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For the Birds

Jack Creighton Navigates Tough Times in Business
Pregame Celebrations Are on the Road Again Click Here to Boost Your Career
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen  

Former Sebastians flock to first-ever mascot reunion
For the Birds

verheard recently at a watering hole on Bird Road:

“In my day,” reflects Sebastian the Ibis as he dips his beak into a refreshing beverage, “we didn’t have a locker room at the Orange Bowl. I had to change outside where everyone could see my chicken legs!”

“At least you weren’t detained at the Florida State game for pretending to douse Chief Osceola’s flaming spear,” squawks another Sebastian.

“That’s nothing,” chirps a third Sebastian, recalling the flag he received at the Sugar Bowl for rushing the field after a touchdown. “Sitting outside of Butch Davis’s office the next day, I heard him shout, ‘Where’s that duck! I’m going to kill that duck!’ Luckily I looked up and saw a huge smile on his face.”

It’s not always easy to be Sebastian the Ibis. So when these birds of a feather flock together, they relive memories—both fond and fowl—of the time they served as the beloved mascot for the University of Miami. They’ll have a chance to swap stories with their long-lost comrades this October at the first-ever Sebastian reunion at Alumni Weekend and Homecoming.

Sebastian—named for the San Sebastian residence hall where John Stormont, A.B. ’60, first brought him to life—has evolved not only in form but also in demeanor. Being an ibis, the last to evacuate and the first to return to the site of a hurricane, the bird has always been savvy and strong. But through the years he has developed a quacky sense of humor. Nowadays you might see Sebastian convincing his wife, Gertrude, to dress up as Madonna and reenact the “Material Girl” music video. Or you might find him at a Hurricane Club event, busing tables, serving drinks, and mourning the fate of the lifeless poultry in the kitchen. Not even a sweltering Miami May can keep him from bobbing along in the 5K Corporate Run, where he “eggs on” those falling behind in the pack.

“There’s a huge difference between doing what you’re asked to do and doing what you could do,” says the fun-loving Sebastian responsible for the “Material Girl” and Corporate Run appearances, as well as the Sugar Bowl flag incident. “The Ibis was meant for bigger things; bigger than just showing up.”

Sebastian’s role has grown from merely a sporting event crowd-pleaser to a true ambassador for the University. He makes more than 250 appearances around town each year, and maybe 80 of them are on the playing field.

If I’m at a football game, I mean business. I’ve got work to do,” Sebastian says. “But if I’m at a child’s birthday party, I’m a big teddy bear. And with older kids, I’ll do something hip hop, something they’ll relate to.”

With the exception of the John Routh years, between 1984 and 1992 when Sebastian was a full-time employee, the job is reserved for University of Miami students. Connie Nickel, associate athletic director for events and Sebastian’s official guardian since 1990, looks for candidates who possess “the way Sebastian is.” Above all, she says, they have to really love the University. And they need a knack for humor, just by winging it.

“I guess I have always been somewhat of a class clown throughout my life,” says Joe Dorsey, B.B.A. ’74, Sebastian the Ibis from 1970 to 1974. “I probably should have been a game show host instead of a banker. But I think my training as an ibis out in front of people at games made me feel comfortable speaking in public.”

As Cocky the Gamecock at the University of South Carolina, John Routh’s skits and spontaneous antics caught the attention of former Hurricanes baseball coach Ron Fraser. While his creativity sometimes made him easy prey for law enforcement officers (as in the time he accidentally squirted one in the chest with a fireman’s hose at the Florida State game), he started some of today’s revered traditions, including the ’Canes spell-out.

“Now when I’m in my car listening to a game and behind the announcer I hear ‘C-A-N-E-S!’, I say, ‘That’s me! That’s my baby!’” Routh says.

The ’Canes spell-out is still one of the best ways today’s Sebastian knows to get the fans riled up.

“Fans win games; I’m sure of it,” Sebastian says. “In 2003 we were playing the Florida Gators at the Orange Bowl, and we were getting killed. In the second half I started a spell-out, but I made them hold the ‘oooooh’ part for at least 30 seconds. The band came on at the right time, and you could see the energy of the players. Boom! We scored a touchdown. Then the team started making big plays.”

That game ended in a remarkable turnaround—the Hurricanes scored 28 consecutive points for a 38-33 victory. “You have the fans involved and the players making big plays at the same time, and it’s just explosive,” Sebastian says. “I have no idea what it’s like to score the game-winning touchdown in the Orange Bowl, but I know exactly what it feels like to get the crowd going.”

Sebastians over the years have worked exceptionally hard for little more than the satisfaction and glory of rallying the fans and being the University’s top nonverbal spokesperson. Still, most agree that they wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

“Sometimes, just for a fleeting moment, I kind of wish I were a fan in the stands,” Sebastian admits. “But the minute I feel that way, I know there are 80,000 people in those stands who would love to be where I am.”

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Pregame Celebrations Are on the Road Again

hey’re like groupies at a rock concert—trekking from city to city, cheering and singing, bonding with other diehards to show their devotion—not to Aerosmith or the Stones, but to the Miami Hurricanes.

The ultimate away-game experience, UMAA Official Pregame Celebrations draw hundreds of crazed Hurricane fans from all over the nation for good food, spirit giveaways, and a pep rally featuring the Band of the Hour and the Hurricane cheerleaders. The University of Miami Alumni Association is on the road this football season with two pregame parties, the season opener at Florida State University on September 5 and a Philly-style fun fest at Temple University on October 15.

