On Saturday, 7:30 P.M Jose Diaz returned victorious from Tallahassee.
As he walked into his grandmother’s house, he was greeted by his close friends and relatives with balloons, lasagna, cake, and music.
They were not just celebrating another of Diaz’s many awards-this one gave Diaz the title of the greatest student leader in the state of Florida.
It was not until Friday, at 3 p.m. that the Florida College Student Leader of the Year was announced in a ceremony that took place in the 22nd floor of the Capitol Building in Tallahassee.
The award, founded by Florida Leader Magazine, is the only one of its kind that recognizes outstanding campus leaders statewide who excel academically, support themselves financially, and volunteer in the community and on campus.
Diaz is the first student representing the University of Miami, and the first Hispanic to be chosen for the award.
Dignitaries including the Lt. Governor and the Education Commissioner were present as well as all 20 honorees, their parents, friends, administrators, judges, sponsors, and members of the media.
Accompanying Diaz in this moment of honor was also Director of the University Center and Student Life, Richard Walker, as a representative of the University of Miami on behalf of Dr. Patricia Whitely, Vice President for Student Affairs.
“When I knew I had won I was overwhelmed,” Diaz said. “This was a very cool experience although I didn’t know it was going to be this big.”
Diaz said that he has received a lot of media attention, and that a lot of emphasis is placed on UM.
“I think this will give the school a lot of publicity,” he said.
During his stay in Tallahassee, Diaz said he had a chance to meet all the other finalists and interact with people from all over the state.
“I met people from all over the world, and from all different walks of life,” he said. “This made me appreciate everything I have, and I felt very honored to be recognized as one of the best.”
The celebration that started Saturday night upon his return from Tallahassee carried on throughout the weekend.
On Sunday a barbecue was held in his honor. The fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon, of which Diaz is a member, and the sorority Zeta Tau Alpha, of which his sister is a member, joined in an afternoon of fun to honor Diaz.
“I feel so honored to be his sister,” said 19-year-old sophomore Angie Diaz. “My grandmother was crying, my parents and everyone was so proud,” she said.
Student Body President Mike Johnston, Diaz’ successor, said he was sitting in Dr. Whitely’s office when he found out that Diaz had won. He said he immediately tried calling him on his cellular phone.
“I was very excited even though I was already expecting it. I am very familiar with the Student of the Year award and I know that his accomplishments are amazing,” Johnston said.
Johnston said that student government is very proud of Diaz, since this is an honor that has never happened before. He said that he feels very privileged to hold the position that Diaz last held.
“Speaking as his successor I hope I can live up to his standards,” Johnston said. “He’s been my good friend and mentor and I am very proud of him.”
Diaz has been an honors student and scholarship recipient during his four years at the University of Miami.
He has held important government offices including Speaker of the Senate and student government president.
“Pepi Diaz is the best student government president I have ever worked with,” said UM President Donna E. Shalala.
“This was a well deserved award,” said Walker.
Diaz will enjoy his share of $60, 000 as the winner of this prestigious award.
“I also got some free plane tickets,” Diaz said. “I think I might go to the Bahamas and enjoy everything that I received.”
“I’m going to have a good time, that’s for sure,” he added.