Major League Speakers Share Their Magic

Alex Rodriguez, left, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, and Rony Abovitz at the graduate ceremony.
By UM News

Alex Rodriguez, left, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, and Rony Abovitz at the graduate ceremony.

Major League Speakers Share Their Magic

By UM News
Major League Baseball legend Alex Rodriguez will give his advice to undergraduates and Magic Leap, Inc. founder Rony Abovitz will address graduate students.

Two extraordinary men—one a gifted athlete and businessman who accomplished what many children dream about, the other a biomedical engineer, artist, and musician who is bringing dreams to life—will be the speakers at the University of Miami’s fall commencement ceremonies on Thursday, December 14, when more than 1,100 students cross the stage for their hard-earned degrees.

Fourteen-time Major League Baseball All-Star Alex Rodriguez will address more than 600 undergraduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony, and Rony Abovitz, the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Magic Leap Inc., will advise more than 500 graduate students at the 2 p.m. ceremony. Both have left indelible marks on UM and South Florida, where they nurtured many of their own dreams. 

As a boy, A-Rod, as the New York Yankees’ power hitter and 2009 World Series champion is known, used to sneak into UM’s Mark Light Stadium to watch Miami Hurricanes baseball games. Today, the stadium is called Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in recognition of the $3.9 million gift Rodriguez made to renovate the venue and fund an annual UM scholarship for members of the Boys and Girls Club of America. “For me,” Rodriguez said at the 2002 ceremony where the gift was announced, “this is my Yankee Stadium, my Candlestick Park, my Dodger Stadium.”

UM’s baseball program recruited Rodriquez in 1993, but had stiff competition from the Seattle Mariners, which selected him in the first round of that year’s MLB draft, and from the U’s own storied football program, which offered Rodriguez a scholarship to play quarterback. He was that good at both sports. The Mariners won out, signing Rodriguez hours before he was to begin classes at UM and launching his legendary 22-year MLB career that ended in 2016 after a dozen years with the Yankees.

On his way to hitting an astounding 696 home runs, smashing more grand slams than anyone in history, joining the elite 3,000 hits club, and earning three American League Most Valuable Player Awards, Rodriguez was simultaneously laying the foundation for his successful investment firm company, A-Rod Corp. It began with the purchase of a single duplex in 2003, and today employs more than 500 people.

An Emmy Award-winning sports commentator, Rodriguez is also actively engaged in a variety of philanthropic endeavors. Named an Honorary Alumnus in 2004, he received UM’s Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award in 2007 and is a member of the UM Board of Trustees and an avid supporter of the School of Business Administration, where he established the Graduate Entrepreneurship and Innovation Endowed Fund to support students in the Miami Executive M.B.A. for Artists and Athletes program and other M.B.A. students.

Had Rodriguez remained a student at UM, he might have crossed paths with Abovitz, who after moving from Ohio to South Florida in middle school, nurtured the dream of walking on to UM’s baseball and football teams. He turned down several prestigious schools in the Northeast and Midwest to follow his beloved Hurricanes and earn his B.S. in mechanical engineering at UM in 1994, and his M.S. in biomedical engineering in 1996.

The degrees have served him well, twice earning him recognition as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum for his biomedical advances, and placing him on the cusp of introducing a new, highly anticipated computing platform.

The oldest child of an Air Force flight engineer, entrepreneur, and inventor, and an accomplished painter and educator, Abovitz never saw a separation between technology and the creative arts. He always wanted to be an artist and a scientist, a musician and an engineer. “They were, and still are, one and the same for me,” he says.

That may explain how Abovitz, who was a cartoonist and columnist for The Miami Hurricane, a DJ for WVUM 90.5, and javelin thrower on the varsity track and field team, pivoted from pioneering surgeon-assisted robotics for orthopedic surgery to creating a Cinematic Reality computing platform that will allow computing “to spill from the computer” and swim before our eyes—transforming the internet of information into the internet of experiences.

All while playing guitar and bass in a virtual “wonky pop rock” band called Sparkydog and Friends.

“Our shared vision at Magic Leap contemplates a connected, creative, and collective world of human experience,” Abovitz says. “We should all imagine the positive future we want, and then go build it. If we can imagine it, it can happen.”

Faculty who wish to participate in the academic procession should RSVP to commencement@miami.edu with their name and the ceremony they wish to attend. Employees who wish to volunteer—and earn one administrative day off—still have time to sign up. Both speeches and commencement ceremonies can be viewed live online by visiting UM’s Commencement coverage at miami.edu on Thursday, December 14, and clicking on the Livestream link.


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