2019: The year in review

The sun sets over Lake Osceola and the Donna E. Shalala Student Center. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

By News@TheU

The sun sets over Lake Osceola and the Donna E. Shalala Student Center. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

2019: The year in review

By News@TheU
A look back at the biggest stories at the U over the past year.

From trumpeter John Daversa’s Grammy trifecta, to an NCAA singles tennis champion, to the appointment of new deans for the Schools of Communication and Law, to a transformational gift that renamed the business school, 2019 proved to be a banner year for the University of Miami.


Before a throng of media, family, and friends inside the Robert A. Mann Auditorium in the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, Manny Diaz, who catapulted the Miami Hurricanes’ defense to elite status during his three years as defensive coordinator, is formally introduced as UM’s 25th football head coach on January 2.

Joseph Lamelas, M.D., an internationally recognized expert cardiac surgeon who helped pioneer minimally invasive approaches to cardiac surgery, joins UHealth – the University of Miami Health System as chief of cardiothoracic surgery and professor of surgery in the Miller School of Medicine.

Gisela Vega, the former associate director of LGBTQA Initiatives at Florida International University and a leader and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, joins the University of Miami as the new director of the LGBTQ Student Center.

Miami Transplant Institute, an affiliation between Jackson Health System and UHealth – University of Miami Health System, is ranked the second largest transplant center in the United States by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network/United Network for Organ Sharing, the highest ranking the center has achieved since its founding in 1970.

Grammy Award-winning artist, successful businesswoman, and UM alumna Gloria Estefan speaks on women empowerment and a number of other topics on January 24 during the Women Leaders of the Americas forum, hosted by the University’s Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas.

The University of Miami names its distinguished dermatology department the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery in recognition of renowned South Florida philanthropist Phillip Frost, whose $10 million gift to the department, part of the University’s Miller School of Medicine, will help advance innovative treatments and cures in dermatology.

The School of Architecture and the Center for Computational Science bring together leaders in academia, professional practice, and industry to examine cities of the future at the third annual Smart Cities Miami Conference on January 25.

For the third consecutive year, the University of Miami is named to the Best Workplaces for Commuters list.


During a ceremony typically reserved for graduation exercises, the University awards renowned equal justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on February 4 for his work as “a true champion of human rights.” Founder and executive director of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Trumpeter John Daversa, associate professor and chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music, wins three Grammy Awards for his “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom” album, and fellow faculty member Dafnis Prieto takes the prize for Best Latin Jazz Album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The University of Miami announces the largest gift commitment in the history of the women’s basketball program—a seven-figure estate gift from BJ Abolt to establish a women’s basketball scholarship endowment. Named after head coach Katie Meier at Abolt’s request, it will be the first fully endowed women’s athletics scholarship at Miami.

The Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building, a state-of-the-art structure at the School of Architecture designed by Arquitectonica and built by Coastal Construction, wins the title of 2018 Building of the Year by World-Architects, beating out 42 other buildings in the United States.

The Hurricanes baseball program opens its 75th season—and its first under head coach Gino DiMare—by defeating Rutgers 19-3 on February 15 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Miami would go on to sweep the Scarlet Knights in the three-game series.

The women’s basketball team storms back from a 14-point deficit to pick up the biggest regular-season win in program history on February 17, defeating No. 2 Louisville 79-73 in front of 12,193 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.

For the third time in his career, University of Miami senior diver Briadam Herrera sweeps the men’s springboard events at the ACC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, capturing both the 1-meter and 3-meter titles.

The women’s track and field team captures the ACC indoor championship. Miami scored 66 points on the final day of the competition, climbing four spots to win their third indoor title in four years.


The University of Miami announces that it has earned a 10-year reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The commission, which is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions across the southern United States, awarded the University the best possible review, granting full reaffirmation of accreditation with no additional report required.

The Office of Civic and Community Engagement unveils a new online mapping tool, Land Access for Neighborhood Development, or LAND, that provides a snapshot of the location, size and ownership of publicly or institutionally owned lots that could be assembled across jurisdictions and along transportation hubs to house low- and middle-income residents who are being priced or pushed out of the rapidly gentrifying housing market.

Jacqueline Travisano, executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer, is named a 2019 AXA Advisors Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Businesswomen of the Year—Educator Category, at a luncheon held at the Coral Gables Country Club on March 12.

The women’s basketball team, which finished the season 24-8 (12-4 in the ACC), receives a No. 4 seed in the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Two School of Law alumnae, Tanya Brinkley and Michelle Alvarez Barakat, are appointed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court. “Both will serve with integrity,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on March 27 at a midday press conference held in the Kislak Center at the University’s Richter Library, where he announced the appointments.

