November 03, 2011 — When Dany Accilien came from Haiti at the age of 6, attending college was not on his list of dreams and aspirations. No one in his family had ever studied beyond high school. However, when Dany reached the age of continuing his education, the University of Miami was the place he felt was home.
“I visited the UM campus and immediately fell in love. Not only did UM have a gorgeous campus filled with intelligent people, but what I truly fell in love with was the fact that the people here are genuine,” Accilien told an audience of 230 at UM’s annual Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center. “It meant nothing that I had no financial means of accomplishing this goal.”
Today Accilien is a UM sophomore studying exercise physiology on a premed track, an inspiration to his sister and cousins back in Haiti and a first-generation Ronald A. Hammond Scholar, a scholarship made possible by the Coca-Cola Foundation.
Dany Accilien, a Ronald A. Hammond Scholarship recipient, said his scholarship is not only beneficial to him but also impacts the lives of others around him.
Like Accilien, Judi Prokop Newman was a scholarship recipient at UM. She addressed the audience of donors, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, administrators, and proud parents, telling the story of a girl whose high school-educated parents did not see the wisdom in educating girls. “They thought I should get married, have a family, and live next to them. I convinced them if I had a college education I could marry better,” she laughed. “They, however, agreed I could go to college if I received a scholarship.”
Newman, ever grateful for the opportunities UM had given her, started giving back as soon as she graduated. “Even if it was $10, and it accelerated as my finances improved.” Judi and her husband, Robert, established a scholarship fund almost 20 years ago and though their philanthropic largess extends well beyond UM, the scholarships are closest to her heart. “If I can provide at least one student the life-changing experience that I had, I would have accomplished my goal,” she said. “If more students could have that same experience, it would be like winning the National Championship.”
Additionally, the Newmans generously provided the lead gift for the 72,000-square-foot, four-story Alumni Center that bears their name. Judi has served on UM’s Board of Trustees for over a decade.
Another former scholarship recipient spoke of “knowing full well the difference that the philanthropy of others can make in a student’s life.” UM President Donna E. Shalala continued, “And I am a strong believer in the importance of giving back so that others can benefit in turn.”
Accilien echoed the president’s request. “My scholarship does not, and will never, simply affect me. It continues to impact everyone around me, and everyone I will come into contact with,” he said. “I don’t know much about life at this point, but I do know that education is the most important thing you could give another person,” he said. “Because of people like you, who decided that they wanted to make a difference in someone else’s life, I am able to stand here today as an example of what could be. Therefore, it is my duty to try to pave a road for others behind me with their own aspirations.”
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