The Alumni Association offers game-day packages that include tickets to both the game and the pregame celebration, though availability of Florida State tickets is limited. Pregame tickets are also sold individually. “Art Meets Football” is the theme for the UMAA’s Temple tour, a pregame party supplemented by visits to some of Philadelphia’s world-famous museums. For tickets and details, contact the UMAA at 866-UMALUMS, or e-mail


League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

imilar to the Justice League of America in the world of DC Comics, the Alumni Association has its own league of superheroes who invoke their powers for the good of the University and humankind. This year the UMAA honored a triumvirate of extraordinary alumni that includes Shankar Aswani Canela, A.B. ’88, Roy Black, A.B. ’67, J.D. ’70, and Lewis B. Freeman, B.B.A. ’71, J.D. ’74.

Undergraduate training in marine affairs combined with a doctorate in anthropology enables Shankar Aswani Canela to conquer perhaps the most formidable obstacle to marine conservation—human nature. In the Solomon Islands, where he has established a network of Marine Protected Areas, “people expect money or some form of benefit from conservation,” he explains. Developing rapport with community leaders helped Aswani Canela protect vulnerable species, such as coconut crabs and sea turtles, in this ecologically rich region. Last year he became the first anthropologist to receive the prestigious Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship from the Pew Institute for Ocean Science at the University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. For his achievements, the UMAA awarded him the Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award.

The ability to tear apart cases facing clients like William Kennedy Smith, Kelsey Grammer, and Peter Max has made Roy Black one of the most renowned criminal defense lawyers in the country. When not delivering a scorching closing argument, Black has served as an NBC News legal analyst, taught law at the University of Miami, authored a book called Black’s Law, and is now starring in an NBC reality television show called The Law Firm. Still, Black and his wife, Lea, find time to raise money for Baypoint Schools, “which takes kids ages 13 to 16 out of our prisons, puts them in a boot camp setting, and gives them hope, an education, and a new chance at life,” says Black, who this year received the William R. Butler Community Service Award.

When the University of Miami first entertained the possibility of hosting a 2004 Presidential Debate, it enlisted the help of Lewis Freeman, the founding principal of Lewis B. Freeman & Partners, Forensic Accountants and Consultants. Freeman had worked as an advisor to the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida for 22 years and thought “what an unbelievable opportunity for them to be the first Native American tribe to underwrite a presidential debate,” he recalls. Freeman’s efforts and the generosity of the tribe helped secure the University’s approval as site of the first of three presidential debates. “This is one thing that touched every member of the University community as well as people nationwide,” says Freeman, who received the Henry King Stanford Alumnus of the Year award.


Jack Creighton Navigates Tough Times in Business

fter the ship Endurance was encased in ice and destroyed during a 1914 voyage from England to Antarctica, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team of South Pole explorers endured frigid temperatures, dwindling food, and complete isolation for nearly two years. In the direst of straits, Shackleton led a successful rescue mission, ultimately risking his own life to save his crew.

As the Alumni Association’s 2005 Distinguished Alumni Lecturer this spring, Jack Creighton, M.B.A. ’66, recounted Shackleton’s tale. Using examples from Dennis Perkins’s book, Leading from the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, Creighton noted several strategies that have helped him lead businesses out of the throes of impending doom. Among Perkins’s “Ten Strategies for Leading at the Edge,” Creighton says the most poignant for him has been “Reinforce the team message constantly: ‘We are one—we all live or die together.’”

Creighton’s first success story is Weyerhaeuser, now the largest private owner of softwood timberlands in the world. Having chartered a remarkable turnaround at the company as president and CEO from 1991 to 1997, Creighton then served on the board of the UAL Corporation, parent company of United Airlines. When the September 11 terrorist attacks sent United into a financial tailspin, the airline drafted Creighton to pilot a recovery. By the end of his yearlong tenure as interim chairman and CEO, he had cut costs, boosted employee morale, resolved a 26-month labor union feud, and restored flight service that had been frozen following September 11.

“When I was faced with a tough situation,” Creighton says, “I would ask myself, ‘What would Shackleton do?’”

Creighton’s visit was part of the Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series, established in 1995 with support from the Honorable Julia Chang Bloch and Stuart Marshall Bloch, A.B. ’64, to recognize UM alumni who have distinguished themselves and their alma mater through personal and professional accomplishments.

Click Here to Boost Your Career

o your corporate ladder has sprung a rung, and you feel less like Bill Gates and more like Dilbert every day? Not to worry. You can turn to and click on the Alumni Association’s online career services center, coming soon.

Through a partnership with ExecuPlanet/Lee Hecht Harrison, the UMAA Web site will link to a free Internet-based product called CareerTools®. Whether you are looking to change careers or advance in your present organization, the career wizard function will help you determine which services would be most helpful.

You’ll learn to create effective resumes and cover letters, tap the hidden job market, expand your job search vehicles, hone your interview skills, and negotiate your salary and benefits package. You can even receive a free critique of your resume via e-mail. Alumni employers can post job announcements on message boards, which also carry tips, useful Web links, and other career information on an almost-daily basis. Premium services, such as one-on-one career consulting and access to additional databases, are available for a fee.

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