News Release

An Inspiring Heritage

MIAMI, May 15, 2012 —Its eye-catching and colorful paint scheme visible from afar, the University of Miami’s Mobile Autism Clinic arrived in an underserved Miami neighborhood one day, its small team of clinical psychologists conducting free screenings for autism and giving out information on how to get help for the condition.

Michael Alessandri, the clinical psychologist who helped build a center dedicated to serving people with autism, wasn’t onboard, but he more than anyone was responsible for the mobile clinic’s presence there, seeking financial support for its creation.

Now, in a reversal of roles, Alessandri has become the giver, making a gift to support non-tenure track faculty in the Department of Psychology and a bequest to help fund the department’s ongoing community outreach activities.

His planned gift has not gone unnoticed. On May 2, the University of Miami inducted Alessandri along with 92 other philanthropists—living and deceased—into its Heritage Society, a donor recognition group of more than 1,500 people that is unique from others in that its members have made a planned gift or included UM in their estate plans.

From left, University of Miami employees M. Judith Donovan Post, Jeanne Krull, Holly Freyre, Adriana Verdeja, and Michael Alessandri gather at the Newman Alumni Center after the Heritage Society induction ceremony. Post attended the ceremony as the representative of an estate, while the others were inducted in the society, joining the ranks of more than 1,500 other members.

“I’m in the business of serving the community and asking people for support, so I think it’s important to set an example,” said Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities who also heads up the psychology department’s Division of Community Outreach and Development. “If you’re going to be the one asking, you should also be the one giving. For me, it’s about making sure there are resources to continue to support the work I’ve been a part of, the center I’ve helped build, and the outreach efforts we’ve created. I want to make sure that’s sustained beyond my lifetime.”

The society’s latest inductees also include other current UM employees, who all said they wanted to give back to the institution that’s made a difference in their lives.

As a development director in the Division of University Advancement, Adriana Verdeja is accustomed to securing major gifts for UM. At the Heritage Society induction ceremony, she found herself at the other end of the picture—as donor. A bequest in her name will benefit the President’s Initiative, helping an institution she considers “part of my history.”

“I wanted to leave a legacy, show my commitment to the University, and set an example for my children and family,” she explained.

When it came time for Holly Freyre, executive director for major gifts at the Frost School of Music, to decide where to direct her gift, she immediately thought of the employee scholarship she was awarded to attend UM’s Executive M.B.A. Program and how the degree she earned has helped her gain new knowledge and make new contacts. She and her husband, Carlos, made a bequest in their wills to fund a scholarship for executive M.B.A. students at the School of Business Administration. In addition, Freyre supports both the School of Business Administration and the Frost School of Music annually through her donations to the United Way.

While addressing the audience at the 33rd annual Heritage Society luncheon, Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, said planned giving will be a big part of UM’s $1.6 billion Momentum2 campaign.

“My husband and I have been very fortunate, and we believe in giving back,” said Freyre. “We consider institutions of higher learning to be among the best investments we can make since they are more likely than smaller, nonprofit institutions to endure and to create a lasting and positive impact in all areas of education, health care, and research.”

Performing with his band in front of 80,000 spectators while opening for the group ‘N Sync, composing music for national television programs and movie soundtracks, and performing with legendary calypso singer and songwriter Mighty Sparrow are just some of Devin Marsh’s accomplishments. A triple UM alumnus (he earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree from the Frost School), Marsh has bequeathed a gift to the Media Writing and Production Program that he now leads as interim director.

“The University has been so good to me—from my professors at the music school to my employment,” said Marsh. “I felt this was a good way to give back for everything the school has given me.”

Also inducted was Jeanne Krull, director of advancement services in University Advancement, whose husband, Stephen, graduated from UM and had a distinguished career with WTVJ in Miami. “Giving back to the University was not a difficult decision given that my husband’s UM degree in communications led to a 40-year career in Miami television news, and I’ve had a successful professional career at the University since 2001, first at the medical school and now in University Advancement,” said Krull. “The Office of Estate and Gift Planning helps make crafting a legacy a very easy process.”

M. Judith Donovan Post, a professor of diagnostic radiology at UM’s Miller School of Medicine, attended the induction ceremony as the representative of an estate.

During the ceremony, Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, praised all of the inductees for their support, noting that their gifts will help UM reach “the next level of excellence.” He said that the University has set a goal of securing $240 million in planned gifts as part of its $1.6 billion Momentum2 campaign, which ends in 2016. More than $137 million in planned gifts have already been secured, he said.

“One of the best ways that we can sustain and grow our vision for tomorrow is through planned giving,” Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc told inductees, adding that they have “demonstrated an appreciation and understanding of how indispensable it is for the University to have a source of support that leads us into the future.”

For more information about the various ways you can leave your legacy at the University of Miami, contact Cynthia L. Beamish, executive director of the Office of Estate and Gift Planning at 305-284-2914 or visit

Richard Cote
Grateful to the school that has “done so much” for him, Devin Marsh, has bequeathed a gift to the Frost School’s Media Writing and Production Program that he now leads as interim director.