Iron Arrow Welcomes 40 New Members to Its Tribe

An Iron Arrow member applies the ceremonial colors of orange, green, and white to Brianna Hathaway’s forehead as part of the Student Government president’s induction into the society.
By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

An Iron Arrow member applies the ceremonial colors of orange, green, and white to Brianna Hathaway’s forehead as part of the Student Government president’s induction into the society.

Iron Arrow Welcomes 40 New Members to Its Tribe

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
Started in 1926, Iron Arrow endures today as the highest honor attainable at UM.

Stunned, surprised, and astonished reactions have become the norm each time the University of Miami Iron Arrow Honor Society inducts unsuspecting students, faculty, staff, and alumni into its ranks each year. And Thursday was no exception when 40 distinguished individuals—among them, two married couples—were tapped into the prestigious organization that honors individuals who demonstrate a love of alma mater and embody the qualities of good character, leadership, scholarship, and humility.

Student Government President Brianna Hathaway was attending a Homecoming alma mater singing competition at the University Center Rock when she suddenly heard the steady beat of a drum and then noticed a procession of Iron Arrow members marching single file toward the crowd in which she was standing.

A senior well versed in all Hurricane traditions, Hathaway knew immediately what was taking place: Iron Arrow members, clad in their colorful Seminole-patchwork jackets, were headed somewhere on campus to tap a new member. But what she didn’t know was that the unsuspecting soul would be her. That is, not until Brandon Gross, associate director of UM’s Student Center Complex, walked into the crowd, took Hathaway by the arm, and brought her forward, just as the procession reached the Rock.

“I was humbled,” said Hathaway, an economics and political science major. “This will probably go down as my most memorable experience at UM. And to be tapped during Homecoming week makes it that much more special.”

For his surprise tapping ceremony, Jon Baldessari, director of housing operations and facilities, was called into his boss’s office along with two other co-workers at about 10 a.m. on Thursday under the guise of attending a staff meeting.

“During the meeting, Jim Smart, who’s a member of Iron Arrow, told us he might have to leave suddenly once we heard the sound of a drumbeat because a student was being tapped outside and he had to be part of the ceremony,” recalled Baldessari. “Well, sure enough we heard the drumbeat, but it still didn’t hit me that I was going to be tapped.”

With the drum’s steady beat now in the hallway of their offices in Eaton Residential College, Smart, executive director of housing and residential life, suddenly got up from his chair, slipped on his Iron Arrow jacket, and opened his office door, allowing a small group of Iron Arrow members to enter. And that’s when Baldessari, who has worked at UM for 25 years, surmised he was the lucky one.

“They came in and tapped me with the arrow across my chest,” he said. “When you’ve been at UM for as long as I have, you understand what that honor means to faculty, staff, and students. You certainly see the camaraderie the group has when they’re together. So it’s quite an honor to become a member.”

Also tapped on Thursday were two married couples: William “Tony” Lake, associate dean of students and director of judicial affairs, and Kate Lake, senior director of alumni engagement; and School of Communication alumni Alex and Bonnie Laden Hernandez, who both work at CBS4 Miami.

For Kate Lake, “becoming a part of the tribe means the world to me,” she said. “I remember when I first arrived on campus in 2008 and loved seeing all the colorful jackets. When I started to get to know the people wearing those jackets, I started to wonder and think about the meaning of it all. Being tapped while surrounded by so many amazing individuals has been surreal. It has given me renewed purpose and love for UM in a way I never thought possible.”

Baldessari and Hathaway were among the many new inductees who attended the Fall 2015 Tapping Luncheon at the Shalala Student Center, where Jonathan Vilma, a former Hurricanes and New Orleans Saints linebacker, was the keynote speaker. Vilma was tapped into Iron Arrow in the Spring of 2004, the same year he was drafted by the New York Jets with the 12th pick overall. He played for the Saints after his stint with the Jets, helping the franchise win a Super Bowl.

Iron Arrow was started in 1926, about a month after the University of Miami opened. It honors individuals who show a love of alma mater and embody the qualities of good character, leadership, scholarship, and humility. There are more than 2,900 members. Iron Arrow members frequently use fake meetings or ask soon-to-be-tappees for a quick coffee break in order to secure a tapping time and location. The only indication the tribe is approaching is a drumbeat.

The Fall 2015 inductees are:

Jon Baldessari
Owen Berry
Keelin Bielski
Kenneth Bowden
Jeffrey Brosco
Teresa Browning
Imani Callan
Kelly Cox
Emma Crichton
Jeremy D’Amico
Paul Driscoll
Susan Fleischer Kornspan
Matt Getzoff
Wilford Harris III
Chris Hartnett
Brianna Hathaway
Alex Hernandez
Gillian Hotz
Candice Johnson
Natasha Koermer
Rori Kotch
Bonnie Laden
Kate Lake
William “Tony” Lake
Massiel Leiva
Marian Li
Daniela Lorenzo
Andrea Madiedo
Richard Chris Mariani Jr.
Payal Rohit Patel
Richard “Rick” Pruss
Ashley Serjilus
Ishtpreet Singh
Brittany Stephenson
Richa Taneja
TeQuan Taylor
Maite V. Torres
Annelise Vitha
Dayle Wilson
Alexis Wright