Miami Dade College Homepage > MDC in the News

Miami Dade College Honored Successful Alumni at its Annual Alumni Hall of Fame Gala April 16 Raising nearly $700,000 for Scholarships

Hall of Fame

Miami, April 16, 2009 - The 2009 class of Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Alumni Hall of Fame includes attorneys, a physician, an accountant, journalists, an artist, professional golfer and many other top and successful professionals. MDC presented 23 alumni with its top recognition, induction into the college’s Alumni Hall of Fame, at a gala dinner on April 16 at Jungle Island. A special tribute video was played as each honoree came up to the stage during what was a magical evening.

More importantly, nearly $700,000 were raised for scholarships eclipsing last year’s amount.   

MDC’s 2009 Alumni Hall of Fame honorees are many of the nation’s premier impresarios, public servants, artists and other leaders.  The ceremony celebrated the career achievements of former students such as Carlos Martinez, public defender, Miami-Dade County; Dr. Elsa Murano, president, Texas A & M University; Tony Segreto, news anchor, WTVJ NBC Channel 6; Beatrice Louissaint, president, Florida Regional Minority Business Council; Juan del Busto, regional executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Lin Arison, author; and several other influential leaders in their respective fields.

MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, himself an MDC alumnus, praised the honorees. “These deserving alumni are proof that a solid education opens doors and creates great career opportunities. The Alumni Hall of Fame is proud to add their names to the group of luminaries we celebrate each year. They are doing so much in our community and across our nation, and make us all very proud.”
Past MDC Alumni Hall of Fame honorees include actor Andy Garcia, music industry mogul Emilio Estefan, Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and former Dolphins receiver Nat Moore

2009 Miami Dade College Alumni Hall of Fame Honorees

Miguel G. Farra, CPA, JD
Partner, Morrison, Brown, Argiz, & Farra, LLP

Miguel G. Farra is an internationally recognized tax expert, author and television commentator. He is also a partner and head of the tax department at Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, the largest accounting firm in Florida.

With more than 30 years of experience, Farra is an authority in real estate commerce, aviation, manufacturing, hospitality, health care and international commerce. He spent 26 years with Kaufman, Rossin & Co., P.A., named to Accounting Today’s “Top 100 Firms” list, before joining fellow MDC alumnus Tony Argiz at Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra in 2001.

Upon completing his studies at MDC, Farra earned both law and bachelor’s degrees. He attributes much of his success to the foundation MDC laid for him. Farra remembers most of his professors by name, and while at MDC, he met his wife, Nelly, who has motivated him in his career and civic contributions.

He currently serves on the boards of MDC’s Foundation and Camillus House. He is also involved in the President’s Council at the University of Miami and United Way of Miami-Dade. Farra has been recognized for his achievements with South Florida Business Journal’s 2006 Excellence in Accounting Award in the international tax category and by the 2006 South Florida Legal Guide as one of the “Top CPAs in Litigation Support.”

While many see Farra’s legacy as a professional and expert in his field, he hopes people will remember him more as a proud father of two grown women and dedicated husband.

William F. Brown, Jr.
Vice President and Principal, CSA Group Architects & Engineers

Before William Brown started his own architecture company with his wife, Maida, he had to make a decision – accept a job with a large firm and work his way up, or take a leap of faith and venture out on his own. Brown’s father probed him with this life-altering question: “Would you rather be the tail of a lion or the head of a mouse?” He chose the mouse.

At first, Brown + Brown Architects operated as a home-based business handling small jobs. Less than a decade later, the company merged with CSA Group, the largest Hispanic-owned architect and engineering firm in the U.S. As the corporate leader for CSA’s North America division, Brown oversees a talented team of professionals in the facilities industry, for both private and public projects.

Brown said his greatest professional achievement has been integrating his architectural design talents with a client-oriented management style that has led to successful projects and long lasting relationships with industry leaders. He has worked on custom residential projects; places of worship, such as the Archdiocese of Miami’s Pastoral Center; commercial structures; and schools. He’s also completed projects for Miami Dade College, most notably the “burn building” for the College’s state-certified Fire Academy.