Three of the University’s campus student media outlets receive numerous accolades from national organizations in March, including SportsDesk, UMTV’s 30-minute live show focusing on UM athletics, which received its first College Television Award from the Television Academy Foundation in Los Angeles. UMTV, Ibis yearbook and Distraction magazine (both print and online), overseen by the School of Communication, received a total of seven awards.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk and Professor of Practice Xavier Cortada are named to the Miami Herald’s panel of top 50 influencers in Florida.

The Frost Band of the Hour performs at Miami’s world-famous electronic Ultra Music Festival on March 30 at Miami Marine Stadium. The band received roaring applause as they took the stage with Denver-based DJ/producer/saxophonist GRiZ.


Four faculty members—Nurcin Ceik, industrial engineering; Amy Clement, atmospheric sciences; Allan T. Shulman, architecture; and Mario Stevenson, medicine—are recognized for their achievements at the 23rd annual Provost’s Awards for Scholarly Activity on April 2.

The Faculty Senate honors faculty game-changers—Norman J. Altman, Harry W. Flynn Jr., and Donald Spivey—for their outstanding service, teaching, and scholarship at a special ceremony on April 8.

More than 5,000 people bike, run, or walk a collective 62,136 miles on April 6 as participants in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, which supports the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The U is well represented, with nearly 1,000 Team Hurricanes participants.

Recognizing the risks of climate change and extreme weather to public health, the University of Miami launches the nation’s first Master of Science in Climate and Health (MSCH) program. Offered by the Miller School of Medicine and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the two-year graduate program will train future generations of clinical and research professionals.

A total of 45 students from the College of Arts and Sciences are inducted into the nation’s oldest and most-widely known academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, during a special ceremony at the Braman Miller Center on April 12.

With interactive exhibits from across its academic units, the University showcases its tech projects and groundbreaking research at eMerge Americas, the annual two-day technology conference held on Miami Beach that connects start-ups, government leaders, innovators and investors through workshops, networking, high-tech demonstrations, keynote speakers and panel discussions.


University of Miami trustee Hilarie Bass, a graduate of UM’s School of Law and the former co-president of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, assumes the role of chair of the Board of Trustees on May 3, beginning a two-year term for the body responsible for governing one of the top private research institutions in the nation.

The University of Miami and Miami Dade College (MDC) formally execute on May 7 an articulation agreement that serves to provide guidelines and assist students in the transferability of coursework from MDC to majors within the College of Arts and Sciences at UM.

Seven commencement ceremonies take place over three days in early May at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables campus, with honorary-degree recipient Richard Blanco, the Miami-raised poet, public speaker, and civil engineer who recited the poem One Today at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, delivering a powerful message in the form of poem he wrote for graduating seniorsat the morning ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Cynthia Levy, associate professor in the Division of Hepatology and associate director of the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases at the Miller School of Medicine, is presented on May 13 with the Arthur H. Hertz Endowed Chair in Liver Diseases.

Six short films created by University of Miami film students are screened in Los Angeles during the 2019 ’Canes Film Showcase. Co-hosted by the School of Communication and the UM Alumni Association, the showcase is a popular networking event for film and television alumni on the West Coast, giving them the chance to know what student filmmakers are creating on campus.

Behavioral scientists establish the Center for HIV and Research in Mental Health, or CHARM, at the University of Miami to address the mental health disparities that help perpetuate the disease in Greater Miami, which has the nation’s highest rate of new HIV cases.

Three students in the College of Arts and Sciences—Hunter Howell, Brianna Almeida, and Emmanuel Medrano—are recognized with National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

Miami women’s tennis standout Estela Perez-Somarriba captures the NCAA Singles Championship on May 25 at the USTA National Campus.

The Miami Hurricanes earn a berth in the 2019 NCAA baseball championship, marking the program’s 46th trip to the postseason.

Karin Gwinn Wilkins, a leading scholar on global media who focuses on global communication and political engagement, as well as media and social change, has been named the new dean at the University of Miami School of Communication.

Building upon its strategic objective to be the hemispheric university, the University of Miami on May 30 opened a regional office in Mexico City, providing another gateway to Latin America to facilitate educational exchange, enhance research efforts, and convene and collaborate with top academic and health institutions throughout Mexico and Central America.


The University of Miami is recognized recently by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Suder Foundation for its commitment to improving experiences and outcomes for first-generation students.

Researchers at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to harvest healthy corals that will be transplanted into areas of Florida’s reef tract that have been decimated by disease.

Anthony Eudelio Varona, an attorney and educator who specializes in administrative law, communications and media law, and sexuality and gender law, is named the new dean of the University of Miami School of Law.

The student-produced Distraction magazine is named Magazine of the Year in the overall design category at the annual Michigan State University Design Contest for College Students.

University of Miami track and field student-athletes earn 17 All-America honors at the conclusion of the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Estela Perez-Somarriba is selected as the ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, headlining a group of five University of Miami women's tennis team student-athletes who earned All-ACC Academic Team honors.


Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, receives the prestigious NCI designation from the National Cancer Institute, joining a highly select group as one of only two NCI-designated cancer centers in the state of Florida, and one of just 71 across the nation.

U.S. News & World Report once again ranks Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Health System as the nation’s best in ophthalmology in its 2019-2020 Best Hospitals rankings, marking the 18th time that Bascom Palmer has received the No. 1 ranking since the publication began surveying U.S. physicians for the rankings 30 years ago.

Two University of Miami students—Shwetha Mudalegundi and Danielle Goldwert—receive the prestigious research-focused Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation award for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Nicholas A. Buoniconti, a longtime University of Miami trustee, Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Miami Dolphins, who helped found The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after his son, Marc, sustained a devastating spinal cord injury during a college football game, passes away on July 30 in Bridgehampton, New York. He was 78.

The women’s golf team adds to its already impressive list of postseason academic honors, as Claudia De Antonio, Renate Grimstad and Kristyna Frydlova are selected as 2018-19 Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholars.


The 2019 teams awarded grants from the University of Miami Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge share their progress during a symposium, where Provost Jeffrey Duerk unveiled plans to bring U-LINK to the classroom.

Classes for the fall 2019 semester get underway on August 19.

The Miami Business School introduces a unique and forward-thinking Master of Science in Sustainable Business degree program.


Dedicated to fostering new collaborations in mathematics across the hemisphere, the University of Miami launches the Institute of the Mathematical Sciences of the Americas, with funding from one of the foremost private supporters of mathematics and basic sciences.

The School of Architecture and Cuban Heritage Collection collaborate to showcase the history and legacy of Cuba’s capital in a new exhibit titled Havana500: Five Centuries of Evolving Urban Form and Urban Codes.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk delivers his second State of the University address on September 12, highlighting some of the top successes propelling the University forward, including advances and breakthroughs in climate research, transformative innovations in health care and how the University is attracting students across the globe who are competitive, selective, and diverse.

The Center for Computational Science celebrates the launch of its newest supercomputer, Triton, designed to accelerate more data-driven research throughout the University.

A delegation from the University of Miami travels to Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas on September 22 to meet with the minister of health and offer assistance in the recovery of one of the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian.

Leonidas G. Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a distinguished analytical and biological chemist, is appointed interim director of the Frost Institutes of Science and Engineering, and its first individual interdisciplinary research center, the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Science, which will be built just east of Memorial Drive on the Coral Gables campus.

The University launches a new network, led by vice provost for innovation Norma Kenyon, to match University of Miami-affiliated inventors with investors.


The University of Miami renames its business school in honor of Patti and Allan Herbert for their transformative $100 million in lifetime giving to the University.

University of Miami student-athletes continue their strong work in the classroom this past year, posting a Graduation Success Rate(GSR) of 92 percent, a score that is higher than the national average of 88 percent.

The University of Miami and AT&T sign an agreement to bring 5G and Multi-access Edge Computing technology to the Coral Gables campus, making UM the first campus in the U.S. to offer the AT&T technology. The result will benefit advanced scholarly research, and enable faculty and students to develop and test digital apps in an enhanced environment.


A week full of spirit, friendly competition, and ’Canes pride are displayed during Homecoming and Alumni Weekend—all capped off by a 52-27 Miami victory over Louisville at Hard Rock Stadium in the 2019 Homecoming game.

Dr. Stephen D. Nimer, director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, which in July received a prestigious designation from the National Cancer Institute, is named the inaugural holder of the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

The University of Miami launches a new website dedicated to arts and humanities at the University. Called The U Creates, the site showcases the work of talented faculty and students who are driving innovation and exploring different modes of expression.


Miller School of Medicine physician Dr. Paul Wetstein spends a week at a health care clinic in Marsh Harbour, the first in what is expected to be a months-long rotation to help in the recovery from Hurricane Dorian.

Students from the Miller School of Medicine hang 3,000 posters in Wynwood on Dec. 7 as part of an initiative to raise awareness about human trafficking, which is considered to be the third largest criminal enterprise in the world.

The investiture of School of Law Dean Anthony E. Varona as the M. Minnette Massey Chair, created in 2015 to honor the late, former acting dean, takes place on Dec. 9.

The 31-member University of Miami Police Department celebrates its 50th anniversary in December.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Gregory Rousseau is recognized as the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Rousseau ran away with the honor, earning 51 votes.

The Hurricanes football program accepts a bid to take on Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Dec. 26.

Fall commencement speakers encouraged students at the Dec. 12 undergraduate and graduate ceremonies to find happiness by pursuing a life committed to service and to carry “the torch of freedom forward for peace and unity.”

University of Miami alumni are among a number of new judges named by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference Dec. 16 on the Coral Gables campus.

Researchers with the Miller School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, are awarded state funds that support research efforts to improve the understanding of the potential long-term human-health impacts of harmful blue-green algal blooms.