. Crapp received a Torch Award from FIU in 2017.
Along with his own contributions, Dr. Crapp is encouraged by programs like the Albert E. Dotson Premedical Pipeline Program for Least Represented in Medicine, a scholarship and mentoring program for African American and Native American students at FIU.
“It’s critical that you start very early in preparing and mentoring underrepresented students and getting them the tools that they need to become successful doctors,” he said.
“This scholarship made a huge difference during spring semester because I did not have to worry about paying for the semester and could focus on my studies. (It freed me up for) an opportunity to accept a job at the Dr. Miami (plastic surgery) office and intern with Dr. Anna Chacon, a dermatologist. Thank you so much for this scholarship!”
Sciences Major, Dr. Seth Crapp First
Generation Scholarship Recipient
Engineering Through An Ethical Lens
For Jaquan Starling ’22, Honors College Interdisciplinary Engineering alumnus, engineering isn’t just about building better technology; it’s also about questioning ethical implications of new frontiers, including artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms impacting our lives. “Engineering gives me the space to be logically creative,” he said.
Beyond his formal studies, Starling credits the Jorge and Darlene Pérez Honors College Scholarship, which freed him of needing a part-time job and enabled him to undertake important opportunities. He was president of the Black Student Union at FIU and held internships at Florida Power & Light and Verizon as well as research fellowships in AI and biomedical engineering.
As a scholarship recipient, Starling also gained mentors: Jorge and Darlene Pérez ’89, MSN ’96. Not content to support their students from afar, the Pérezes helped Starling learn more about the art scene in Miami and to delve deeper into his own creative pursuit – writing poetry.
As a result of these experiences, Starling adjusted his trajectory toward a career where he can fully express his logical and creative talents. He is now a business process engineer for MITRE, a not-for-profit in Washington, DC. Ever the strategist, he knows this is just the beginning of his career, and he’s keeping the possibility of further study open.
“My experience at FIU and with the scholarship, with the Pérezes, has been beyond phenomenal.”
Alumna Professor Makes Helping Students Her Legacy
“Programs like Fostering Panther Pride, that FIU started and now other universities are adopting, make me proud of our university,” Chang says, “because they lift up the whole community.”
Chang’s motivation to give back stems from her time as an undergraduate student at FIU. Having arrived in Miami from Venezuela when she was in tenth grade, she was suddenly expected to speak and learn in a language she didn’t know well. So, when she was admitted to FIU as a Golden Scholar, she was given an opportunity that kickstarted the learning journey that ultimately led her to return as a professor.
Chang hopes that her gift will allow first-generation students like herself to build both knowledge and resiliency so they’re prepared to face challenges both inside and outside of the academy. Being a student, she emphasizes, is such a huge life experience, and she wants her students to take full advantage of it.
“By helping these students directly,” Chang says, “FIU motivates me to give back because I want to see these programs continue and become self-sustaining so they can help even more students.”
Tina Vidal-Duart ’02, MIB ’04
Donors Enable Panthers To Thrive On And Off The Athletic Field
“We want to continue to grow and continue to climb and to have FIU Athletics be a dominant collegiate athletics program,” Carr said. “We want to help FIU with the affinity that we all seek, and we feel that athletics is a strong conduit for that.”
FIU Athletics has worked hard to cultivate and supportt its student-athletes – and there are former studentathletes who generously pay that support forward, like Pat Bradley ’74, the renowned professional golfer, member of the LPGA Hall of Fame, and longtime supporter of FIU Athletics. In 1988 she started a scholarship endowment at FIU and has since made additional financial contributions, a number of which have made possible a practice facility at MMC.
By engaging with alumni like Bradley and the FIU community, Carr is invigorating Panthers everywhere. Donors make possible the standard of excellence FIU Athletics seeks. Alumni like Tina Vidal-Duart ’02, MIB ’04, and Carlos Duart ’94, MS ’99, whose $250,000 gift supports the Athletic Director’s Discretionary Fund. “We are committed to helping our student-athletes succeed both on and off the field – and we know Scott Carr shares our dedication to this foremost goal,” said Tina Vidal-Duart.
With the support of donors, FIU Athletics aims to bolster its reputation and enhance the student-athlete experience. These two goals feed into each other, with the success of FIU Athletics enabling the program to better guide student-athletes toward both academic and athletic excellence.
