Arts and Humanities People and Community

One couple’s transformative impact

With their recent commitment to the University, Robert and Judi Prokop Newman continue to exemplify the power of philanthropy.
Newman photo
Robert and Judi Prokop Newman have generously supported the University of Miami for years.

Judi Prokop Newman and her husband, Robert Newman, have been paying it back by paying it forward ever since she graduated from the University of Miami some 60 years ago.

“I was so grateful for my scholarship, because it really did change the trajectory of my life, that when I graduated, I immediately started giving back to the University,” Judi said. “I started by giving $25 every year and since, it has grown quite a bit.”

Today their collective generosity includes multiple endowed scholarships, a building for alumni gatherings, and now, a recital hall at the Knight Center for Music Innovation at the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.

Since its opening last November, the stunning 25,000-square-foot Knight Center, dedicated to combining performance and technology, has ushered in a new era of music performance and instruction at the University of Miami. The 200-seat recital hall, with its picturesque wall-sized window overlooking Lake Osceola, features crystal-clear acoustics from front to rear.

“Reflecting ongoing, selfless support by two remarkable philanthropists, the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Recital Hall is a visually stunning and acoustically unmatched venue. This new jewel on the Frost School of Music campus will benefit generations of deserving students who come to study and grow in one of the world’s greatest music schools,” said Shelton G. Berg, dean of the Frost School. “Time and time again, Judi and Bob put students first by making transformative gifts, and the Newman Recital Hall is the latest game-changer they have empowered.”

The couple’s recent $5 million 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.

“We felt particularly called to this project because we view the Frost School as a star in the music education universe and a magnet for the University,” Judi said. “This beautifully designed space nicely complements the tremendous talent at the school and will provide a wonderful venue for expression, creativity, and joy—both for students and the community.”

Judi Prokop Newman’s philanthropic relationship with the University of Miami began when she received a small scholarship that enabled her to pursue her dreams of higher education.

As a young girl growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, she was unsure whether she would even be able to attend college. But as she listened to high school classmates enthusiastically describe their college plans, she thought to herself: “Well, why not me?”

“My mother said that my role in life was to become a secretary or a bookkeeper, get married, have children, and then move into the house next door to take care of her in her old age,” Judi said. “My parents didn’t really see a need for me to go to college, but after much prodding, they agreed to let me go if I could get a scholarship.”

Then one day, while thumbing through college pamphlets, she stumbled upon the University of Miami with its green palm trees, blue skies, and vibrant spirit. “I studied the brochure, weighed it against other options, and immediately decided to apply for a scholarship,” she said. “Lo and behold, I received one.”

She left Missouri to study accounting at the University of Miami and, after three years and one summer session, graduated with honors from the business school.

After graduation, she worked as a computer programmer at a major aerospace company in Los Angeles. There, she met and fell in love with another young computer programmer named Bob Newman. Judi jokingly calls it the first computer dating.

They married, started a family, and led distinguished careers. Judi became essential to operations at United Airlines, acting as the director of several departments over the years, including airframe maintenance systems, computer operations, relationships with hotel and rental car companies, reservation systems, and airline metrics and measurements. Bob worked as a computer programmer and information technology consultant for several years before leaving to start his own business designing and developing software for medium-sized businesses. His company eventually grew into one of the world’s largest application software providers.

As their successes grew, they found themselves in a stronger position to help others. Judi joined the University’s Board of Trustees, and she and Bob began investing in the University’s academics, arts, and culture.

The couple gave to scholarships across schools and disciplines at the University, establishing the Judi Prokop Newman Endowed Scholarship at the Miami Herbert Business School, the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Endowed Music Scholarship at the Frost School of Music, the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Endowed Athletic Scholarship, and even creating the Newman Alumni Loyalty Scholarship Endowed Fund, a matching gift fund to encourage alumni to support scholarships at any level.

“Imagine if we all gave back, even just a little; just think of the impact we could make by paying it forward to today’s students,” she said.

In 1999 Judi returned to the business school to establish the Judi Prokop Newman Information Resource Center, giving business students access to an extensive research library staffed by specialized advisors.

In 2005 the couple made the lead gift to build the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center as a place for former students to foster and celebrate their connection with the University. They hope the center will continue opening new doors and creating new opportunities for future generations of students and alumni.

“We thought it was important to encourage alumni to connect with the University and continue their relationship with their alma mater,” Robert said. “Ultimately, alumni support and success only further the positive reputation of the institution, attracting quality students and enhancing the value of a University of Miami degree.”

In 2008 the University of Miami made Robert an honorary alumnus in recognition of his unwavering loyalty and support.  

It’s difficult to measure the true impact of philanthropy at any size or amount. But for a young woman with big dreams in St. Louis, Missouri, one small scholarship made all the difference.

“I continue to give because a scholarship changed my life, and I want to see if I can positively change the lives of others,” Judi said. “It’s very rewarding to know that I’m helping talented people follow their dreams and find success.”