After attending MDC, Brown earned a bachelor’s in architecture. He earned his state license within a year of graduation. He also holds the credentials from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the American Institute of Architects.

Juan del Busto
Regional Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Juan del Busto is a regional executive for one of the nation’s most important financial institutions, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (FRBA).

The FRBA is part of the central bank of the United States, and as regional executive for the Miami branch, del Busto is responsible for the Branch’s board of directors, leads the community outreach and development activities, and oversees Miami’s economic and financial education programs.

An education incentive drew del Busto to the FRBA. Fresh out of high school, he took a job there as a computer operator in 1973 because he wanted to take advantage of a tuition reimbursement program. Within a decade, he would steadily move up the ranks to administrator. A few more years and del Busto would be running the securities, accounting and human resources departments as an assistant vice president.

He is currently a member of many professional organizations, including FloridaFIRST and Florida Bankers Association. He is also actively involved with the Miami-Dade United Way and is the chair for its 2009-2010 campaign.

For del Busto, service is an important part of success. He says the most important advice he wants to pass on to his children is the need to be humble. He learned humility from his father, who kissed the ground when he immigrated to the United States from Cuba. Del Busto says his father taught him the value of respecting others and that being a man of honor is priceless.

Del Busto earned an associate degree from Miami Dade College before earning a bachelor’s in industrial technology.

Ralph L. Gazitúa, President and CEO

Ralph L. Gazitúa is the president and CEO of WTDC, the Miami-based logistics infrastructure company his father and mother began when they emigrated from Chile in the 1950s.
Today, the company serves Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

WTDC provides inventory management, contract distribution, public warehousing, U.S. Customs-bonded warehousing and industry consulting services. The company’s strategic Miami location puts it in a position to provide more than 30 years of supply chain solutions to importers, exporters, distributors and multinationals worldwide. WTDC’s organizational strength comes from the leadership, experience, knowledge and passion of its employees. The results include one of the highest levels of reliability and customer service satisfaction ratings in the industry.

Gazitúa is actively involved in South Florida community and professional associations. He serves on boards for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, The Beacon Council and the Jay Molina Trade Consortium. Additionally, Gazitúa serves on the executive committee of the Doral Business Council, is a premier member of the Florida-China Association, past president of Drug Free Youth in Town and is a Catholic Chaplain for the Miami-Dade Police Department and Everglades Correctional Center. He has been an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church for 22 years.

Among his many accolades is the recently received MED Week’s Emerging Leadership Award, presented on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Enterprise Center.

To Gazitúa, his family is everything. He has been married to his wife, María Elena (Cookie), for 36 years. He has two grown sons, Luis Andre “Andy” and Sean Paul.

Elsa A. Murano, Ph.D.
President, Texas A&M University

When Dr. Elsa A. Murano took office as the 23rd president of Texas A&M University in January 2008, she became the first woman and first Hispanic-American to lead the university, which the oldest public institution of higher learning in Texas and one of the largest teaching and research universities in the nation.

She began her professorial career in 1990 as an assistant professor at Iowa State and joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1995. Two years later, Murano was named director of the Center for Food Safety, a position she held until 2001 when President George W. Bush asked her to serve as under secretary for food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making her the highest-ranking food safety official in the U.S.

Murano returned to Texas A&M in 2005 as vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. Under her stewardship, the college experienced significant growth in enrollment and enhancement of its teaching, research and service endeavors. In conjunction with her deanship, she chaired a blue-ribbon task force to study ways to enhance the undergraduate experience at the university. The results have become known as “The Murano Report.”

A noted expert on food safety, Murano has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator in research projects totaling more than $8.7 million, initially at Iowa State University and continuing at Texas A&M. She has been widely published as author or co-author of seven books, book chapters or monographs, and scores of scholarly papers, abstracts and related materials.

After spending two years at Miami Dade College, Murano went on to earn a bachelor’s in biological sciences, master’s in anaerobic microbiology and doctorate in food science and technology.

