Couple celebrates life, love, and music with a substantial gift to the University of Miami

Diane Hennelly, B.A. ’99, and Dan Hennelly celebrate a love of music and a kaleidoscope of memories at the University of Miami through a substantial gift to the Knight Center for Music Innovation.
2 men 1 woman

Dan and Diane Hennelly, with their son, Daniel, at the opening gala for the Knight Center for Music Innovation.

Photo: Matt Rice Photography

For Diane Hennelly, B.A. ’99, and Dan Hennelly, the University of Miami has served as the backdrop to their love story. It’s where the couple grew into proud parents, business partners, and strong patrons of the arts.  

“I always supported the University, even after I left, just because I had such a great experience,” Diane said.

The couple recently made a substantial gift towards the construction of the Knight Center for Music Innovation at the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. The new 25,000-square-foot state-of-the-art performance and technology center will showcase live music performances and support the next generation of extraordinary talent.

“Diane and Dan Hennelly’s generosity will help usher in the future of music, combining technology and sound to transform spaces and reimagine our understanding of live performances,” said Shelton G. Berg, dean of the Frost School. “Their philanthropy will help the Frost School continue to establish itself as a hub for innovative artists and groundbreaking performances.”

Their gift is part of the University of Miami’s Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history, the $2.5 billion campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial.

Dan and Diane met while working together at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Miami. Dan had just moved to South Florida from Chicago. Diane was working full-time and pursuing a degree in business management and organization at the Patti and Allan Herbert Business School.

They bonded over a love of sports.

Dan remembers picking Diane up from the Coral Gables campus. He recalls being impressed by the strong sense of community among ’Canes, going to the football games, and meeting her friends from the University—friends they still have to this day.

The couple fell in love, got married, and, before long, Diane was walking across the graduation stage nine months pregnant with their first child, Deanna.

“I showed up ready to pop at graduation,” Diane laughed.

The family jokes that their daughter is an honorary graduate of the University of Miami.

After graduation, Diane kept thinking about a particular class assignment requiring her to draft a business plan. She was determined to make it a reality.

Five years later, the couple opened their first tire and automotive service store. The Tire Choice became wildly successful and grew to encompass 40 store locations.

“Dan and I built the company, and we were partners in it,” Diane said.

Meanwhile, Diane and Dan’s family expanded when they had their son, Daniel.

From a young age, their daughter showed an interest in the arts, taking violin and piano lessons. Diane said, “Our daughter was the more artistic one, and she was very involved in music.”

Their son participated in a variety of sports.

Their children attended a preparatory school that encouraged participation in both the arts and athletics. As a result, their daughter, who was active in musical theater, began to play sports while their son, a football player, was encouraged to get involved in musical theater.

When Daniel auditioned for his first musical, the family was pleasantly surprised to learn he got the lead.

“It was so wonderful to see,” Diane said. “It goes to show that you can be this awesome football player and be the lead in a play.”

Around this time, the couple sold their business, which gave them the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.

With both children showing an aptitude for music and theater, Dan and Diane began investing in the arts at their children’s school.

The couple found themselves revisiting the University of Miami campus to attend their children’s recitals, concerts, and presentations at the Frost School.

After high school, their daughter went on to college in New York. When their son graduated, he chose to attend the University of Miami—and Diane and Dan were thrilled. Daniel is currently a junior studying psychology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Diane says they enjoy returning to campus to visit Daniel. “We like to check everything out, have coffee at Starbucks, and then walk around and just be. We're just so impressed with the campus.”

The couple wanted to continue their philanthropy with the University of Miami.

“When I heard about the new Knight Center for Music Innovation at the Frost School, I thought, ‘What an amazing addition to the campus,’” Diane said. “I was just very happy for the school, and I was happy for the students who will get this beautiful space to play their music.”

As devout Hurricane fans, they still love going to the games. They chose a suite right behind the Frost Band of the Hour.

“One of our favorite parts of the game is at the end, when all the football players come over to the band and they sing the school song,” Dan said.

Dan, a self-avowed honorary ’Cane, knows the school fight song by heart.

Diane feels that giving to the University of Miami is investing in the future.

“I had a great experience at the University of Miami, and I hope that these young adults have as much fun as I did,” she says.