Record number of graduates to participate in FIU’s Spring Commencement

Thousands of Florida International University students will receive their degrees during five ceremonies to be held April 28 and 29 at the FIU-University Park Arena.

Of the more than 3,800 total graduates this semester, a record 3,200 are expected to participate in ceremonies, which also will honor six individuals for their contributions to the university and the community. FIU will award medallions to a Florida state representative and an executive at Bear Stearns & Co., as well as grant honorary degrees to a former FIU president, a third generation physician, and the chairman and CEO of a South Florida fine wine and spirits distribution company. One of the world’s top art collectors also will be honored with the Cal Kovens Community Service Medallion.

During the 10 a.m. ceremony on April 28, the family of Victor Bonachea will accept a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management. Bonachea, 22, died as a result of a motorcycle accident in July 2006.

The honorees at the commencement ceremonies are:

Gregory Wolfe, a longtime public servant, statesman and dedicated educator, served as FIU’s third president from 1979 to 1986. After stepping down, he remained on FIU’s faculty as a professor in the Department of International Relations until he retired in 2003 and was appointed an FIU professor emeritus.

During Wolfe’s presidency, FIU made the transition from a two-year, upper-division school with limited graduate programs to a four-year comprehensive university with a full complement of lower division, graduate and doctoral programs. He also oversaw significant growth at FIU, particularly at the Biscayne Bay Campus, which developed its infrastructure and increased its enrollment under Wolfe.

Prior to his tenure at FIU, Wolfe forged a reputation as an expert on international and domestic urban development issues. He served as a federal negotiator for the Joint Transportation Commission under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. President Johnson also appointed him to head the Latin American Office of Intelligence and Research in the Department of State, a position he held for four years. Wolfe’s assistance to the Spanish government in guiding its economy as the country made the transition from a dictatorship to a democracy earned him the Order of Civil Merit from King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Wolfe will receive an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Public Service, on Monday, April 28th at the 10 a.m. ceremony.

State Rep. David Rivera, who represents District 112 in the Florida Legislature, graduated with honors from FIU with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1986 and a master’s degree in public affairs in 1994. He is currently a doctoral candidate in FIU’s School of Policy and Management.

In 2002, Rivera was elected to the state House from the Miami-Dade County district where he has lived for more than 28 years. Voters subsequently re-elected him twice and he now serves as chairman of the House Rules and Calendar Committee, the highest post ever achieved by an FIU alumnus in the State Legislature. He is the director of National Political Affairs, director of Hispanic Outreach for the Republican Party of Florida and national committeeman and national vice chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Florida.

Committed to his alma mater, Rivera has been a longstanding supporter of FIU. He has taught as an adjunct professor in the School of Policy and Management, sharing his experiences in public life with the next generation of leaders. He also was an unwavering advocate for the university during its quest to win approval for the College of Medicine.

Early in his career, he served as a researcher with the Washington, D.C., offices of the Cuban American National Foundation. His articles on U.S.-Cuba relations have been widely read. He also has frequently appeared before organizations and the media to provide expert commentary on issues of concern to the Hispanic community.

He is a member of several civic, community and professional organizations, including the Association of Hispanic Public Administrators. Rivera will receive the FIU Medallion – Outstanding Alumnus on Monday, April 28th at the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Harvey Chaplin, known as a champion of education, the arts and health care, is the chairman and CEO of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.

Chaplin, who has a long history of supporting FIU, was the founding contributor to the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center within the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. In an academic recognition, FIU announced the endowment of the First Eminent Scholar Chair in Beverage Management Studies in the United States in his honor.

In 1961, he became a major beverage distributor in upstate New York. In 1969, he came to Miami and established Southern Wine & Spirits, which has grown into the largest multi-state distributor of fine wine and spirits.

