Alumni, family and friends gathered at Coral Gables Country Club on May 17 to mingle and network at the 2018 Annual Cocktail Reception.
The reception introduces new members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, who are sworn in each year before the event begins, to the FIU community. This year, Sean Gazitúa ’04, Cisely Scott ’00 and Vanessa Valdes ’04, MS ’06 joined the board as officers. In addition, a new executive board was announced:
- Maria Garcia ’05, JD ’08, President
- Benjamin Sardiñas ’01, Vice President
- Enrique Piñeiro ’03, MS ’16, Parliamentarian
- Gina Duarte-Romero MS ’08, Secretary
- Michael Hernandez ’04, MPA ’11, President-Elect (to succeed Garcia as President in 2019-2020)
Garcia told the crowd she looks forward to getting to know the FIU alumni community in her time as president, and that she’s already spoken to many alumni who, like her, “feel like they never left FIU.”
“You are the backbone of our university,” Garcia said, imploring alumni to remain engaged with their alma mater. “Without you, FIU wouldn’t be what it is.”
At the event, Duane Wiles, associate vice president and executive director for the Office of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving, encouraged attendees to show pride in their alma mater by supporting athletics, attending homecoming and making gifts in support of the university.
“Now is the time for our alumni to talk up FIU, to rep FIU, to be the voice of FIU, to tell the FIU story and to be activists,” Wiles said.
Attendees were treated to a special guest: FIU Football Head Coach Butch Davis. Under Davis’ leadership, FIU roared into the national spotlight in 2017, heading to St. Petersburg for the program’s first bowl game in six years and finishing the season with eight wins.
Davis introduced four members of the promising 2018 team and recognized several of FIU’s other successful athletic programs, including Beach Volleyball and Women’s Tennis. He stressed the importance of alumni supporting FIU student-athletes and their alma mater by attending games and buying season tickets.
“We need you,” Davis said, adding that it takes a lot of people “to develop a culture and develop an environment that breeds success.”
FIU alumnus Harry Pickering ’75 and his wife Barbara, an alumna of the University of Miami, are excited for the healthy rivalry anticipated in their household this fall. They’re FIU Football season ticket holders, as well as donors to FIU, and they’re looking forward to watching their two alma maters face off on Sept. 22.
“We’ll be there,” Barbara Pickering said. “Harry will be in his FIU gear, and I’ll be right next to him in mine.”
The event highlighted the First Generation Scholarship Program, to which donations are now matched by the state of Florida 2-to-1. The program supports students at FIU who are the first in their families to attain a bachelor’s degree. Nearly half of undergraduate students at FIU are first-generation.
Together, attendees raised $3,100 for the program, which when matched by the state became $9,300 – enough to fund one first-generation student’s entire year at FIU.
Harry Pickering, a retired police officer, said he feels it’s important to give back to FIU by supporting athletics and making gifts because FIU gave him so much.
“Without FIU, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” he said.
Daniel Leon ’18, a political science graduate who now works in the public sector, took the opportunity to network at the reception. He plans to come back every year. “There’s a lot of people to meet here. Anyone you want to meet in any field, they’re all here.”