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Fall 2014 Class Notes

Fall 2014 Class Notes

September 17, 2014 at 8:33am


Douglas Browne ’78 was promoted to president of Peabody Hotels while continuing to serve as the general manager of the iconic Peabody Memphis.


Maria Elena González ’80 is the newest assistant professor in sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Daniel A. Gwinn ’82 recently founded a new law firm, Gwinn Tauriainen PLLC. It has offices in Troy, Mich.

Keith Pierce ’83 has been appointed to the 2014 executive committee of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. He is currently the executive vice president for brand operations at Wyndham Hotel Group.

Antonio Gomez ’87, MS ’07, was recently promoted to principal engineer at Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies division.

Chris Hansen ’88 has been tapped to open and manage the new Loews Hotel in Chicago.

Julio C. Jaramillo ’88 is president-elect of The Florida Bar Foundation, a statewide charitable organization with a mission to provide greater access to justice. A founder of the Colombian American Bar Association, Jaramillo has served as president of the Colombian American Service Association and worked pro bono for the Dade County Bar Association’s “Put Something Back” program.

Catherine Rodriguez ’88, MBA ’90, M.Acc ’91, was recently promoted from foreign service specialist to director of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions in Miami.

Nanette L. Avery MS ’89 recently published her latest book, Orphan in America, a fiction novel that details the impact of the Orphan Train movement during the early 1900s.

Ana Carolina Cruxent ’89 created the anti-obesity video PSA Rewind the Future, which has recently gone viral and has more than 3.5 million views on YouTube.


Michael Whelan ’92, MS ’94, was named 2014 Engineer of the Year by Northeast Florida Engineer’s Week Committee. Whelan works as the assistant director of waterfront engineering at Taylor Engineering, Inc.

Monica Marulanda ’94 was featured in the article “5 Hispanic shop creatives you need to know” by Digiday, an online magazine for the digital media, marketing and advertising community.

Gregory R. Singleton MS ’95 received the Alumni Award of Distinction from the North American Interfraternity Conference for his work with the Kappa Alpha Order National Fraternity. He also received the Morlan-Bishop Award from Omicron Delta Kappa for work at Austin Peay State University.

Suria Plante ’96 will be general manager at the soon-to-open Residence Inn by Marriott at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Ralph Rosado ’96, MA ’03, was appointed assistant city manager for the City of North Miami Beach in April 2014.

Iris Escarra ’97 has been named co-chair of the Land Development Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig in Miami. She works to develop the firm’s land use, zoning and real estate development practice in Miami-Dade County.

Andrea Milrad MS ’97 received her seventh consecutive President’s Club award, which is given to associates to sell at least $1 million in one year, from the hotelier HelmsBriscoe.

Patricia Acosta ’98 has been appointed to the board of The Florida Bar Foundation, a statewide charitable organization with a mission is to provide greater access to justice. A long-time advocate for the legal rights of the working poor, Acosta has received numerous awards recognizing her commitment to public service and outstanding pro bono legal representation.


Nate Delinois ’02 and Diana Contreras ’05 were recently featured by Channel 10 News and Complex Art + Design Magazine for their mural of Jay-Z and Beyonce at Speaker Boxx Miami in Carol City, Florida.

David Monter ’02 has been hired as vice president, controller for Miami-based Professional Bank. In this role, he will manage the accounting department, oversee regulatory reporting and assist the CFO in asset management and financial reporting.

Hai Zhang M.Arch ’02 opened his first solo art exhibition, “Everywhere – Nowhere,” at the Luise Ross Gallery in New York.

Michelle Nunez-Mendoza ’03 was hired by the University of Miami as the associate director of marketing for information technology.

Michael W. Weissberg MS ’03 was named full professor and director of the associate’s degree program in crime scene and the bachelor’s degree program in forensics at Keiser University.

Anllelic Lozada ’04 recently became a personal marketing integral coach in New York City where she helps professionals create their personal brands.

Tyler Mckeiver ’05 recently joined President Barack Obama’s administration as a senior advisor for intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Cristina Rosell ’05 married Erik Lyngved on May 30, 2014, in New Orleans. Sisters Carla Rosell ’03 and Gabriela Rosell ’10 served as bridesmaids during a ceremony at Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Following a honeymoon in Greece, Cristina and her husband are home in Baton Rouge, La., where she is currently working toward a Ph.D. in English at Louisiana State University.

