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October 1, 2004

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

"Flawless," defined by Webster's Dictionary, means "having no flaw; perfect." Time to update the dictionary: add "UM's management of the first Presidential Debate of 2004."

It would be hard to imagine a better team effort than last night's performance. And it was right here on our Coral Gables campus -- not at the Orange Bowl. Aileen Ugalde (our team captain), Pat Whitely, Jerry Lewis, Alan Fish, and their enormously talented and dedicated staffs deserve kudos and thanks for being our Campus Heroes (see Presidential Debate Committee list, below). What an extraordinary undertaking, and equally extraordinary results, from Student Affairs, University Communications, Business Services, Information Technology, University Advancement, and Facilities -- and Laurie DeSchryver here in my office keeping track of the mind-boggling day-to-day logistics.

In the last two hours before the debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates stunned UM officials and released more than 100 additional tickets for our students in the nosebleed section. The Student Affairs team scrambled to call disappointed essay writers who hadn't made the initial list, and shocked student volunteers were abruptly pulled from their debate assignments and given seats at the last minute. In the end, an estimated 250 students witnessed history -- the largest number of students ever to attend a presidential debate on a university campus.

Across campus, our official Debate Watch Party hosted 4,500 students, as well as a number of faculty and staff. It was fun, but it was also nourishing to the mind and body. MSNBC and CNN anchored either side of our student center with political pundits and media stars. South Beach's premier restaurateur and caterer Barton G. provided the food. The only gate-crasher (or trespasser), Ralph Nader, witnessed the University's good sense and good manners and was left alone to eat and to talk and talk and talk . . . .

Happily, the anticipated inconveniences were overstated. Aside from a little heavy traffic and some relocated parking, everything moved smoothly and without a hitch.

There are no encores for such brilliant performances - just a grateful thanks from all of us in this wonderful community.


Donna E. Shalala

Presidential Debate Committee
Donna Arbide
Sarah Artecona
Vic Atherton
Rick Bannon
Cindy Beamish
Sonya Bjork
Henry Christensen
Rusty Clusman
Teresa de la Guardia
Laurie Deschryver
Jim Durante
Todd Elzey
Alan Fish
Joe Folino
Allison Gillespie
Sergio Gonzalez
David Johnson
Jerry Lewis
Anita Mattner
Chuck McConnell
Patrick McGrew
Glenn Neal
Norm Parsons
Tim Ramsay
Leland Rapport
Sandra Redway
Victoria Rogers
Al Rose
Stewart Seruya
Humberto Speziani
Mel Tenen
Aileen Ugalde
Richard Walker
Alan Weber
Pat Whitely
Margot Winick
Joe Wittman

Office of the President
P.O. Box 248006 Coral Gables, Florida 33124-4600
305-284-5155 Fax 305-284-3768