Pointing to three flags waving in the breeze just a short distance behind him, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg reflected back on the first groundbreaking event at the university in 1971.
United Nations Secretary General U. Thant was the guest of honor that day and he spoke about the important role universities play in creating future global leaders.
“Today, we come full circle” and further solidify the “I” in Florida International University, Rosenberg said, as he welcomed more than 200 students, faculty and guests to the groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) building. “This is a day many of us have dreamed about.”
The new building – an 80,000-square-foot, multi-story facility to be built just west of the current site – will be linked to the existing structure by a covered walkway and courtyard. SIPA Phase II will pull most of the Green School’s departments and centers under one roof, giving students and faculty more opportunities to connect and collaborate.
“This is the next step in fulfilling Ambassador Green’s vision for us,’’ said John F. Stack Jr., founding dean of the Green School. “Ambassador, we are truly grateful for all you have done for FIU and for the Green School.”
Ambassador Steven J. Green, his wife Dorothea Green and daughter Kimberly Green attended the ceremony, along with Mireille Charles, the executive director of the Green Family Foundation. FIU named the Green School in honor of the ambassador in 2015.
FIU Foundation CEO Howard Lipman said the event was an opportunity to honor the Green family, who have been catalyst donors for FIU for nearly four decades, lending their name to the Green Library, the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, a part of the Green School.
“Because of their generosity, FIU is taking another bold step forward in advancing excellence in international and public affairs education," Lipman said.
It is hoped that the new building will help the Green School achieve full membership in the prestigious Association of Schools of International & Public Affairs (APSIA), whose 38 member institutions are considered the leading schools of international education in the world.
“This is a very special day for our family, for FIU, for Miami, for Florida and globally,’’ noted Kimberly Green, president of the Green Family Foundation, after pausing to take a selfie with the entire crowd at the groundbreaking. “It is our aim to make this the greatest school of international and public affairs in the world.”
Architect Yann Weymouth, renowned for his work with I.M. Pei on the Louvre in Paris, said the design takes its inspiration from the students – and the mission – of the Green School. Shared spaces with natural light will allow “the outside in” and reflect the fundamental structure of the Green School as interdisciplinary and collaborative, he said.
“We’ve taken your motto of creating a more just, peaceful and prosperous world to heart,’’ said Weymouth, design director for special projects with Harvard Jolly Architecture. “You are the next generation of international leaders and what you accomplish here will resonate across the world.”
Based on Weymouth’s design, SIPA II will be constructed by Thornton Construction, Inc., which also built the first phase of SIPA. The company sponsored the full day of groundbreaking activities, which included a brunch for the Green family and other guests, as well as a keynote address by Jim Messina, White House deputy chief of staff under President Barack Obama.
Speaking after the ceremony, Ambassador Steven J. Green – surrounded by photos of his family outside the original building – said the students he meets when he visits the Green School are the reason he is so committed to its success.
“It’s a fabulous school,’’ he said. “The faculty is terrific and the mission is great but what really makes me committed are the students,’’ he said. “To come out here in a world of pessimism and to see the optimism in the young people today is just inspiring.”
“I’d like to see the Green School become a globally recognized school and I’d like to see the students from the Green School around the world in positions of leadership,’’ he added.
Messina, who gave a talk on “global hot spots” following the ceremony, described the ambassador as “my friend, my mentor and my father figure,” as well as the “single smartest guy I know.”
“That’s why the Steven J. Green School is so important to me too,’’ he said, addressing students gathered for his lecture. “Your responsibility is to go change the world. Take the education you get here and make the world a better place.’’
To view more photos from the event, visit FIU Flickr. View the tribute video for Ambassador Green below.