Planned gift for student-athletes is part of alumni couple’s legacy

University of Miami alumni Christina and Jonathan Leyva.
By Pamela Edward

University of Miami alumni Christina and Jonathan Leyva.

Planned gift for student-athletes is part of alumni couple’s legacy

By Pamela Edward
Alumni Jonathan Leyva and his wife, Christina, are longtime ’Canes fans whose belief in the power of community and teamwork to bring people together motivated them to establish an endowed football scholarship through a planned gift.

Ask University of Miami alumnus Jonathan Leyva—Miami-born and bred and a fervent believer in the importance of teamwork—to define the ideal student-athlete scholarship recipient, and the response boils down to a single word: hustle. 

“Somebody who works hard, not only on the practice field but in the classroom as well,” said Leyva. “They attend every class; they do their best on all the exams put in front of them; and they embody teamwork, not only with their teammates but with their classmates when they’re doing group projects.”   

For Leyva, it’s not solely about getting the best grades. It’s about being able to work well with others, to survive setbacks, and to continue moving forward. 

“I think a lot of student-athletes who are ready to go to the U embody that,” he said. “I think there is no harder [educational path] than being a full-time student and a full-time athlete.” 

It is this recognition of—and admiration for—what it takes to be a successful student-athlete that was a motivating factor in the couple’s decision to make a planned estate gift to the University to establish the Jonathan and Christina Leyva Football Endowed Scholarship. 

Another motivating factor is rooted in the Leyvas’ own life experiences—growing up in Miami, playing sports from a young age, following their parents (in Christina’s case) and older brothers (in Jonathan’s) in going to the University of Miami, building careers in their respective family businesses, and cheering for the ’Canes. 

The Leyvas’ gift is part of the University of Miami’s Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history, the $2.5 billion campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial.

“Our goal is to ensure our student-athletes have the support they need to reach their full potential on and off the field,” said Dan Radakovich, vice president and director of athletics. “We are grateful to Jonathan and Christina Leyva for their generous gift, which will help provide scholarship assistance and leave an enduring legacy for our football program.” 

As Leyva recalled, it was one of his older brothers who first got him into Hurricanes football. “I went to the Orange Bowl with my middle brother. It was Florida State, 2002—Wide Left. And it was such an amazing atmosphere,” he said. “From there, I became a Hurricane fan.” 

Christina Leyva was a cheerleader during her time at the U, which coincided with the ’Canes’ fifth national championship. “It was an incredible experience, lots of fans, packed stadiums,” she said. 

The Leyvas made the transition from fans to donors with the arrival of Mark Richt as football head coach in 2016. By then the Leyvas had achieved a level of business and professional success and were thinking about how they could give back. 

“We had been blessed with a lot of good opportunities,” Leyva said. “We had talked about giving in our community, and we had always felt there is nothing that has really brought the community together more than University of Miami athletics,” he added. “When the football team wins, everyone comes together. You saw it in the early and late ’80s, the ’90s, the early 2000s. And now we are seeing it again with the hiring of Mario Cristobal.” 

For the past six years, the Leyvas have been members of the Golden ’Canes Society, and they also supported the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility. More recently, they made a commitment to the Athletic Director’s Society, a new leadership giving initiative that connects Hurricane athletics with philanthropic partners who are committed to the programs’ success. 

The Leyvas also began exploring how they could make an even greater impact. “We very much believe in the importance of scholarships,” Leyva said. “We’ve been very blessed and felt that if we could make a difference in this manner, then it was an opportunity we felt obliged to undertake,” he added. 

When asked what they would say to fellow alumni who may contemplate making such a commitment, Leyva pointed to the enduring community of ’Canes. “To be able to do something within your community that adds value, it ends up paying itself tenfold. We chose athletics because it brings us a lot of joy,” he acknowledged. 

Christina Leyva echoed her husband’s sentiments and pointed to the value and importance of teamwork in molding young lives. “Jonathan and I have been part of team sports since we were five or six. It really shaped me into that team player, carried over into the workforce, and enabled me to do different things,” she said. “Seeing kids [have that opportunity] to get a lot out of a team sport—it’s just really important.”