Typical Valentine’s Day gifts include chocolate, flowers or a stuffed animal, but the University of Miami offers a gift that will last long past the annual holiday – only it can’t be taken home.
The engraved bricks that make up the Love Bridge outside of the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center are also known as “love bricks” because they were created by Patti Herbert in 2004 as a gift “that would stay and be permanent” to her husband. The bridge was given its name after the Herberts donated $50,000 to the center, and the idea to engrave the bricks came with the donation. UM alumni later donated another $8 million to the school in 2008 to fund a large expansion of the center.
Since 2004, the Wellness Center has sold more than 300 love bricks, each one holding a different memory, whether it is to celebrate the love between two people or to commemorate the life of someone who has passed away. The love brick is a lasting symbol of love for University of Miami students, faculty and alumni.
Although the love brick tradition did not begin until 2004, some bricks that showcase relationships dating back to the 1950s when the Rathskeller was still called “The Slop Shop.”
UM alum Arnold Odio recounted when he met his wife during their graduate school studies in 1970 and decided to buy a love brick for their 44th anniversary on Valentine’s Day last year. In addition to buying the love brick, Odio and his wife renewed their vows on campus during a Hurricanes basketball game.
While the expression of love is often associated with romantic relationships between couples, Carmen Gilbert, senior administrative assistant at the Wellness Center, said she purchased a love brick to celebrate the strength of her mother who survived cancer.
“She fought her hardest through her illness,” Gilbert said about her mother.
Gilbert has been working with the love brick program for eight years. She calls it the best part of her job because she gets an opportunity to meet people and share their stories.
“I get a close bond with them [in]the end after ordering their brick,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert remembers helping an international couple from Singapore with their brick. The bride-to-be wanted to surprise her fiance, so she contacted Gilbert via email and Gilbert walked her through the entire process. Once the brick was ready, Gilbert took photos of the brick and sent it to the bride-to-be, who surprised her fiance on their wedding night with a photo montage that included photos of their brick.
“It’s such a nice feeling knowing that someone looks out for you,” said Gilbert.
Aside from leaving your permanent mark on the University of Miami campus, the $500 paid for a love brick is donated to the Wellness Center’s CHAMP assessment, which is used to get students started with or kept on the right health and fitness program to achieve their wellness goals. The assessment was endowed in 2004 as part of the Herberts’ $50,000 gift. To order a love brick, contact Carmen Gilbert at 305-284-8512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.