Donor support enables FIU to upgrade facilities, elevate the game day experience, and attract promising athletes. Above all, FIU Athletics is resolute in its mission to empower student-athletes to succeed in all areas. One of Carr’s foremost goals is to help student-athletes get the most of their time at the university. When they leave FIU, he wants them to do so with a diploma in one hand and championship rings on the other.
The pathway to FIU Athletics’ success is clear, which is why now, more than ever, the university looks to its biggest fans – alumni and donors – to help take the program to new heights.
Hca And Nursing Join Forces To Combat Nursing Shortage
To help address Florida’s shortage of nurses, which is projected to reach nearly 60,000 by 2035, HCA Florida Healthcare donated $1.5 million to increase recruitment in the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences’ Nurse Educator programs and expand the number of registered nurses qualified to teach in nursing programs.
“HCA Healthcare and FIU have enjoyed a longstanding partnership,” said Charles Gressle, HCA Healthcare East Florida Division president. “I’m glad that this donation will allow them to grow their curriculum and offer scholarships to those answering the call to help prepare more of Florida’s nurses.”
HCA Healthcare and FIU Nursing are taking a proactive approach to this problem plaguing hospitals and health care systems all across the country.
“The sobering fact is that without enough nurse educators today, there will be fewer nurses for tomorrow,” said Ora L. Strickland, dean of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences. “HCA Healthcare shares our purpose and has stepped up to the plate to grow a robust nursing faculty pipeline through FIU.”
FIU’s Nurse Educator programs expanded recruitment this fall when the accelerated RN-BSN-MSN Nurse Educator track was introduced. The gift from HCA Florida Healthcare helps fund scholarships to attract eligible students to all programs and supports the addition of full-time and adjunct faculty positions to FIU Nursing.
Alumnus John McKibbon Makes $5m Gift To Chaplin School
John McKibbon ’75 and his wife, Letitia, made a $5 million gift in September 2021 to the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management to enhance the alumni experience, implement formal integration of technology and innovation into the curriculum, and create student scholarships at the top 10 U.S. public hospitality school from which he graduated.
The McKibbon ’75 Alumni Experience will have both a physical and virtual presence to reach over 17,000 alumni globally. It aims to inspire future professionals by celebrating graduates’ success, serving as a convener for the industry, and curating experiences to strengthen alumni bonds while serving lifelong learners through continuing education options.
“FIU is Florida’s number one public university,” McKibbon said. “What better place to get a great education, and it’s critical now more than ever to attract more young people to the industry. So, I’m hoping this gift will also encourage others to do the same. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together.” The gift will increase tech innovation at the Chaplin School through the establishment of the McKibbon ’75 Professorship, which will secure grants to increase endeavors such as an innovative hospitality epicenter and bring the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to the forefront of hospitality tech. Additionally, the gift will create undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to help students secure a world-class hospitality education and become future industry leaders.
“We are proud to count John among the most distinguished graduates of the Chaplin School, and his investment in our school will prove transformational for hospitality education and the industry,” said Michael Cheng, the school’s dean.
Proud Alumni Of All Generations Help FIU Move Forward
FIU’s alumni donors believe in their alma mater. Whether they’re just getting started in their careers or have a long list of professional accomplishments, they know exactly why they give and how they want their gifts to be used.
For Bianca Utset ’22 it’s all about supporting the theatre program she recently graduated from. At FIU she felt so supported by her classmates and professors that she didn’t wait to give back. Utset gives $10 to her program each month, an amount that can make a real impact. With her firsthand knowledge of the theatre program, Utset knows that just $10 can be the difference for the program to update a set piece, buy better fabric, or secure the rights to produce a play. She helps support the positive atmosphere that made her professors into mentors and classmates into family.
“I fell in love with the theatre program,’ Utset recalled. “I was motivated to keep coming back even when days were long and I was tired. I enjoyed my time here, so I want to make it even better for people coming after me.”
While Utset is now focused on honing her craft and auditioning for roles, she knows her gifts will make long rehearsal days at the theatre program just that bit richer for her fellow thespians.
In the same way, William “Terry” Colombo ’75 gives out of gratitude. He grew up in North Miami and credits the business degree he earned at FIU with preparing him for an administrative career with the Florida Public Service Commission and Sarasota County government. A member of one of the early graduating classes, Colombo attended FIU after serving in the Army for three years, including a deployment in the Vietnam War. He worked full-time while attending classes in the evenings.
