Dear FIU community:
Universities are communities of memory and hope. The memories are built out of the moments and experiences that give college life its value—in and out of the classroom. Most of us who went to university will have intense memories about the good (and bad) things that happened while there. We understand that we were there, in part, as a consequence of hope for the future and our ability to contribute to the good things that lie ahead.
This month, universities throughout the United States are hosting thousands of alumni in reunions known as “homecoming.” They are banking on feeding the emotions of countless graduates who are nostalgic about the good old days—when frivolity, self-discovery and independence all merged through the unique experience of campus life.
Just up the road, the University of Florida promotes to graduates and students alike “Gator Growl” as central to its Homecoming. The University of Central Florida has built a nationally recognized pep rally celebration known as Spirit Splash, a festive gathering geared to currently enrolled students who ritualistically charge the iconic reflecting pool behind the administration building to celebrate “homecoming” and all that is good about their university.
These homecomings are great opportunities to deepen the nostalgia of those who have physically left the university but whose emotional attachments still run deep. They also build affinity with today’s students through events that strengthen bonds between those students and their university.
Our FIU is just completing our 2019 Homecoming—a mix of fun and joyful events directed at both currently enrolled students, past graduates and former employees who are invited to return to learn about all the good things that have been happening at the institution. This past week we have had events that ran the gamut from our Panthermonium concert and Taste at the Bay block party to Trail of the Torch. The week culminated in yesterday’s Homecoming parade and football game (Congrats to the team on its win!). We crowned both a Homecoming queen and king from among student contestants, and two professional staff members were named staff queen and king.
Homecoming reminds me of the collective difference we are making in communities throughout Florida and around the world. Those individuals who call themselves Panthers include founders and owners of businesses; executives in health care, finance and government; scientists and medical professionals; educators and many more. Not all could return home like Dr. Altman, but they all play a role in this university’s impact.
Our alumni and retirees give their time and treasure back to the university by serving on advisory councils and mentoring students as well as by contributing financially to support the goals of our $750 million Next Horizon campaign. We could not accomplish what we already have and cannot accomplish where we must go without them. When we combine their efforts with the legislative support we receive, we have intense hope that tomorrow will be even better than today.
Retiree Ruth Hamilton is another great example. Ruth was the face of the Graham Center for decades. She started as coordinator of activities in 1979 and retired in 2014 as the GC’s executive director, running the busiest, most programmatically diverse building at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. Ruth is a legend at FIU, in part because she did more than just expand and transform our student hub into a multi-use space where all students feel welcome. Her true legacy lies in the mentoring and care she lavished on literally thousands of students over the course of her FIU service. I’ve run into countless alumni who remember Ruth fondly.
I am happy to say that Ruth is still at it. She and her husband Glenn were in Washington, D.C., this past week to attend a luncheon with FIU students. The couple has helped open doors for score of students – recipients of the Make a Difference Scholarship – to participate in internships and mentorships in our nation’s capital. During their visit, Ruth told the students, “Be genuine and caring as leaders. It is the best way to earn the trust of those you are leading.”
Steve Altman and Ruth Hamilton are examples of the promise of the Panther family—in many ways our Homecoming reminds us of this. Students, alumni, faculty and staff doing meaningful work and having an impact. They inspire me and our boards to forge forward in our quest to be a Top 50 public university and that is about the hope and opportunity that we offer to so many—not just at Homecoming!
If you attended any of our Homecoming events, thank you for your support! If you missed Homecoming this year, you can access all our Homecoming albums on FIU Flickr.
In the Panther spirit,
Mark B. Rosenberg