Celebration illuminates donors’ ‘life-changing impacts’

Benjamin Estrada, 02-16-2023

The 2023 Scholarship Donor Celebration, held on Feb. 14 at the Shalala Student Center Ballroom, spotlighted the power of scholarships to change lives and offered students and donors the opportunity to meet each other.
Scholarship reception
University of Miami President Julio Frenk, top center, is surrounded by students and donors during the Scholarship Donor Celebration at the Shalala Student Center Ballroom on Feb. 14. Photo: Jenny Abreu for the University of Miami


In a heartfelt celebration fitting for Valentine’s Day, University of Miami students and leaders gathered at the 2023 Scholarship Donor Celebration on Feb. 14 to express their gratitude and appreciation to the scholarship donors whose generosity makes it possible for thousands of undergraduate and graduate students to attend the U. 

Philanthropy is a word whose Greek roots translate to the “love of humanity,” explained President Julio Frenk during his remarks, and “it is this love that enables students to transform their lives and communities through education supported by scholarships.” 

Melanie Sousa Del Hierro, a sophomore with a double major in anthropology and Native American and global Indigenous studies, recounted how navigating her lived history used to make her feel like she didn’t belong in higher education. Having faced financial insecurity, abuse, and identity challenges growing up, Sousa Del Hierro—a recipient of the George W. Jenkins Scholarship—credits her application experience as “the first thing that forced me to piece all of those things together.” 

She eventually understood that overcoming adversity was an integral part of her journey to pursue a career in medical anthropology. 

“I study what I do, and with the passion that I do, because of who I am.” Sousa Del Hierro said. “[The scholarship] brought together students with stomach-dropping, gut-wrenching stories, and told them they would not only be supported, but prioritized—celebrated.” 

Logan Beatty, a Stamps Scholar and biomedical engineering junior, noted that it was a combination of his love of biology in high school, enrolling at the University during the COVID pandemic, and his experience doing research in a mechanobiology lab that led him to his chosen field of study. “I would never have had the ability to come to UM and find my passions,” he said, referring to his scholarship support. Beatty pointed out that now he is able to give back to the community that has uplifted him “by donating to scholarships for future generations of ’Canes.’’ 

The event, held at the Shalala Student Center Ballroom on the Coral Gables Campus, offered students in attendance the opportunity to meet the donors who made their scholarships possible—an interaction that was as meaningful to the donors as it was to those who benefit from their support. 

“We applaud these talented students whose academic and artistic achievements have earned them the distinction of becoming scholarship recipients and the benefactors who opened the doors to these opportunities,” Frenk said. 

In addition to in-person speakers, there were videos and digital slides featuring student scholarship recipients who expressed their gratitude and shared their experiences. One video showcased alumna Doreen Gustav, an accelerated nursing student who earned her second bachelor’s degree. It was the scholarship support she received that allowed her to “follow her childhood dream” of providing patients with the “best care possible” as a labor and delivery nurse.

“This annual celebration is a remarkable reminder of how [donors’] partnership in helping students access quality higher education can make life-changing impacts,” said Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, who went on to introduce Kostia Lukyniuk, a graduate student from Ukraine and a Frost School of Music scholarship recipient. 

A little more than a year ago, Lukyniuk had auditioned for the Frost School. He then returned to Ukraine to await the outcome of his audition. And two weeks later, the war began. Shortly thereafter, he received notice of his scholarship and acceptance to the Frost School, allowing him to continue his education and pursuing his passion.

Lukyniuk thanked the University and the donors who made his journey possible before treating them to a vibrant violin performance inspired by his Eastern European heritage. 

For more stories on how the University is transforming students' lives, visit Ever Brighter—the Campaign for Our Next Century.