Orange and green is in this family's makeup

Sofia Diaz (center) pictured with mother Susy Alvarez-Diaz and father Frank Diaz. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Barbara Gutierrez

Sofia Diaz (center) pictured with mother Susy Alvarez-Diaz and father Frank Diaz. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Orange and green is in this family's makeup

By Barbara Gutierrez
Father, mother, and daughter will all be students at the University of Miami this fall semester.

When she was just six years old, Sofia Diaz was taken to the Miami Orange Bowl Stadium by her mother Susy Alvarez-Diaz, for a historic photo. It would be the last time the Miami Hurricanes football team would play in the hallowed stadium.

“I wanted to show her where I danced with the Hurricanettes and the Sunsations,” said Alvarez-Diaz. Sofia’s father Frank Diaz was the proud photographer on that bittersweet day.

Ever since then, Sofia has attended University of Miami homecoming celebrations, and lots of UM baseball, basketball and football games. Her sweet sixteen birthday party was held at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center.

“But when it came time for college we did not want to pressure her,” said Alvarez-Diaz, a full time lecturer in management and entrepreneurship at the Miami Business School. “She came to this conclusion on her own even though she got into other great schools.” 

Sofia, a top student from American Heritage School who loves finance and is a ballet dancer and burgeoning television broadcaster, chose the orange and green. The National Merit Scholar enters UM as a first-year Foote Fellow and will live at Hecht Residential College. 

But she will not be the only Diaz on the Coral Gables campus. Both her parents will again be students at UM. Her mother is pursuing an Ed.D. in higher education and leadership, and her father will begin a master’s of science in leadership at the Miami Business School.

It is rare for an entire family to be studying at a university, enrolled at the same time. 

“My parents truly value education and they passed that down to me,” said Sofia Diaz. “I am sure we will have dinners or lunches on campus.”

Both parents will be pursuing their respective degrees while running their company ADG Omnimedia, a public relations, marketing, and branding firm they founded in 2002. The degrees they will be pursuing will be in leadership, which will further develop their emphasis on culture and leadership being the underpinnings of sound corporate communications. 

Entrepreneurship seems to run in the Diaz family, as both are the children of Cuban exiles who arrived in the ’50s and ’70s in Miami. Alvarez-Diaz remembers working at her parent’s bakery from the age of six, bagging bread, taking pastries from the oven and ringing up the register.

“I was also the translator because my parents did not speak English,” said Alvarez-Diaz. “So I learned how to run a business from an early age.”

Frank Diaz grew up in Hialeah and helped his parents run a greeting card store in Mall of the Americas. He developed a love for finance in high school, developing a strong work ethic while working full time at a telemarketing firm while attending UM. 

Alvarez-Diaz and Frank Diaz met at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School, then each went their own way for college. He attended what was then Miami Dade Community College for two years, and then transferred to UM.

“I always had an affinity for the U,” said Frank Diaz. “Once I got to UM, I had a great feeling about my future. The people I met and the professors I had were unparalleled.”

Alvarez-Diaz came to UM on scholarship and lived on campus because she wanted the full college experience, even though at first her mother objected to the idea. She was in the honors program and as a student she was a President’s 100, a founding member of Zeta Tau Alpha at UM and a member of the Rathskeller Advisory Board.

They both thrived under the tutelage of great professors at the business school and enjoyed every aspect of UM, including spending time at the Rathskeller, going to football games and tailgating with friends.

During her senior year, Alvarez-Diaz remembers that her professor of finance, Andrea Heuson, asked the seniors in her class for their resumes. Alvarez-Diaz obliged. Soon after she received a call from Hewlett-Packard that led to a job with the company. When she asked how the company had obtained her personal information, the Hewlett-Packard officer said Heuson had sent it. She accepted the job.       

“That was not part of her job description,” said Alvarez-Diaz. ”But that is the beauty of the UM community. Because of her actions I was employed in corporate America for 10 years and gained the skills that I have been able to use as an entrepreneur.”

Both Alvarez-Diaz and Frank Diaz are extremely active in alumni events. They have both served as alumni marshall during Commencement ceremonies, served as members of UM’s Citizen’s Board, and been mentors and advisors to student organizations. In 2017, Alvarez-Diaz was tapped into the Iron Arrow Honor Society, one of the highest honors for member of the University community, and in 2018 she was presented with the Excellence in Teaching award by the Miami Business School.

They have decided to return to the U to pursue their degrees at a time in which they will be empty nesters. Both parents hope their daughter enjoys the University as much as they have.

“I am excited for her because it is a new beginning and UM is so good at making sure that everything a new student experiences is amazing,” said Alvarez-Diaz.