Diana Beltran ’07 is Wyndham Hotel Group’s new Learning and Delivery Manager for Latin America. She previously worked at Wyndham Worldwide Corporate services as the Sustainability and Innovation Manager.

Mary Benevente ’07, MS ’08, was recently promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer of Professional Bank, a Miami-based boutique bank tailored to business professionals.

Priscilla Anne Ortega ’07, MA ‘14, and Michael Jesus Baluja were married in Waterford, Ireland, on March 11, 2014. Their destination wedding was held at Waterford Castle where they were joined by 15 of their closest friends and family while others watched the ceremony in an live streaming broadcast.

Juan P. Espinosa ’08 was honored at the 2014 Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa. His original play “Amygdala” was chosen to represent Florida at the Education Theatre Association’s Thespians Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Melissa Rubinstein ’08 and her husband Shimon Rubinstein opened a chiropractic office in North Miami Beach that will office services to babies, children and adults and host weekly health workshops and monthly parent meetings.

Eric Anderson MS ’09 and Mengyuan Chen MS ’12, who met in the events management class at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, were wed in December 2013. Eric is at Royal Caribbean in Global Tour Operations and Mengyuan is working for ABTS Convention Services.

Stephanie Diaz-Perez ’09 recently opened her second Sweetness Bakeshop located in Hialeah, and operates a 4,000 square foot production center in Doral which supplies local businesses with gourmet dessert options.

Evan Rosenberg ’09 and his wife Kimberly Rosenberg welcomed their first child on May 20, 2014. Ashlyn Leigh Rosenberg was born in Boca Raton, Florida, and weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces.

Maria Trujillo ’09 Self-published her first novel, Lost in the City of Flowers. It is a time-travel adventure for young-adult readers that takes place in 15th century Italy.


Lis-Marie Alvarado ’10 participated in Al Jazeera America’s show Borderland, during which she retraced the steps of migrants who died along the U.S.-Mexico border. She is an avid immigrant rights defender and community organizer in Miami with the organization WeCount!

Myka Figueiredo ’10 was named chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Engage) Committee and will sit on the chamber’s board of directors.

Rebecca Rodriguez ’10 was appointed by the American Bar Association as a member of the Steering Group for the Customs Law Committee.

Gabriela Rosell ’10 earned a law degree from the University of Miami in May 2014. She is currently studying for the Florida bar exam.

Natali Aguero ’12 and Allen Feliz ’12 were married January 17, 2014, in Key West and later celebrated with friends in Cozumel, Mexico.

Karla Maria Cabral ’12 founded the nonprofit organization M3 World Inc., which caters to youth empowerment via product design, access to information and empowerment workshops.

Jacqueline Failer MIA ’12 recently presented her paper “Seeking the Spiritual Self within the Interior Environment: Analyzing the Work of Heidegger to Define the Human-Object Relationship” at the Architecture, Culture and Spirituality Forum at the University of Toronto.

Jennifer Bound ’14 saw her spice rub land on grocery store shelves this summer. As a student in the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management in December of 2013, she created the winning recipe for a competition hosted by the Badia spice company. “Holy Smokes” debuted at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival the following February and hit stores in 86 countries just a few months later. (A portion of all sales goes back to FIU.) Jennifer currently works for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Erin Harrelson MS ’14 was hired by UHZ Sports Medicine Institute in Miami as an athletic trainer and recently traveled to Costa Rica to provide medical care and instruction to children and the elderly.

Austin LaPoten ’14 was accepted into the prestigious Sofitel School of Excellence Management Training Program in Munich, Germany.

In Memoriam

William “Bill” Winston ’79 passed away July 13, 2013, at the age of 57. After earning his degree from the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, he started a 24-year career with Hilton Worldwide, first with the quality assurance and operations department and, eventually, in a role that had him supporting affiliate brands. Always passionate, he worked well beyond business hours, including weekends and evenings, to give his all to the team members, customers and others with whom he interacted – a quality that earned him great admiration and the title “King of Customer Service.” He was an active member of the Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala., and a supporter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.