Colleagues, students honor Herbert Wellness Center employees

Colleagues, students honor Herbert Wellness Center employees

Matt Calle presents James Burgess with a special recognition at the Jacks Awards.
By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Matt Calle presents James Burgess with a special recognition at the Jacks Awards.

Colleagues, students honor Herbert Wellness Center employees

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

During the annual Herbert Wellness Center Jacks Awards, held on May 3, two employees received recognition from students and colleagues. 

Thirty-five years ago, when James Burgess began his career at the University of Miami Patti and Alan Herbert Wellness Center as a senior maintenance mechanic, he decided to take it all in stride. To Burgess there was nothing better than learning from others, and to this day he credits his mentors with sharing the same knowledge that he passes on to students. 

“When I came to the Wellness Center, I learned from a great team, and I enjoy teaching the students some of those same skills,” said Burgess. His colleagues, including student employees, echoed his sentiment.

“The countless student employees who have spoken with you will forever carry the knowledge you’ve shared with them,” said Matt Calle, Wellness Center student employee. “Your advice and experience will always serve us. Whether it’s tea recommendations, tips on how to paint like a professional, or the many intricacies of pressure washing the tennis courts, you have put 35 years of hard work into this building and you have helped all of the people in it,” Calle added as he presented Burgess with a dedicated brick to be placed on the Wellness Center’s Love Bridge

In one of his many roles at the Wellness Center, Burgess is responsible for installing and maintaining the bricks on the Love Bridge. The space, which was established in honor of Patti and Allan Herbert, is under his constant care and supervision and now he’s the first University employee to have a brick dedicated by students. 

Angela Montero, assistant director of facilities, has worked with Burgess for almost 20 years. First as a student employee and now in her current role. I truly believe James was one of the main reasons the Wellness Center became my home away from home. Now I have the opportunity to work alongside him, guiding students the way he guided me,” said Montero.

Another familiar and welcoming face to Wellness Center members and employees is Alonso Mejia, supervisor for Chartwells. Known for managing the juice bar, now FitBerry, Mejia was recognized for his 26 years of service and his integral role in ensuring that nutrition was always a component of health and fitness. He retired in April 2022. 

Alonso Mejia
Norm Parsons, Alonso Mejia, and Sebastian the Ibis.

Mejia, who originally worked as a sous chef at the University’s Faculty Club, got his new role by chance. While working at the Faculty Club, he met Norm Parsons, former director of the Department of Wellness and Recreation, and the rest was history. 

“When Norm offered me the role at the juice bar, I asked ‘if I don’t like it, can I return to the faculty club?’ ” joked Mejia. That was in 1996, and he never returned to his original role. Instead, he spent early mornings—arriving many days at 4 a.m.—and late nights prepping ingredients and managing the everyday operations of the well-known Wellness Center eatery. No matter the time of day, he greeted everyone with a smile and made incredible friends along the way. “I’m leaving many memories in the Wellness Center,” said Mejia, who recently retired, in an emotional farewell.  

“Alonso and James have been integral to our success,” said Scott Levin, executive director of the Herbert Wellness Center. “Not only have they been essential to building upon the vision of the Wellness Center, but they have also impacted many lives in a positive way. We are grateful for their service.”

The University of Miami recognizes faculty and staff members for their contributions and dedication. Read stories from the 2022 Long Service Awards to meet colleagues who continue to make an impact.