2018: The year in review

By Robert C. Jones Jr.

2018: The year in review

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
Here’s a look back at the biggest stories at the U over the past year.

From a new partnership in spatial computing, to the appointment of new deans for the Miller School of Medicine and School of Education and Human Development, to the ceremonial groundbreaking for a facility that will boost STEM disciplines across the U, 2018 proved to be a banner year for the University of Miami. 


Dr. Edward Abraham officially takes the helm as executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System on Jan. 1. Abraham, who joined the Miller School of Medicine as dean and chief academic officer on July 1, 2017, had been serving concurrently as acting executive vice president and CEO since Sept. 15. 

College Magazine names the Frost School of Music one of the top 10 music schools for aspiring songwriters. The quarterly magazine, which is written and edited by college students, recognizes the Frost School for its programs offered specifically for songwriters: The Musicianship, Artistry, Development and Entrepreneurship program (MADE) and the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program (CAM). 

To better reflect the city it represents and the aspirations of its students, the business school changes its name to the University of Miami Business School, or Miami Business School for short. 

Already named the 2017 ACC Volleyball Player of the Year before she graduated from UM in December 2017, outside hitter Olga Strantzali is named the 2017 ACC Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. 


Thousands of cyclists, runners, and walkers, including scores of ’Canes, participate in the eighth Dolphins Cancer Challenge on Feb. 10 to benefit research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

DrakeWhile on campus Feb. 5 to film a music video, hip-hop superstar Drake donates $10,000 to the Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program, which provides musical experiences for underserved students throughout Miami–Dade. Drake also gives $50,000 to the University for student scholarships, and student Destiny James is selected as the first recipient by the Office of Student Financial Assistance. 

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Barretos Cancer Hospital—one of the most advanced public hospital cancer centers in Brazil—sign a memorandum of understanding on Feb. 2 for wide-ranging collaborative research. 

Miami Athletics launches the Building Women Champions campaign, an initiative that will enhance scholarship support, leadership development, and career coaching for Hurricane female student-athletes. 

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is once again recognized as a Cancer Center of Excellence by the State of Florida—one of just four cancer centers in the state, and the only one in South Florida, to have earned this honor. 

UM’s women’s basketball team defeats Virginia 77-62 on Feb. 18 in Charlottesville, Virginia, giving head coach Katie Meier the 250th victory of her stellar 13-year coaching career at Miami. 

Held at UM on Feb. 26, the first regional joint meeting of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine focuses on the potential for healthcare breakthroughs when doctors and engineers collaborate. 


Dr. Henri R. Ford is named dean of the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. The Haitian-born pediatric surgeon, who immigrated to Brooklyn with his family when he was 13 and has returned often to his native country to provide medical care, was formerly the senior vice president and chief of surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, vice dean of medical education, and professor and vice chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. 

In honor of her mother and the physicians and staff who tried to save her sight, philanthropist Lois Pope makes a record-setting $12 million gift to advance Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s quest to cure eye diseases. The largest single donation in the institute’s 56-year history, the gift will establish a collaborative macular degeneration and retinal diseases research center that will be known as the Lois Pope Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration Research. 

The Kislak Center is dedicated on March 20 with a celebration of Jay I. Kislak, whose generous donation of his Collection of the Early Americas, Exploration and Navigation opens new worlds of learning to scholars around the hemisphere. 

Creed Pettit, a 9-year-old legally blind boy from Mount Dora, Florida, on March 22 becomes the first patient to undergo a landmark gene therapy surgery at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute with the hope of restoring his vision. 

The School of Architecture on March 8 dedicates its B.E. & W.R. Miller BuildLab, an open-air, covered structure that allows students to work even in inclement weather. 

The Hurricane men’s basketball team earns an at-large bid into the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, marking the fourth time in head coach Jim Larrañaga’s seven seasons at the helm of the Miami program that UM has made it to the Big Dance. 

Joe BidenTaking another concrete step to make the University of Miami the hemispheric university, UM President Julio Frenk and Pablo Navas, president of the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, sign a memorandum of understanding on March 13 aimed at building collaborative bridges between the two institutions 

As part of the “It’s On Us” initiative, former Vice President Joe Biden visits the UM on March 20, urging the campus community to help combat sexual violence against women. 

Randy Ableman is named the 2018 ACC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year.


World health experts meet at UM April 5 and 6 to discuss the findings, identify solutions, and call for action on the Lancet Commission’s report, led by UM’s Felicia Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, on the appalling lack of palliative care and pain relief for millions of suffering people around the world. 

UM student-athletes earn first place in the Division 1 category of the 2018 NCAA Team Works Helper Community Service Competition. 

Patricia Abril, professor of business law, and Stuart A. Miller, director and CEO of Lennar Corporation and the immediate past chair of UM’s Board of Trustees, receive, respectively, the Faculty Senate’s Outstanding Teaching Award and James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award on April 16. 

Leaders representing 10 universities across the hemisphere respond to a University of Miami invitation and gather in Miami on April 23, agreeing to partner in a Hemispheric University Consortium. A component of UM’s Roadmap to Our New Century, the Hemispheric University Consortium will provide a platform for the mobility of students, faculty, and researchers to collaborate. 

