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Basketball star Raja Bell trades uniform for FIU cap and gown


NBA star Raja Bell will graduate this summer – 13 years after his stellar basketball career at FIU.

The son of educators, Bell, who most recently played for the Utah Jazz, promised his parents that he would finish his college degree regardless of his successful career. His wife Cindy Greenman ’97, a former FIU soccer player, is also a former teacher.

Bell will be among 3,171 graduates receiving their diplomas this summer, most of them participating in one of six commencement ceremonies taking place Monday, Aug. 13, and Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the U.S. Century Bank Arena, located at FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus, 11200 S.W. 8th St. in southwest Miami-Dade County.

He will receive his bachelor’s degree in recreation and sport management during the first ceremony at 10 a.m. on Monday. Bell is among the many FIU students graduating this summer who have distinguished themselves. Some have excelled at research, while others have made their mark in academics and in the community.

“These graduates highlight the kind of determination and dedication that so many of our students possess,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “At commencement, we celebrate the hard work that brought our students to this point and the bright future ahead, now that they have the tools to do good and do well. For most of our graduates, this degree will allow them to pursue their dreams and create a better life for themselves and their families.”

Bell, who began his undergraduate career at FIU in 1995 and later left to pursue a basketball career, was able to get past the obstacles and complete what he started with the help of Professor Robert Wolff, professor and  director of the Recreation and Sport Management programs at the College of Education. Among his challenges: adapting to changes in degree requirements since he left campus, and figuring out a schedule that would accommodate the demands of his career.

“If I didn’t have Dr. Wolff in my corner, supporting me and urging me on, this would never have gotten done,” Bell said. “He’s really been a mentor for me. It was a priority for him, and he was excited when it became a priority for me.”

With his college degree, he is setting an example for his three young sons in a family for which education is essential. Bell is proud, too, of finishing his degree, and of his connection to FIU, the place where he met his wife and many of his best friends, and where he returns each summer to prepare for the coming season.

During the commencement ceremonies, the university also will bestow medallions and honorary degrees to the following distinguished community members:

  • Award-winning educator Sandra Schultz MS ’75, FIU Medallion – Outstanding Alumna;
  • U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ’75, MS ’87, FIU Medallion – Outstanding Alumna
  • Former City of Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, Honorary Degree – Doctor of Public Service
  • Philanthropist Lady Blanka Rosenstiel, FIU Medallion – Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award
  • President and Chief Operating Officer of Southern Wine & Spirits of America Wayne E. Chaplin, FIU Medallion – Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award.

The full commencement schedule can be found here.

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