“I came from a hard-working, blue-collar family – my father was head custodian at a local junior high school, and my mother started out as an elevator operator at a large hotel, but shortly after was able to obtain secretarial positions at a number of large businesses,” Colombo said. “I was the first to go to college in my family. I felt good going to FIU. I’d do the homework during my breaks at work and on the weekends.”
Colombo has fond memories of his professors, especially how they shared their knowledge and real-world experience. They taught in innovative ways, like demonstrating organizational theory by chipping away at a cinderblock, and encouraged students to examine problems from multiple angles. And when one professor unexpectedly praised his perceptiveness, he grew even more motivated.
Now, as a donor with decades of giving to FIU, Colombo has watched the university grow and flourish. He takes pride knowing that his gifts are going toward the supportive, innovative teaching that helped him excel.
Even though Colombo and Utset graduated decades apart, they share the same faith in FIU’s mission to serve its students and communities. Their continuing support, joined with the multitude of gifts from the Panther community, keeps FIU moving toward the next horizon.
Participation Matters: Alumni Couple Gift Challenges Panthers
The alumni graduates of the classes of ’82 and ’98, who have chosen to remain anonymous, made a historic $1 million challenge gift that will match 1:1 all gifts made by alumni from $50 to $25,000. The challenge remains active until all funds have been expended. The gift encourages alumni to support FIU wherever they choose. With FIU’s rising national profile and recognition, the time is opportune for Panthers to give back to their alma mater. The alumni challenge helped increase FIU’s alumni participation rate from 5.8 percent to 9.4 percent in just one year. Alumni support of their alma mater helps ensure FIU is among the nation’s leading public research universities.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our alumni todouble the size and impact of their gifts – and we look forward to them answering the challenge,” said Howard Lipman, CEO of the FIU Foundation. “We are very grateful to our Panther alumni couple for their incredible generosity and vision in creating this match challenge.”
New Strategies, Initiatives Lift Alumni Giving
“FIU represents the diversity and promise of our nation,” Abrams said. “Alumni donors reinforce our university’s commitment to be both culturally responsive and thought leaders in solving our nation’s most pressing issues. I am excited about the impact alumni donors will continue having at FIU and in our country.”
Throughout the year, a mix of marketing and engagement tactics – including direct mail and email, social media, digital advertising, and phone texts – were deployed to let alumni know about institutional achievements and ways they can help support this progress.
One particular standout effort in the mix was the third annual FIU 305 Give Day, which blew past previous fundraising and participation records, bringing in more than $228,000 from 906 donors compared to 673 Panthers donating $65,000 a year earlier. 305 Give Day focuses on the generosity of FIU alumni and encourages them to give back to their alma mater by supporting scholarships, student organizations, academic programs, research – any FIU initiative that inspires them.
Research and a look at best practices led to another new effort: the FIU Alumni Panther Pack, a donor-based giving and engagement network to promote a culture of philanthropy amongst our graduates. With just a $25 donation, new graduates can join the pack, which includes a class T-shirt and exclusive perks and swag.
Alumni-Driven: Engaging And Elevating Our Panther Community
“The feedback we’ve gotten from the survey has been invaluable,” said Gina Duarte-Romero ’91, MEd ’08, the Alumni Association board president, “We’re able to take alumni concerns to the board where we can take action. We’re excited to use this feedback as we move forward in our campaign.”
Diverse, purpose-driven programming is being designed that meets alumni at each life stage and with different interests, thereby fostering the unity of the Panther community and promoting long-term Panther pride.
- Young alumni: career services and networking events in South Florida and beyond
- Middle-aged alumni: continuing education and travel opportunities
- Alumni already secure in their careers: meet-ups to keep their bond with fellow alumni and FIU strong
- Current students, who are “alumni in residence”: experiences to deepen their FIU pride and sense of belonging
- All alumni: gatherings to celebrate Panther affinity and achievements
Alumni’s Enduring Bonds With Their FIU
Lemar White, BA ’06, Accounting
Google LLC, Program Manager – DEI Communities & Allies
I arrived at FIU from the Boston area not knowing anyone and unsure of my career goals. I left the university four years later with strong leadership and organizational skills, lifelong friendships, and a foundation that positioned me well for a successful career.
It’s incredible how the university has grown since I graduated in 1994. I expect that it will continue to grow in its commitment to excellence for students and in local and global communities.
I think most people believe it’s important when we achieve success that we reach back and pull others up. One essential role alumni can play is to serve as mentors and coaches to students and recent grads.
Martha I. Vinas, BA ’94, Health Services Administration
Cigna, Senior Director – U.S. Field Marketing