Count Them. Nine. Yes, Nine.

From left to right: Carlos, Andres and Mikel Juan Panek. They are among nine Juan family members who currently are, or have, attended UM.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

From left to right: Carlos, Andres and Mikel Juan Panek. They are among nine Juan family members who currently are, or have, attended UM.

Count Them. Nine. Yes, Nine.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
For a generation of Juan family members, all roads lead to the University of Miami for their education.

It all started about 10 years ago with their aunt, Monica. A physician from Barcelona, Spain, she would bring her nieces and nephews with her on summer vacations to South Florida, leading them on tours of her favorite institution of higher learning—the University of Miami. 

“We never knew why or when she fell in love with UM, just that she was so fond of it,” Alessia Juan Martinuzzi, one of those nieces, recalls. “Every summer we’d spend a good portion of our time walking around and learning about the campus, and we were blown away by it.” 

It was during one of those campus visits that Monica suggested all of the children should attend the University. “We thought she was joking at first,” Alessia recalls. 

But when the time came for Fabiana, the oldest of the children, to decide which college she was going to attend, she applied to and was accepted by the University of Miami, initiating a family pact that has now seen nine Juan children—all from Spain—who have either graduated from or are currently enrolled at UM. 

“I knew they were top kids, but I didn’t realize how smart they were,” said William R. (Bill) Butler, who served as UM’s vice president for student affairs for more than 30 years and who first met the Juan family a decade ago through a close friend. 

Butler has written letters of support for undergraduate admission to UM for all of the Juan children. “They’ve all benefited greatly by the support and encouragement of their parents, who understand the benefits of the power of education from a topnotch research university like this one.” 

Alessia graduated in 2015 with a degree in environmental engineering and now works for the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, conducting environmental site assessments. Her sister, Fabiana, earned a neuroscience degree in 2013 and is now a medical student at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. 

Sister Lara and a cousin, Manuel, also have UM diplomas hanging on their walls.

Today, there are five Juan family members enrolled at the institution: Alessia’s brother, Diego; and four cousins, including Manuela and triplets Andres, Carlos and Mikel Juan Panek.

“The best thing about having two brothers at the same school is that there’s always someone you can depend on and study with,” said Andres, an economics major, who is regarded as the best decision-maker of the triplets.

“Andres is the leader,” said Carlos, a licensed pilot who is majoring in aerospace engineering. “Whenever there’s a disagreement among us, he casts the deciding vote. He’s the most level-headed.”

But for the most part, their relationship is harmonious, according to Mikel, who said they do just about everything together when they’re not in class, including kiteboarding.

Who’s the best at it? “Depends on who you ask,” said Mikel, who is studying industrial engineering and economics. 

They share a passion for volunteer work. Through the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Carlos recently traveled to Guatemala, helping to build homes for impoverished residents near San Lucas Tolimán, and two years ago Andres spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic, assisting in efforts to improve the infrastructure for a group of villagers near Santiago. 

The triplets are all on pace to graduate in May 2019.

What they’re looking forward to most? Walking together at commencement and seeing future Juan family members attend UM.