A self-made man, generous philanthropist and community leader, Chaplin is committed to supporting higher education. This is best exemplified by a successful partnership between his company and FIU in the production of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which benefits the Teaching Restaurant and the management center at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

He also is very supportive of many international, national and local charities, including Temple Beth Sholom, Mt. Sinai Medical Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital, among others. Chaplin will receive an Honorary Degree – Doctor of Public Services on Monday, April 28th, at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Timothy Ellington, managing director and principal of Bear Stearns & Co., Inc., a global investment banking, securities trading and brokerage firm, has more than 35 years of experience in the banking and securities industry.

Growing up in an Army family, Ellington learned early how to adapt to change. He pursued a marketing track at the University of Alabama Business School, graduating in 1971. He joined the U.S. Army that year as a second lieutenant and rose to the rank of captain. Upon his honorable discharge from the military, he moved to Miami to join Southeast Banking Corporation, becoming the youngest investment officer at the bank.

As he joined other financial institutions, his career took him to cities around the country, including San Francisco and Atlanta, where he joined Bear Stearns & Co. in 1987.

Ellington’s educational background includes a 1977 master’s degree in management from FIU. He taught corporate finance at the university from 1977 to 1979.

Today he serves on the university’s Master of Science in Finance Advisory Board. He says his greatest accomplishment in life has been coaching his now-grown son and daughter in Little League, soccer, softball and basketball. Ellington will receive the FIU Medallion – Outstanding Alumnus on Monday, April 28th, at the 7:30 p.m. ceremony.

Dr. Manuel Viamonte, Jr. is an academic and scientific researcher who has made his reputation in the areas of basic and applied science. A radiologist, he received his medical degree from the University of Havana School of Medicine in 1955, graduating first in his class. His post-graduate education included radiology fellowships at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as a fellowship at the Registry of Radiological Pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

He has been a professor of radiology and associate dean at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital. Viamonte also directed the Radiology Training Program for 35 years at Mt. Sinai Medical Center/Miami Heart Institute.

A prolific and distinguished author, Viamonte has authored or co-authored more than 250 papers and 20 books and given close to 2,000 invited lectures throughout the world, while remaining active in radiology research and the teaching of physicians. Dr. Viamonte will receive an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Science, on Tuesday, April 29th at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Martin Margulies, a successful developer of luxury real estate projects for the past 35 years, is also a renowned art collector.

Margulies began his personal artwork collection in 1976 with the purchase of a work by Isamu Noguchi. Today, his acclaimed Margulies Collection has consistently earned him a spot on ARTnews‘ list of the world’s top art collectors – a position he cherishes because it allows him to share with his community important works from various art movements including abstract expressionism, conceptualism, European modernism, minimalism and pop art. Margulies also is one of the world’s Top 25 photography collectors.

His collection includes photographs, paintings, video installations and large sculptures housed in a retrofitted warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood Art District. This location frequently is used as an educational venue for local and out-of-town groups studying the visual arts. A significant group of large pieces also is on display at the Sculpture Park at FIU-University Park. Hundreds of Miami-Dade County school children visit the Sculpture Park each year for an up-close encounter with the world’s best artists.

A dedicated community activist, Margulies has a longstanding commitment to the welfare of underprivileged young people and donated $2.5 million for the construction of the Overtown Youth Center in downtown Miami. The facility provides social recreation and educational programs, including computer classes, sports and arts and crafts. He also is a strong supporter of the Sundari Foundation’s Lotus House in Overtown, which provides shelter, resources and assistance to homeless women and children. A longtime friend of FIU, Margulies also was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts in December 1994. Margulies will receive the Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Award on Tuesday, April 28th, at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

The ceremonies will take place at FIU-University Park, Pharmed Arena, 11200 SW 8th St. in West Miami-Dade County and are scheduled as follows:

Monday, April 28

10:00 a.m. College of Engineering and Computing
College of Education
3:00 p.m. College of Business Administration
(Chapman Graduate School and School of Accounting)
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
7:30 p.m. College of Business Administration

Tuesday, April 29th

10:00 a.m. Robert Stempel School of Public Health
College of Social Work, Justice and Public Affairs
College of Nursing and Health Sciences
3:00 p.m. College of Architecture and the Arts
College of Arts and Sciences


Media Contact:
Yusila Ramirez, 305-348-2716 or

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