Who is Joe Echevarria, the new acting president of UM?

Headshot of new acting president of UM, Joe Echevarria. Courtesy of the University of Miami.

Joe Echevarria was announced the acting president of the University of Miami earlier today by the University of Miami Board of Trustees, assuming both the role he previously held as CEO and president of the University.

“Joe Echevarria, our exemplary CEO and an incomparable leader, has been absolutely essential to navigating every crisis and challenge we have overcome during my tenure as president,” former President Julio Frenk said in a statement to the UM community.

“There is no doubt that Joe is the right person to take the helm as the U navigates this transition.”

Echevarria comes from a primarily business background. After graduating from the University of Miami in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Echevarria went on to start a 36 year career at Deloitte LLP, a professional service provider focused on financial advising and consulting, eventually serving as CEO from 2011 to 2014.

During his time heading Deloitte LLP, the company was fined $22 million dollars by the Financial Reporting Council for a failure to address conflicts of interest and consider public interest. Before this, in 2013, Deloitte agreed to pay a $10 million fine to New York state regulators and a year-long suspension from working with New York-regulated banks to settle allegations with New York’s Department of Financial Services over anti-money laundering work for the UK bank, Standard Chartered PLC.

Echevarria has explained that navigating challenging economic times has been a part of his life.

“The person who doesn’t make mistakes doesn’t make anything,” Echevarria said as a life lesson of his to Bloomberg.

His connection to UM has followed him through his career as he served on the UM Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2019 and filled a series of advisory roles to former UM President Julio Frenk before being appointed Chief Executive Officer of UHealth, UM’s sprawling medical arm, in 2020.

Echevarria led UHealth through COVID-19 and what Frenk described as “one of the most challenging periods in our history.”

In 2022, Frenk requested the Board of Trustees add a CEO position to oversee UM in its entirety. After a quiet hiring process, UM announced the addition of a CEO for the university and a unanimous decision to hire Echevarria for the position. He then assumed 100% of the labor and revenue responsibility for UM, increasing from the 79% he oversaw as CEO of UHealth.

“Those of you who have worked with Joe know that his gift for asking the right questions, empowering talented professionals, and insisting on accountability is precisely the steady leadership we need to persist on our journey of continuous improvement,” Chair of the Board of Trustees Manny Kadre said.

Echevarria has filled a number of other roles including several affiliated with former U.S. President Barack Obama as an advisor to the Obama Foundation and chair of Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, work he considers close to his heart.

Raised in the South Bronx by a single Puerto Rican mother, Ecehvarria believes he got to where he is today as a product of social intervention. He benefited from a government program that put students in his area on track to attend college.

In an interview with the Hispanic Executive, Echevarria detailed the philosophy of his leadership

“People always remember how you make them feel,” he says. “They rarely remember everything you said. They just know how they feel when that interaction is over, and that stays with them. It took me a while to figure that out. But it certainly became sort of the way I process leadership, even today.”

He currently also chairs the Board of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and serves on the Board of Directors for Pfizer and UNUM, an insurance company.

Ashley Sewall contributed to the reporting of this story.