People and Community University

Graduates gather guidance from a palette of voices

In two ceremonies on Thursday, more than 1,000 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Miami’s fall commencement exercises, along with advice from successful professionals.
Fall commencement
Fall commencement exercises at the Watsco Center bestowed degrees on more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Photo: Joshua Prezant/University of Miami

One successful television executive and a renowned mathematician both told University of Miami graduates to make sure they slow down and find a career that gives them a sense of happiness, even if their paths take them on some unexpected journeys. 

During two fall commencement ceremonies on Thursday, more than 1,000 students crossed the stage to receive their degrees at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables Campus. They included a former Hurricanes football star and former NFL player, Frank Gore; a Ukrainian who escaped her war-torn nation to attend the School of Law; and an 88-year-old philanthropist and former executive who earned his doctorate in economics. 

“We’re in a world that is fractured, yet universities are all about connecting us across disciplines, nationalities, and generations,” said University President Julio Frenk. “And I really hope you will stay connected to the University of Miami. You are building your legacy, you are leaving your mark, and as we go into a new year, please know that across time, the University of Miami will always be with you.” 

At the morning commencement exercises, Jeff Bewkes, a former Time Warner chairman and chief executive officer, told more than 500 undergraduates that throughout their lives students should remember to let happiness be a daily habit, not just a long-term goal. 

“There will be times when clarity of purpose is beyond your reach. It happens to all of us, and it happens during all our lives. When it happens to you, don’t beat yourself up. Be good to yourself,” said Bewkes, who was responsible for supporting and putting extremely popular shows on HBO like “The Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Sex and the City,” “Game of Thrones,” “Euphoria,” and “Succession.” 

Bewkes also told students that they should discover joy on their own terms. “Be of service to others. But as they tell you on the airplane, put the oxygen mask on yourself first,” he said. 

And in the afternoon ceremony, almost 500  students received graduate degrees from the University. In that ceremony, Yuri Tschinkel, a distinguished mathematician and executive vice president of the Simons Foundation, spoke to graduates about his efforts to make math more accessible. To do this, he commissioned and helped produce a one-hour documentary called “Colors of Math,” which explores math through the lens of our five senses.

“Situated between philosophy and the exact sciences, mathematics is known and sometimes feared for being abstract and impenetrable,” said Tschinkel, who is also a professor at New York University and leads its Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. “Seventy years ago, people wondered about effectiveness of math, but today it is unreasonably effective. Mathematics has become the heart of computers, communications, organizations, management, and of business. It is universal, and it is everywhere.” 

Bewkes and Tschinkel each received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for their distinguished efforts.

Thursday’s ceremony also marked the first graduating class since the University was invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), a distinguished national organization of leading research universities founded in 1900. 

“You are the 96th class to graduate from the University of Miami but the very first one since it was invited to join the AAU, which is considered the gold standard in American higher education,” said Frenk.

View a photo and video presentation from the two commencement ceremonies

Many graduates were elated to earn their degrees Thursday, especially Allan Herbert, 88, who received his Ph.D. in economics from the Patti and Allan  Herbert Business School, named after him and his wife. His only regret was that his wife Patti—who suggested he earn his doctorate—could not see him cross the stage because she passed away in 2020. Allan had met his wife Patti when both were undergraduates at the business school in the 1950s. 

Allan Herbert spoke to graduates at the afternoon ceremony about some of the guiding principles that shaped his career. 

 “To succeed in anything, you have to learn how to apply yourself and be self-motivated,” said Herbert, whose dissertation examined income inequality in four nations. “You’ll never know when the skills you develop in one area of life can have a profound impact on another, and I hope this will inspire you as you embark on your diverse path.” 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Iryna Shalinska was the second School of Law student to graduate under its scholarship program in support of graduates of Ukrainian law schools. She received her LL.M. degree. Shalinska also wrote about the war and its consequences in essays as part of her studies.  

“I am honored and very grateful for such an opportunity,” she said. “For me, this is not only a possibility to give a new start to my career but also a chance to spread information about the situation in Ukraine and to be useful with my new skills and knowledge.”  

Ronak Venkata, originally from Jacksonville, earned his Bachelor of Science in public health and health sciences. He has applied to the Miller School of Medicine and is waiting to find out if he was accepted. 

At the University, Venkata said he especially enjoyed his involvement with Club Tennis and spent many weekends traveling to participate in tournaments. 

“I absolutely loved the camaraderie of being with all my friends and traveling to different places in Florida. It was such a good time being able to bond with everybody and just being very competitive,” he said. 

As Frenk addressed the audience, he acknowledged the road it took for many students like Venkata to make it to this moment in their lives. 

“Your path to a degree has not been a straight line,” said Frenk. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you changed the way you live and learn and made sacrifices for the sake of your education. No matter where your paths take you, I can guarantee you this: You will continue to use those skills.”

Frenk also paid homage to the late Paul DiMare, a longtime trustee of the University. His wife and partner in service to the community, Swanee DiMare, and their son, Anthony DiMare, head of operations for DiMare Tomatoes in Tampa, Florida, accepted the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on his behalf.

News@TheU writers Michael Malone and Catharine Skipp contributed to this article.