Dr. Julio Frenk made several announcements that will shape the future of the University of Miami when he was inaugurated as the school’s sixth president Friday afternoon at the BankUnited Center.
President Frenk’s announcements resulted from a focus on the school’s centennial in 10 years, with a theme of “100” running throughout President Frenk’s tenure so far. He completed his “100 Days of Listening” exercise in December and is now focused on UM’s 100th anniversary. He continued this trend with the announcement of his goal to meet 100 percent of student financial need and to create 100 endowed chairs at the university through an initiative to bring in “100 new talents for [reaching] 100 years.”
“Between now and our centennial, I am committed to mobilizing the resources to fund 100 new endowed faculty chairs, with a mix of senior, junior and visiting professorships. The infusion of new recruitments to our outstanding faculty will help build a critical mass of talent in Miami,” he said.
President Frenk’s commitment to meeting the entirety of student financial need was met with loud applause from the student section at the ceremony. The student representative on the Board of Trustees, Daniela Lorenzo, said she was moved and inspired by this promise. She sees it as an opportunity for UM to be more like its “aspirational peers,” the top universities in the United States.
“I’m going to be honest, I teared up a little. It was very inspirational,” Lorenzo said. “The 100 percent need met for [each] student is an amazing thing. This makes us on par with other schools and it also allows us to get talent that otherwise wouldn’t be able to come to college [here], who may not have another outlet otherwise.”
President Frenk also shared news of Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost’s $100 million donation to support basic and applied science and engineering.
Johann Ali, a council of elder in Iron Arrow who was in attendance, said the president’s promises were a reaffirmation of the focus of the university.
“As an alumnus, I was happy to hear that there is a dedication to 100 endowed faculty members and that the $100 million donation will be used specifically for academics and students,” Ali said. “Because as an alumnus, the focus is always on the students, not the faculty, but the students.”
The Frosts were honorary co-chairs of the inauguration and sat among several other distinguished guests such as Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, Chair of the Board of Trustees Stuart Miller, representatives from 99 universities, colleges and academic institutions and former UM President Donna E. Shalala. In traditional inauguration form, the Master of Ceremonies Dr. Michael Barron was followed by the academic procession and the president’s procession entered last, trailed by President Frenk at the very end.
President Frenk’s love of music was incorporated into the ceremony with several performances. The Frost Symphony Orchestra, the Frost Chorale, student violinist Miclen LaiPang and alumni Ana Collado, Joshua Henry and Elizabeth Caballero all performed during the ceremony.
Student Government President senior Brianna Hathaway welcomed President Frenk and pledged to him the student body’s collaboration and support.
“He wants to get out there, to know students and faculty and make sure everyone is welcome here,” Hathaway said after the ceremony. “He is passionate about the school and that reflected in his words today. He is here to make a difference and help this university shine.”
Faust remarked on President Frenk’s work and leadership as the dean of faculty at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development. She quipped about the heavy burden of being a university president, quoting her colleagues and predecessors, including former Yale University President Bart Giamatti, who jokingly called it “no way for an adult to make a living.”
“But some of us are still willing to steel ourselves, take the plunge and give it our best shot and Julio’s willingness is sure to raise our collective game,” Faust said.
She described President Frenk’s curiosity about higher education and universities as a force of change and a breeding ground for possibility, saying she witnessed it firsthand at Harvard.
“From the time Julio first took up his role as dean of Public Health at Harvard, it was clear that he was captivated by the scope and potential of these curious institutions we call universities,” Faust said.
Faust stressed the overwhelming importance of universities and how a leader must be willing to take on both the excruciating challenges and the life-altering potential his or her institution holds.
“In Julio Frenk, the University of Miami welcomes a president who knows deep in his soul why universities matter, why they deserve and demand both our constant critical scrutiny and our profound encouragement and support,” she said.
The inauguration included many historical and traditional elements, which President Frenk has shown deep interest in since his tenure began. The symbolic mace, fanfare and regalia were accompanied by a cinematic video about the history of UM created by alumnus Diego Meza Valdes.
President Frenk took the historical background of the university into account when crafting his plan for reaching the centennial, using empowering language to reflect the leadership of visionaries before him like George Merrick and Shalala.
“Our founders conceived of the University of Miami as a vitally relevant catalyst for progress, and as your president, I commit to our full engagement for the good of our community and our world,” he said.
At the beginning of his address, President Frenk greeted the attendees – faculty, administration, students, alumni, community members, diplomats and representatives – in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole and Portuguese. The ceremony was also live-streamed online in English, Spanish and Creole, emphasizing the new president’s view on UM’s role as a hemispheric and global university.
“As I have travelled the globe, I have become convinced that Latin America and the Caribbean must emerge as more prominent voices in our global conversations. These regions hold lessons that the world needs,” Frenk said.
The president also discussed the role of arts and humanities, athletics and cross-disciplinary connections in bringing the entire university to new heights. President Frenk said a university-wide initiative to broaden “considerable expertise in sea-level rise” will take shape in the coming months. Healthcare and technological innovation were two other arenas Frenk said UM has the ability to lead in.
All these goals are part of what he called his four defining visions and greatest aspirations for the university: a hemispheric university, an excellent university, a relevant university and an exemplary university.
“Through this process I have learned that, for a young university, we are immensely proud of our roots and our humble beginnings. We are resilient — enduring and growing through times of turmoil, threat and challenge. And we have an extraordinary capacity for renewal — reinventing ourselves and leaning in to hurricane-strength forces that reshape our landscape, literally and figuratively,” Frenk said.
President Frenk referenced the newly built Fate Bridge and how it was a metaphor for the larger goals of UM in the next 10 years: connectedness. Building figurative bridges between disciplines, students, cultures, schools, campuses and even hemispheres was a major component of his vision for UM.
“With resilience and renewal, we can weather the winds of change buffeting higher education and the world at large and emerge smarter and stronger. With resilience and renewal, we can be looked to as a leader and we can shape our destiny,” he said.
Staff Writer Marcus Lim contributed to this article.