Six Miami Hurricanes are selected in the April 2018 NFL Draft, with defensive lineman Chad Thomas leading the way as the 67th overall selection and going to the Cleveland Browns. 


University leaders join benefactors Phillip and Patricia Frost in breaking ceremonial ground on May 3 on a new Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building, which will house an intertwined network of institutes aimed at boosting STEM disciplines across the U. 

Laura Kohn-Wood, a professor of educational and psychological studies, who joined the UM faculty in 2009, is appointed dean of the School of Education and Human Development. 

Sophomore tennis phenom Estela Perez-Somarriba is named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year, becoming the fourth Hurricane to earn the prestigious award since UM joined the ACC 14 years ago. 

Seven commencement ceremonies take place over three days in early May at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables campus, with Nontombi Naomi Tutu, daughter of the iconic Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, delivering her father’s message to graduates and giving some powerful advice of her own at the undergraduate ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Several hundred faculty, researchers, staff, and distinguished guests gather at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science on May 18 to commemorate the school’s 75th anniversary. 


Amy Deem, director of track and field/cross country, is named the 2018 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Women’s Coach of the Year, winning the honor for the third time. 

UM’s College of Engineering and East China University of Science and Technology sign a memorandum of understanding that calls for the development of joint conferences, projects, research, and collaborative academic programs and exchange of faculty and students. 


SouthEast Enrollment CenterThanks to its expertise in genetics and genomics and its location in one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation, the University becomes the lead partner in the SouthEast Enrollment Center, a consortium of four major academic healthcare organizations across the states of Florida and Georgia, which, with a $60 million grant, will help build the most inclusive and diverse health database in history. 

An ACLU report authored by University of Miami sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade County’s criminal justice system. 



Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is once again ranked the nation’s best in ophthalmology byU.S News & World Report, making it the 15th year in a row and the 17th time since the publication began surveying U.S. physicians for its annual “Best Hospitals” rankings that the institute has garnered the No. 1 ranking. 

Four former students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018, visit with School of Communication students in late August to talk about their activism and its challenges. 


State of the U AddressSaying that UM is at a pivotal juncture in its history, President Julio Frenk on Sept. 17 outlines the strategies of the Roadmap to Our New Century, the plan designed to transform UM into a top comprehensive research university. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to become a university not just of Miami, not just of this country, but also of the world,” said Frenk, delivering his inaugural State of the University address

For the seventh year in a row, NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education recognizes UM as a national leader and named it one of only 14 Lead Advisory Institutions for its Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama rallies a crowd of young voters, encouraging them to “take their power back” during the last stop of the When We All Vote voter registration rally, held Sept. 28 at the Watsco Center. 


During a keynote address at a conference in Los Angeles, entrepreneurial heavyweight Magic Leap announces an academic partnership with UM in spatial computing.

Alessia CaraCanadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara, the 2018 Grammy winner for Best New Artist, visits UM on Oct. 1, speaking to aspiring musicians, songwriters, and music business majors at the Frost School of Music’s Victor E. Clarke Recital Hall. 

UM announces on Oct. 10 the formation of the UHealth Board of Directors, a panel of highly respected leaders who will provide strategic oversight to the University of Miami Health System. 

With more than 400 guests in attendance, UM dedicates the new Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility on Oct. 11. The ceremony included remarks from lead donor Carol Soffer, director of athletics Blake James, head football coach Mark Richt, and other university officials. 

Ralph Sacco, a top neurologist and researcher at the Miller School of Medicine, is elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine. 

Retiring U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a UM alumna, is named a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at the University of Miami. 

CNN host, journalist, and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria speaks at the 2018 Student Convocation on October 15 as part of the Northern Trust Lecture Series. 


With UM and Magic Leap joining forces to introduce a new era of education around spatial computing and mixed reality, students, faculty, and staff get the opportunity over three days in November to demo the unique Magic Leap glasses that introduce the user to mixed reality.

Nat Geo on CampusThe first National Geographic On Campus program is held on the Coral Gables campus Nov. 9 and 10, connecting students to National Geographic’s worldwide community of scientists, journalists, educators, and explorers. 

Kristiana L. Yao, who graduated summa cum laude from UM in May and has dedicated her career to improving health through public service, is named a Rhodes Scholar and will begin graduate studies at Oxford University in England next fall. 

The Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building is dedicated on Nov. 29 during a ceremony that both showcased its state-of-the-art features and honored the man who made it possible—UM alumnus Thomas P. Murphy Jr., founder, chairman, and CEO of Miami-based Coastal Construction. The building is named for his father, who was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II.


Cuba Neuro-Sensory StudyA team of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty led by Dr. Michael E. Hoffer, on Dec. 12 present the first report of acute symptoms and clinical findings in 25 diplomatic personnel living in the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, who experienced severe neurosensory symptoms after exposure to a unique sound and pressure phenomenon. 

More than 1,000 graduates participate in commencement ceremonies on Dec. 13, listening to insight and wisdom from featured speakers Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., a UM alumnus and trustee, who is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management; and Richard D. Fain, chair of the UM Board of Trustees and chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. François Baron Englert, the 2013 Nobel Laureate in Physics, receives an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the graduate-degree ceremony. 

The Miami Hurricanes football team accepts a bid to play Wisconsin in the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York City.