Annual alumni reception breaks attendance record, raises awareness for Next Horizon campaign

Alumni Association Board of Directors President Michael Hernandez ’04, MPA ’11 with President Mark B. Rosenberg

A record number of alumni and friends of FIU came out to the Alumni Association Annual Cocktail Reception this year to celebrate their alma mater, learn about the university’s future and explore its innovative research programs.

Six-hundred guests flocked to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a new site for the event, on May 16. A collaboration with the FIU Foundation and the Office of the Provost, the reception introduced alumni to the Next Horizon campaign, a landmark effort to raise $750 million in support of student success and research excellence at FIU. It also showcased FIU’s preeminent programs, which bring together faculty experts from across the university to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, and gave alumni a chance to mingle with and learn from these researchers.

Guests had the chance to interact with researchers from FIU’s preeminent programs, including the Center for Children and Families, a world-class clinical research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and families struggling with mental health problems.

“By the conclusion of the Next Horizon campaign, we will have new cures to diseases, new solutions to make our buildings more resilient to changing climate and extreme events, better ways to solve crime and enforce justice, and, overall, have the opportunity to be the pioneers in many new ways that we educate our students,” said FIU Provost Kenneth Furton, a researcher himself and head of the preeminent programs initiative.

Explore FIU’s preeminent programs

Though much research conducted at FIU is supported through public funding and grants, our researchers still have areas of need that can be filled by private philanthropy, including hiring more team members and purchasing supplies.

“You have a unique opportunity to have a major impact on this. I invite you to partner with us and help us reach the Next Horizon,” Furton said.

Each of FIU’s 225,000 alumni plays an imperative role in the university’s future success, President Mark B. Rosenberg told guests. He hopes that each year, at least 40 percent of alumni – about 95,000 – will step up to make an annual gift to the Next Horizon campaign.

President Rosenberg discusses the Next Horizon campaign and the future of the university with a crowd of over 600 alumni and friends of FIU.

“We are a force for good. You know that. You represent that goodness. You believe in that goodness,” Rosenberg said. “Alone, we’re powerless. But working together, we can move mountains. So I want to ask each of you to step up. Everybody, can you help us reach the Next Horizon?”

The event also served as the induction ceremony for the 2019-2020 Alumni Association Board of Directors. New board members include Donovan Campbell ’00, Barbara Yvonne Debesa ’82, Jorge Escobar ’03, Julian Kasdin ’07, Alexander Kuk ’04, MS ’10, Manuel Niebla ’05 and Brian Swensen ’10.

The board serves FIU by exploring new ways for alumni to engage with current students, fundraising for special initiatives like scholarships and the future Alumni Center, and leveraging their personal and professional networks to advocate for the university in the community. It’s a tough job that’s getting tougher each year as the bar for selection continues to rise, commented Alumni Association Executive Director Duane Wiles at the induction ceremony.

“Occupying these seats should be hard, elite, selective and rigorous. I want to congratulate each of you for your hard-earned election,” Wiles said, quoting Alberto Padron ’98, MBA ’09, a dedicated former board member who just completed his ten-year term limit.

Longtime board member and two-time graduate Michael Hernandez ’04, MPA ’11, senior vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, was elected as this year’s board president. Hernandez has been part of the FIU community since he was 5 years old, when his mother started working for the university.

The 2019-2020 Alumni Association Board of Directors, with Alumni Association Executive Director Duane Wiles (front, left) and President Rosenberg (front, right)

When introduced to the crowd, he implored alumni to take a stand for FIU by attending sporting events; mentoring and hiring students and recent grads; and making an annual gift to the institution’s student scholarships, community programs or research initiatives.

“Miami’s research institution is not a private one – it’s FIU. We do for this community what other institutions do not, and that’s why we need more of you and we need your friends, your family and neighbors – we need to grow the tribe… so that people understand FIU is an integral part not only of this community, but of our lives,” Hernandez said.

This year, the reception raised money for the Preeminent Program Fund through the Next Horizon campaign. Inspired by their interactions with FIU’s researchers, attendees rallied to raise more than $6,500.

The Annual Cocktail Reception kicked off the Next Horizon tour, which will bring FIU to cities across the U.S. and beyond, including Los Angeles, Houston and more. The first Next Horizon “road show” will take place June 7, 2019, in New York City at the New York Public Library. Register here.

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