President Frenk reflects on UM’s 90th birthday

The legacy of the Hurricanes was born 90 years ago on Oct. 18, when the university first opened its doors to 646 students after weathering the devastation of the Great Miami Hurricane. Students, officials and President Julio Frenk reflected on the university’s 90th birthday and how far it has come.

In a column to the Miami Herald, Frenk reflected on the the strength of the school, rising up from the destruction the hurricane caused.

“It was the ‘perfect storm:’ extensive destruction of property, significant loss of life and thousands injured,” Frenk wrote. “But Miami came back. It was a community of great tenacity … For our university founders, it was an assertion of their optimism, their commitment to being a Pan-American center for knowledge, and recognition of the urgent need to begin.”

Frenk, the sixth president in the university’s history, wrote about why the school adopted the ibis as their official mascot, due to its adaptability to survive the storm.

“Our mascot is the American white ibis, which is said to be the last wildlife to take shelter before a storm and the first to return after it passes,” Frenk wrote. “The ibis is an enduring symbol of our institution’s resilience and our deep connection to the dynamic, beautiful ecosystem of South Florida.”

A video from the official University of Miami page ( was created to celebrate the anniversary of the “tenacity” and “resilience” of the school’s founders.

Amanda Fuentes, a sophomore who grew up in Miami, has loved the school since birth. She gravitated toward the school, especially when surrounded by family members and friends supporting UM.

“I always wanted to go the school, it’s always been my first option, I could not imagine going anywhere apart from UM,” Fuentes said. “I also wanted to do it for my dad, who never went to this school and it is almost as good for me as it is for him. There is a Fuentes in UM now and I will be an alumni here.”

As UM reaches its 90th birthday, Fuentes compared the school to other institutions with a history of 200 years and praised how much UM has come in a short span of time.

“This is a big milestone for the university, 90 years is a lot,” Fuentes said. “It is not a lot of time compared to other universities though. And it showed how innovative we are compared to them. It reminds us that we are getting older as a university but we are still relatively young and look at how much we have done.”

The university’s annual Homecoming event, which celebrates the return of alumni and love of alma mater, will pay a special mention to the 90th birthday, according to Homecoming Chair and Student Government (SG) Vice President Ashley Pittaluga.

Celebrating different traditions in the week-long Homecoming event, Pittaluga said that another tradition reaching a milestone is the boat burning event reaching its 60th anniversary this year. The tradition of the boat burning is if the mast of the boat should hit the water before the boat sinks, UM would win their next Homecoming football game.

“The 90th birthday of UM means a lot to Homecoming, a time where we celebrate what it means to be a Cane,” Pittaluga said. “Some of our traditions have been around for a long time, this year is the 60th anniversary of the boat burning and we love to celebrate our school, taking pride in putting together a week of events to celebrate the university.”

Student Government President Vikesh Patel praised the rise of UM’s academics, aesthetics and student life, as a landmark celebration on how far they have come; and with Frenk’s Roadmap to the new century, UM will achieve even greater things for its centennial.

“UM is coming of age and we are proud of how much our school has done in just 90 years,” Patel said. “Being one of the youngest institutions and ranked top 50 in the U.S. means a lot. We accomplished so much in so little time and we have a vision that we are going to meet 10 years from now to take us to even greater heights.”

Frenk closed off his column on how he wants to channel the strength of the leaders before him as the university continues to strive.

“The University of Miami would not have opened its doors 90 years ago without the fortitude and resilience of our home town,” Frenk wrote. “From Cardboard College to ‘Canes Country, together we have weathered literal, economic and cultural winds of change. Together we will not just face the future, we will create it.”