UMAA Celebrates Contributions, Impact of Alumni on West Coast
The UM Alumni Association brought together more than 700 prominent alumni, donors, and supporters for the Los Angeles (LA) regional engagement and celebration on June 4-5 which included the 10th annual ’Canes Film Showcase, the inaugural Regional Alumni Awards Ceremony, the spring Alumni Board of Directors meeting, and exclusive studio tours/master class for select School of Communication students. It was a unique opportunity for the Association to engage and recognize accomplished alumni, while offering a platform for alumni to reminisce about life at UM and create new memories amongst friends old and new.
Four distinguished alumni were honored for their active investment in the future of their alma mater and professional achievements at the inaugural Regional Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday, June 5. Sylvester Stallone, B.F.A. '98, was honored in front of more than 175 alumni with the Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award for his prestigious writing, acting and directing career. Stepping on stage to accept his award, he gave an in-depth, poignant account of his time at UM, including his days spent at The Ring Theatre. "I knew I had something in store for me, but I didn’t think it was going to be some great thespian award," he said of his first visit to "The Ring" to audition for a small part in the play The Trial. Fast forward to present day, Stallone is the only actor to open a No. 1 film in five consecutive decades—from the Rocky and Rambo movies to Copland, and The Expendables franchise, among many others.
Other distinguished alumni recognized at the ceremony included President’s Council member Jeanne Wolf, A.B. '61, M.A. '66, for her efforts in engaging alumni in the California region over the years, and UM Ethics Bowl founder Karl Schulze, B.B.A. '74, who shared the Henry King Stanford Alumnus of the Year Award with Jeanne.
Schulze spoke of "dutifully" writing his "little check to the Annual Fund" for more than decade-long devotion to the University's Ethics Bowl Competition. "Here we are 11 years later and the program is a rousing success," he said, sharing credit with his co-founder, wife Teresa Schulze, and UM business ethics professor Anita Cava.
One of the most touching moments of the evening was the presentation of the William R. Butler Community Service Award, given posthumously to Austen Everett, A.B. '11, for her launch of the Austen Everett Foundation prior to her passing from cancer in 2012. Austen had dedicated her life to helping others through the Austen Everett Foundation, which works to inspire and empower kids battling cancer by pairing them with professional athletes for a daylong experience as an honorary "team captain."
Accepting the Butler Award on behalf of her late daughter, June Leahy said, "Since this is Austen’s Butler Award, it seemed fitting for this speech to be in her words. ‘My personal struggle with the illness was the most challenging and defining time of my life. It taught me how to fight, and it allowed me to see more beauty and truth and triumph in a single day than I could ever imagine in a lifetime. My dream is to unite collegiate and professional athletes and their teams with kids who are fighting cancer so that one day they will have the opportunity to benefit from the empowerment, the strength and the support of the athletic community as I have from the University of Miami.’ The support of the University of Miami,” concluded Leahy, “has been essential for keeping Austen's fight alive, and we are so very grateful and appreciative for this award."
In true 'Canes spirit, alumna and actor Dawnn Lewis, B.M. ’82 (her talents are currently featured in Disney/PIXAR's Inside Out), sang a touching tribute to the award recipients at the end of the ceremony as well as a special “happy birthday” surprise to event host Stephen Meadow, B.B.A. '63, complete with orange and green streamers and a wheeled out cake!
The regional awards ceremony took place in tandem with the 10th Annual ’Canes Film Showcase the night prior, during which students from the School of Communication showcased their films for a packed house of more than 500 alumni and industry professionals. A total of five student films and one screenplay were showcased including: Espionage 101, Home, El Mar y El, The Mermaid, I Want to Beat up Clark Peters, and Villify. The works touched on subjects ranging from immigration to mental health, and are characteristic of the life experiences and cultural diversity of the student filmmakers. It was an impressive showing of the talent at the University of Miami, as well as an example of the great networking opportunities available to alumni by 'Canes communities, which include alumni, parents, and friends of the University across the country.
"This exposure is priceless for our students, giving them the opportunity to meet film and television industry professionals and gain valuable contacts," said Christina Lane, Department Chair for Cinema and Interactive Media. "Many of our student winners land internships or jobs at the showcase, plus they meet recent graduates and loyal alumni which helps them form an instant network in their chosen field."
Also part of the weekend of events in Los Angeles was the spring meeting of the 37-member Alumni Board of Directors, and exclusive studio tours/master class hosted by parents and alumni in the entertainment industry. Jon Landau, producing partner of James Cameron, gave students a private tour of Lightstorm Entertainment, and alumni Michael Robin, A.B. '85, and Paul Orehovec, Jr., B.S.C. '03, gave students an inside look at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood.
These instances are examples of the ongoing efforts that have led the School of Communication to establish a semester in LA program to begin in spring 2016. These initiatives are in part due to the leadership of loyal alumni and their financial support of the University’s mission.