Manuel Pérez-Montoya, P.E.
President, SDM Consulting Engineers Inc.

Manuel Pérez-Montoya and his partners at SDM Consulting Engineers, a South Florida firm that offers engineering services to both public- and private-sector firms in various industries, create a light and uplifting atmosphere in their office where staff can be comfortable in their surroundings and bond with each other.

During the past 28 years, SDM Consulting Engineers has successfully completed projects throughout the U.S., Caribbean, Central/South America and the Middle East. Their clients include the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, Jacksonville Post Authority, MDC, the Archdiocese of Miami, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade County, Great Florida Bank, U.S. Century Bank, Bank of America and others.

As a young engineer, Pérez-Montoya joined SDM and worked diligently to develop his skills. When he received an unsolicited offer from another firm, he saw long-term security and decided to resign from SDM. Then owner Sergio D. Margarolas urged him to reconsider his resignation and offered Pérez -Montoya the chance to take over the firm in the years to come. Perez-Montoya forfeited his offer and shadowed Margarolas until the transition was finalized in 2000.

Knowing that education is the groundwork to success, Pérez-Montoya earned an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College prior to graduating from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science.

Pérez-Montoya credits his father for shaping him into the man he is today. A prominent attorney in Cuba, Pérez-Montoya’s father humbly worked in a factory when he immigrated to the U.S. Admiring his father’s fortitude and humility, Pérez-Montoya is the kind of man his father was – one who cherishes his family immensely. He has two teenage daughters and is married to his high school sweetheart. 
José A. Garrido Jr., J.D.
President, The Garrido Group of Companies

José A. Garrido Jr. spent the early part of his career as a corporate attorney. But when his father approached him about launching the food distributor Walton & Post, he welcomed the change. Jose Garrido Sr. soon handed the reigns over to his son, who, in time, expanded the family business by acquiring several companies in Latin America and Europe.

Today, the Garrido Group is a vibrant collective distributing internationally branded products in more than 26 countries. In addition to distributing consumer goods, the company invests in real estate, banking and other financial services.

Garrido earned an associate degree at MDC before going on to earn bachelor’s and law degrees. Early in his career, he practiced corporate law as a partner with the Miami law firm Patton & Kanner. He joined his family’s distribution company in 1987.

In addition to being a stand-out entrepreneur, Garrido has also been a generous civic and community leader. Proud to maintain the legacy established by his father in 1970, Garrido is actively involved in The Garrido Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships to disadvantaged students who have the drive to rise above poverty through education. 

A dedicated husband to his wife, Aurora, Garrido is also the proud father of Jose Garrido III. Garrido plans to follow in his father’s footsteps by one day passing on the family business to the next generation.

Robert Espín
President and CEO, Hamilton Risk Management Co.

Roberto Espín built his career on the motto, “There is no good business with bad people or bad business with good people.” Espín made his venture in insurance and financial services a booming success based on that credo.

Espín is the president and CEO of one of the strongest privately held insurance and financial services holding groups in South Florida, Hamilton Risk Management Co. (HRMC).

After selling Appco Finance Corp. – the premium finance company Espín established – the company was reorganized and became a subsidiary of HRMC in 1985. Espín bought the company back from the late Carnival Cruise Lines Chairman Ted Arison in 1992 and later sold to Kingsway Financial Services, is one of the fastest growing property and casualty insurance companies in North America. Kingsway consolidated the operations of Southern United Fire Insurance Co. of Mobile, Ala., with Hamilton Risk Management, and Espín is president and CEO at Southern United and Hamilton Risk.

Espín says Miami Dade College gave him the motivation to continue on his journey in higher education (he earned a bachelor’s degree after leaving MDC). The College also encouraged his commitment to public service. He serves as a trustee for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami and sits on the board of the Cuban Democratic Alliance.

