Alumni Association unveils new building

Giorgio Antoniazzi//The Miami Hurricane
Giorgio Antoniazzi//The Miami Hurricane

Alumni received the red carpet treatment as they arrived to show their support for the University of Miami’s new alumni center.

UM and its Alumni Association celebrated the grand opening of the Robert and Judi Prokop New Alumni Center on Friday evening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication.

Donna Arbide, UM Associate VP of Alumni Relations and the Annual Fund and Executive Director of the Alumni Association, kicked off the ceremony with a couple statements of her joy and appreciation.

“The goal was to build an Alumni Center that evoked feelings of nostalgia, and to project optimistic and progressive vision of the institution’s future,” Arbide said.

The center was funded by donations from over 600 alumni, with the lead gift coming from Judi Prokop Newman and her husband, Bob.

“Bob and I decided to support this Center because we understood the importance of having a beautiful facility on campus that alumni could call home,” Newman said.

The signature building is still left unfinished as the University looks for nine million dollars more in donations to finish the third and fourth floor. The Newman family has developed a $50,000 challenge where they will match donations dollar-for-dollar to get it started.

Donna Shalala came out to unveil an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Sebastian the Ibis, built by Patrick Filbotte, former faculty member at the University of Miami.

He first built the statue out of clay in his studio and then bronzed it. The entire process took about two years. The 1400-pound statue lies in the entry courtyard.

“The building is breathtaking and I can not even find words to describe it,” Filbotte said.  “As for the statue, I put my heart and soul into the thing.”

Once the ceremony concluded with the cutting of the ribbon, Alumni were allowed to take a tour of the building and see what it entails.

The 72,000-square-foot, four-story building is located on the corner of Brescia Avenue and Hurricane Drive facing Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

The Alumni Center features Seabstian’s Cafe. The cafe has a UM-themed bistro menu, with items such as bagels, grilled sandwiches and wraps. The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and will close at 2:30 p.m. daily.

It also houses its own library that will include UM yearbooks dating back to the University’s inception. A living room named after its donors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia features a mural depicting the University’s history. There is also a business center and executive conference room equipped with state-of-the art equipment for visiting alumni.

World-renowned architect Michael Dennis designed the center with the help of the design team of MGE Architects. MGE Architects is led by Rolando Conesa, alumnus of the University.

Sean Leonardo may be contacted at