Congressional Welcome celebrates contributions of FIU’s D.C. family

What links four members of Congress, Benjamin Franklin and the world’s most influential female economist?  The answer is truly Worlds Ahead.

Recently, the Washington,  D.C., Capital Panthers and FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg welcomed the South Florida Congressional delegation to the 112th Congress and honored FIU alumna Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ’75, ’87  on her appointment as chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

This first alumni Congressional Welcome event of its kind, held just blocks from the White House at the historic University Club, saluted FIU alumni working on Capitol Hill and federal agencies in recognition of the important role they play in our nation’s capital.

“How fitting for a truly international university to have one of its own leading such an important charge,” said Carlos Becerra, FIU’s director of federal relations, referring to Ros Lehtinen’s new appointment. “This is a post previously held by President John Quincy Adams and other American patriots such as Benjamin Franklin.” Among the international guests on hand to honor Ros-Lehtinen were Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania and key deputies from the embassies of Israel and Honduras.

“FIU has a special place in my heart. FIU is the institution that helped mold me to be the type of teacher I became, the type of educator I was able to be, the principal I was able to be. It is such a thrill to be part of the FIU family,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Also in attendance were U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera — the second FIU alumnus elected to Congress — and key staffers from other offices of the delegation.

“The epitome of the American dream is the desire to leave your children better off than yourselves, and that is the story that is repeated every single day at FIU,” said Rubio, who like most members of the delegation employ FIU alumni on their staff. According to Becerra, the university’s Panther alumni and faculty serve in the Congressional offices of members from New York and Connecticut as well.

Special recognition was also given to 2011 Alumni Torch Award honorees Cesar Gonzalez ‘97 and Carmen Reinhart ‘78. Gonzalez now serves as chief of staff to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Reinhart, who was recently named the world’s most influential female economist, serves at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Both will be honored at the Alumni Association’s Torch Awards Gala in Miami, Sat., March 19.

The D.C. Capital Panthers recently announced a membership drive to recruit 200 new members by this fall and got a head start with four attendees who signed up to become lifetime members.

“The school is only as strong as its alumni membership. For future generations, I felt I had a responsibility to do my part to help it be as strong as it can be and give back a little to an institution that has had such an impact on my life,” said Vivienne Alonso ’89, who works as a budget director at the Customs and Border Protection of Homeland Security and became a lifetime member.

The evening was made possible through the support of the FIU Alumni Association, Jason Poblete ‘92 and Poblete Tamargo, LLP, who hosted the gathering at the University Club.

To see photos of the event, click here.

To join the D.C. Capital Panthers Alumni Chapter, click here or contact Jackie Peñalver at

Follow the Chapter and FIU’s Washington, D.C. initiatives on Facebook or Twitter at FIUdc.

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