Joseph L. Caruncho Sr., J.D.
CEO and Co-Founder, Preferred Care Partners

When Joseph Caruncho was a health care attorney in private practice, he provided sound advice to clients frustrated with HMOs. He decided to provide those clients with a viable alternative and launched Preferred Care Partners (PCP), a company that serves more than 25,000 Medicare enrollees in South Florida and averages more than $340 million in annual revenues.

The company’s success lies within the unique operating model that Caruncho established when he launched the venture. Company operations are based upon creating collaborative relationships with physicians and other providers, and focus on membership retention through customer outreach and education as a platform for case and disease management.

The model has earned Caruncho numerous accolades from peers and observers. He was named CEO of the Year by South Florida Business Journal and was named one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine. Taking an active role in supporting the community, Caruncho involves PCP with various local organizations, including Mercy Foundation, Miami Heart Research Institute and Liga Contra el Cancer.

After attending Miami Dade College, Caruncho earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a law degree. He is the proud father of two adult children.

Tony Segreto
Anchor (Retired), WTVJ – NBC6

Tony Segreto spent 40 years connecting with South Florida viewers as a member of the news team at WTVJ. During that time, he covered national and international sports event, interviewed two U.S. presidents, traveled to Cuba for a papal visit and reported on major weather events, including Hurricane Andrew.

While a student at MDC, Segreto joined WTVJ in 1968 as an intern. Over the years, he’s worked as a photographer, producer, reporter and anchor. In 1995, he was honored by the South Florida chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with the prestigious Silver Circle Award, recognizing more than 25 years of excellence in broadcast journalism.

Segreto’s commitment to our community includes serving as a member of the Orange Bowl Committee and on the boards of the Dan Marino Foundation, Gilda’s Club of South Florida, the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County, Forever Family and the local board of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He is also a proud spokesperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in South Florida.

Segreto attributes much of his success to the love and support of his family – wife, Roseanne, son, Anthony and daughter, Samantha.

Ana Veciana-Suárez
Columnist, The Miami Herald

In her syndicated column in The Miami Herald, Ana Veciana-Suárez writes about family and faith, parenting and culture. While her voice provides a familiar local perspective, readers throughout the country have come to know Veciana-Suárez’s work through Reader’s Digest, O Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Washington Post Magazine, Parenting and Latina.

Veciana-Suárez is also the author of several books, including The Chin Kiss King, a novel that chronicles the lives of three generations of Cuban American women in Miami; Flight to Freedom, a novel for young adults; and a collection of essays, Birthday Parties in Heaven: Thoughts on Life, Love, Grief, and Other Matters of the Heart.

While at Miami Dade College, Veciana-Suárez wrote for the Wolfson Campus newspaper, then called the Downtowner. She says journalism professor Peter Townsend taught her the craft of writing. His influence was so strong that when she transferred to an upper-division journalism program, she breezed through her final two years.

Veciana-Suárez has received several awards, including the State Sunshine Award for Commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and Excellence in Feature Writing from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

She and husband, David, revel in the joy of their twin granddaughters. They are also looking forward to the newest family addition, a third grandchild, expected to arrive this summer. As she did with her five children, Veciana-Suárez plans to read whenever possible to the next generation of her family, to spark the inspiration she says only reading to a child can ignite.

Carlos J. Martínez, J.D.
Public Defender for Miami-Dade County
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

Carlos Martínez has a reputation for pouring himself into public service. After 20 years as an attorney in the public sector, he became the first Hispanic elected to the office of public defender in Miami-Dade County.

Martínez emerged from humble beginnings. As a teenager, he worked painting, mopping and stripping wax off floors. And at 16, he worked as a car wash attendant at an Exxon station. After three years, he was offered the opportunity to manage six stations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Later that year, he was recognized for achieving the highest profit in Exxon’s southeastern region.

That same unrelenting drive helped him get to where he is today. After attending Miami Dade College, Martínez earned a bachelor’s in political science and a law degree. After earning his law degree, Martinez joined the public defender’s office in Bellingham, Wash. A year later, he moved to Miami-Dade, where he rose through the ranks to become chief assistant public defender. He was elected without opposition as public defender in 2008.

