FIU celebrates 2011 Suncoast Emmy Award-nominated alumni

Attending a special reception for FIU’s Emmy honorees were, from left, back row: FIU Alumni Association President Jack Gonzalez ’97, Senior Vice President of External Relations Sandy Gonzalez-Levy; Rebecca Medina ’01, former WFTS Tampa reporter; Gio Benitez ’08, WFOR reporter; Jorge Vivar ’05, Channel 23 editor; FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg; School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Raul Reis; David Gonzalez, Channel 23 photojournalist; Fabian Perez-Crespo ’92, TV Marti; Alumni Association Interim Executive Director Duane Wiles; Ray Darnott ’08, promotions at Channel 23. Bottom Row: External Relations Vice President Terry Witherell; Kandra Velez ’07, WPBT Channel 2 producer; Gloria Ordaz, Channel 23 anchor; Sandra Peebles ’89, Channel 23 anchor/reporter, Teri Arvesu-Gonzalez ’99, Channel 23 executive producer; Dianne Fernandez ’94, former WSVN 7 reporter; Patricia Donoso ’05, Miami HEAT producer/editor; Katherine Carballo ’07, Miami HEAT producer/editor. Photo: Roldan Torres ’85.

When the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented its 35th Annual Suncoast Emmy Awards in Fort Lauderdale last December, 18 Panthers were among the journalism professionals being honored for their outstanding work in areas ranging from editing to production to on-air talent. Eight of them were called on stage to collect a coveted golden statuette, the highest achievement in their field.

On April 10, FIU President Mark. B. Rosenberg welcomed some of this distinguished group of Emmy-nominated alumni into the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential House at Modesto A. Maidique Campus to celebrate their success.

For a few of the Panthers in attendance, the evening served a dual purpose: it was a homecoming and an chance to meet the new dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Raul Reis, and catch up with old professors like Teresa Ponte and Allan Richards.

Teri Arvesu ’99 said she’s only come back to campus sporadically. For Arvesu, the winner of two 2011 Suncoast Emmys for her work as a producer on two stories for Univision (one on absentee ballot fraud; the other, a two-part story on the power of prayer – check out part I and part II), coming home to FIU to be recognized for her accomplishments was on par with her statuettes. She has seven Emmys out of 11 career nominations.

“I’m proud to have been recognized for these stories, and I’m just as proud to be here tonight,” she said. “It feels good.”

Her peers agreed. Jorge Vivar ’05 is an editor nominated for a couple of stories he had a hand in for Univision as well. One was about turtles on the brink of extinction in El Salvador; the other about the opportunities for fun and adventure the Everglades offer its visitors.

“Any time you get recognized is an honor,” he said, “and it’s nice to see all these familiar faces.”

Rosenberg presented the Emmy nominees and winners in attendance with a small token of appreciation – an FIU globe symbolizing the university’s Worlds Ahead qualities, to which these alumni contribute. Throughout the evening, live music played as the sun set and the guests of honor mingled with FIU First Lady Rosalie Rosenberg, College of Nursing & Health Sciences Dean Ora Strickland and Professor Rich Olson, among others.

Rebecca Medina ’01, a Suncoast Emmy nominee for “Public Safety Crisis Coming to Your Neighborhood,” a news feature that aired on WFTS Tampa, hadn’t been back to campus “in a long time” because work had taken her to Tennessee, Texas and, for the last four years, Tampa. The former news reporter is back in South Florida and is now the internal communications manager for the technology developer Pace. She says she remains a journalist at heart and is forever indebted to FIU for her education.

“FIU holds a very special place in my heart because my professors here prepared me for this journey I embarked on and made me the Latina professional of this industry that I am…this force to be reckoned with,” she said. “I value that very, very much.”

“She’s one of our stars,” said Richards, associate dean of the SJMC. “I’m proud of her and all her peers here tonight.”

Indeed, pride was one of the event at the Reagan House’s raison d’être.

“We feel very strongly about you and about your work,” Rosenberg said. “We want to be able to brag about you and hope that you will brag about your FIU and help us tell the story of this university.”