Speakers to graduates: Dream big; let hope and resilience propel you

Students at the undergraduate Fall 2022 Commencement ceremony, held at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables Campus. Photos: Joshua Prezant/University of Miami
By Michael R. Malone

Students at the undergraduate Fall 2022 Commencement ceremony, held at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables Campus. Photos: Joshua Prezant/University of Miami

Speakers to graduates: Dream big; let hope and resilience propel you

By Michael R. Malone
In two separate ceremonies on Friday, more than 1,000 exuberant students received degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, as part of the University of Miami Fall 2022 Commencement.

At two separate commencement ceremonies on Friday, one awarding undergraduate degrees and the other graduate degrees, keynote speakers Adriana Cisneros and José R. Mas, respectively, encouraged new graduates to pursue big dreams with passion and to let their hope, resilience, and skills propel them.

Cisneros and Mas are both pioneering executives and entrepreneurs. Each were named CEOs of family legacy firms, Cisneros at 33 of Cisneros, a media entertainment conglomerate, and Mas, at 36 of MasTec, Inc., one of the nation’s largest and most diversified infrastructure service providers. They also are both members of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Mas served as the keynote speaker for the afternoon graduate degree ceremony where doctoral, law, and master's degrees from all the University’s schools and colleges were awarded.

A double alumnus of the University’s business school, Mas credited his parents—both immigrants who were forced to leave their homeland of Cuba—with providing him the opportunity to pursue his dreams.

“I’m motivated daily to show my gratitude to them and to those like them who paved the road for me and my generation,” Mas said. “I’m reminded of the greatness of this country and the hope and opportunity it provides.”

As a first-generation American and college graduate, Mas is inspired and fueled by the belief that he can compete with anybody in the country, he said.

Mas’ journey has taken him from digging ditches to becoming the CEO of the first Hispanic-controlled company to make the Fortune 500. Also, as a co-owner of Inter Miami, he’s “proud and blessed” to have been able to bring—together with his brother, Jorge, and business partner David Beckham—major league soccer to South Florida.

“Yet, my journey feels like it’s just starting and there’s so much more to accomplish,” Mas said. “There are many ways to make a positive impact.” 

Mas told the graduates that they represent “the best of the best” for having earned degrees from one of most esteemed academic institutions in the world.

“Now it’s your responsibility to represent the brand of the U and to make your impact felt in whatever field you choose in life,” he said.  

“My hope is that you live your life with passion and in search of your inspiration,” Mas said in closing. “Your greatness is limited only by your imagination and the limits you set on yourself.’’

In her morning address, Cisneros urged the students receiving undergraduate degrees to let their hope, resilience, and skills propel them into the challenging world they face.

She celebrated the perseverance and resilience that the new graduates have maintained while facing the extraordinary challenges of the past few years.

“It is an understatement to say that you have persevered through great uncertainty and come out on the other side with hope,” she said.

Sharing wisdom that has guided her own life and successful career, Cisneros referenced “The Parable of the Sadhu,” which poses an ethical dilemma when hikers encounter a holy man wandering in the mountains of Nepal.

The hikers help the suffering saint but, after debating, leave him and continue on, intent on reaching their destination. Cisneros first heard the story as a case study in a business class.

The dilemma the parable presents is similar to what the new students have experienced these past few years, she said. Cisneros recognized that they had individually and collectively made personal sacrifices for the good of their classmates and their school.

“The pandemic gave us the gift for making us a bit wiser, more aware, and probably even kinder and more compassionate and empathetic,” Cisneros said.

Cisneros, who is known as an innovative executive, also urged the new graduates not to fear new opportunities, even if they might end in failure.

“Be terrified of regret,” Cisneros said. “You are graduating at a pivotal time with a great sense of hope and resilience to propel you.” 

Prior to the keynote addresses at both ceremonies, President Julio Frenk recognized the perseverance of the new graduates.

Frenk praised the resiliency they had shown in enduring unprecedented challenges of the past few years and encouraged the graduates to serve as agents of change, to promote peace, and to address inequality and injustice.

“You have the distinct ability to strengthen our trust in the future,” the president said. “As the first digitally native generation, use social media as a digital megaphone, amplifying your voice around the world and enabling you to demand commitment, transparency, and authenticity from others.”

Devang Desai, a member of the Board of Trustees and President’s Council and president of the Alumni Association, provided the alumni address at both ceremonies.

Andre Salgado received his master’s degree in business administration at the afternoon ceremony. “I’m feeling so happy today—a bit tired because I just finished my finals yesterday, but elated to have earned my degree,” he said. 

Salgado is pursuing a law degree simultaneously and hopes to graduate from the School of Law next spring. 

“As someone hoping to become a partner one day, I feel like I am leaving here with a better understanding of the business aspects of running a firm one day. My experience with both the Miami Herbert Business School and the School of Law has totally prepared me for my future,” he pointed out. 

Michelle Hurvitz Kaiser, already a practicing attorney in Naples, Florida, earned her Master of Laws, or LL.M., in real property development.

“I was a distance learner—so it’s very surreal to finally be here after two and half years. It’s bittersweet,” Kaiser said. “My program was amazing and I learned a lot. The program walked us through so much, and I’m very grateful for the School of Law.”

Noah Beal, originally from New York, spent four years and an extra semester to earn his B.A. in Spanish with a minor in music business. He enjoyed analyzing Spanish literature and plans to return north to enter the music business and use his new language skills to work with Latin American music artists.

“It’s been a long ride, but I’ve worked hard and met so many different and wonderful people—it’s been the best time,” Beal said.

Sydney Thorne received her undergraduate degree in business at the morning ceremony. She transferred two years ago from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and double-majored in health care management and legal studies.

“I wanted to get away from home, get out of my comfort zone, and challenge myself,” Thorne said. “Being here has met all my expectations. I’ve gotten all that I asked for.”

She said that she savored the diversity in South Florida and enjoyed visiting the many distinct Miami neighborhoods. And she especially loved a visit to the Everglades with her younger brother.

Thorne will be starting a new full-time position as a product development specialist with Elevance Health, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her high point?

“All of it. I came here during the pandemic. So, coming out of that, being able to be outside, which I love, the animals on campus, the market, football, basketball—it’s been the best decision to come here,” Thorne said.