Martínez’s passion and selflessness have not gone unnoticed. In 2007, he received the Ongoing Dedication and Outstanding Support Award from the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. In 2006, he was awarded the Craig Stewart Barnard Award for Relentless Pursuit of Justice and Outstanding Service to Florida’s Public Defenders System. Martínez is also an active member of the Florida Blueprint Commission on Juvenile Justice, the Miami-Dade County Bar Association and the board member of the Miami Police Department’s Do the Right Thing program.

Lin Arison

In 1981, Lin Arison and her late husband, Ted, established the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, now youngARTS, a nonprofit organization that nurtures and supports young artists as they pursue their dreams. In nearly 30 years, youngARTS has made more than $65 million in scholarships available to students throughout the country. In recent years, Arison has continued to be an important patron of the arts, but now she’s contributing her own artistic voice.

Arison published her first novel, A Love Story in Mediterranean Israel, when she was 53. In 2007, she published her second book, Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections, the launch of which received special recognition from the French government. She is now completing her third book, which carries the working title, “A Feast for the Senses in Umbria.”

Arison attributes her love of the arts to her mother, who would sit at the edge of her bed each night to read her fairy tales. This was in line with the words of Albert Einstein: “If you want your children to be brilliant, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be geniuses, read them more fairy tales.”

Well before pursuing a career as an author, Arison wrote a daily column for the Miami Review. Shortly after, she relocated to Israel with her late husband and authored a monthly travel column for Link, an Israeli business magazine.

Always seeking intellectual advancement, the Skidmore College graduate went back to school later in life and attended MDC’s Life Lab to quench her thirst for more knowledge. She and Ted Arison co-founded the New World Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas. Arison is a devoted mother of three and grandmother of 13.

Jorge Plasencia
Chairman and CEO, República

By the time he was 30, Jorge Plasencia had gone from intern at Radio Mambi to the lead executive in charge of cultivating the Hispanic market for the Florida Marlins. He also coordinated historic Miami and New York memorial services for Celia Cruz and successfully branded recording artist Shakira’s cross-over into mainstream media.

Today, Plasencia is the chairman and chief executive officer of República, a national branding, advertising, interactive and communications company whose diverse stable of clients include some of the world’s most important brands.

Plasencia started his career as a 14-year-old intern at Radio Mambi and, over time, he became the promotions director. He then moved over to a competing station before the Florida Marlins recruited him to serve as the team’s first director of Hispanic marketing. The same relationship-building skills that took him to the Marlins led Plasencia to Estefan Enterprises as a vice president in charge of marketing, corporate communications and public affairs, and later as corporate vice president and operating manager of Univision Radio.

After attending Miami Dade College, Plasencia earned his bachelor’s with honors. He serves on various national and local boards, including the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S.; the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute; the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art; and the Cuban American National Council. He co-founded Amigos for Kids, a nonprofit organization that responds to the diverse needs of South Florida’s abused, abandoned, neglected and disadvantaged children.

Smith Joseph, Pharm.D., D.O.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Universal Medical Center, P.A.

Dr. Smith Joseph, who was born in Haiti, is an esteemed physician who owns a thriving group practice in North Miami but routinely returns to the island of Hispaniola to provide free medical care to children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Joseph’s philanthropic work extends even beyond international medical missions. He’s worked with the Haitian American Association Against Cancer to provide free local health screenings, routinely participates in health fairs and provides an expert voice on matters of health care as a regular commentator on Creole-language television and radio programs.

After earning an associate degree at Miami Dade College, Joseph studied pharmacy and landed an appointment as a clinical pharmacist with the Miami Heart Institute before entering medical school. He completed residencies in internal medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine/Grady Memorial Hospital and adolescent medicine at Emory University. He’s a certified Diplomat of Internal Medicine.

Joseph is member of the American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Disability Analysts and the American Medical Association, and he is the past president of the South Florida Chapter of Haitian Physicians Abroad. