People and Community University

Celebrating the transformative power of philanthropy

The 2024 Scholarship Donor Celebration showcased the life-changing influence of scholarship support, fostering gratitude and direct interactions between students and donors.
Scholarship donor celebration
At the Scholarship Donor Celebration event, from left, Grecia Rivera, Ethan Tieu, University President Julio Frenk and J’Nesse Balkman. Photos: Dan Perez Photography for the University of Miami

From unexpectedly diving into campus television as a freshman to interning at ESPN as the only sophomore on the team and working at The Wall Street Journal, Derryl Barnes’ trajectory defied expectations.

Barnes, a senior pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Miami School of Communication, recognized that his path as a Miami Hurricane was made possible by the support of scholarship donors.

“That all happened because I came here—to the University of Miami,” Barnes said. "I was never supposed to be here, and I’m only here because of people like you choosing to invest in students like me."

At the 2024 Scholarship Donor Celebration held on April 25, students and leaders gathered at the Lakeside Village Expo Center on the Coral Gables Campus to express their gratitude and appreciation to the scholarship donors whose philanthropic vision make it possible for thousands of students to attend the U. 

University President Julio Frenk, who described the celebration as consistently being his favorite event of the year, commended the achievements of scholarship recipients and the donors’ generosity. Frenk noted the term philanthropy, which is rooted in Greek, translates to the “love of humanity” and that scholarship donors “exemplify this love by positively shaping the lives of talented and deserving students who aspire to make a difference in the world.”

Lucy Ho
Student Lucy Ho

Lucy Ho, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, shared how scholarship support has profoundly impacted her life. Originally from Indiana, Lucy embarked on a transformative journey when she chose to pursue her academic and swimming career at the University. Despite the challenges of balancing a full course load and competing as a student-athlete, Lucy's dedication to her studies and passion for research never wavered.

Driven by a desire to explore the intersection of science, research, and innovation in biomedical engineering, Lucy's journey was shaped by her grandmother's influence and her own aspirations. Lucy expressed her gratitude, emphasizing how the support she received validated her dedication and allowed her to make her dreams a reality.

"The scholarships I received helped me recognize the hard work I put towards my studies while helping me further chase my future goals," Ho said.

Guillermo “Willy” Prado, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, recognized the incredible outcomes that scholarships create for individuals, sharing how he was fortunate to benefit from such support as an undergraduate. Prado explained that scholarships and the donors who make them possible “generate a cycle of positive change that will create a brighter future through more skilled workers, more professional opportunities for our alumni, and a culture of stewardship for the community.”

Willy Prado
Willy Prado and student Derryl Barnes

The cyclical nature of philanthropy described by Prado was vividly showcased through a video featuring Judi Prokop Newman, a University trustee, alumna, and scholarship donor, and J'nesse Balkman, a sophomore majoring in marine science and biology. Newman's relationship with the University started as a student, and she benefited from scholarship support. Over the years, Newman became a steadfast donor, recognizing the profound impact scholarships had on her life and paving the way for students like Balkman to pursue their dreams at the University.

Balkman, who met Newman at last year’s event for the first time, shared what her scholarship meant to her. “For me and my family, the scholarship was a great help and a complete blessing. Scholarships are extremely important because they help me understand that I have a chance here, that it is not out of reach,” Balkman said.

Other videos featured at the celebration told the stories of Ethan Tieu, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and computer science, and Grecia Rivera, a senior majoring in modern artist development and entrepreneurship.

Tieu credits his scholarship with allowing him to continue a music education initiative he started in high school that provides 3D-printed violins and lessons to communities in Tanzania and Kenya. “I would not have been able to take advantage of all of these opportunities if I hadn’t received my scholarship. I am incredibly grateful that these scholarships exist and that donors are continuing to grow them,” Tieu said.

Rivera, who dreamed of being a musician since she was a child in Puerto Rico, told donors that their support goes beyond its primary purpose of allowing her to pursue a world-class education. “When I received a scholarship, I remember calling my mom. She was crying, I was crying, everyone was crying,” Rivera said. “Donors’ help is not only helping me get an education, but it is making the dreams of families come true.”

Attendees were also treated to a performance by Frost Extensions, the award-winning jazz vocal ensemble from the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. The performers, all of whom are scholarship recipients, included Anastasia Chubb, Sophia Garas, Eva Hochhaus, Liam Ryan, Jameson Falconer, and Aron Stornaiuolo.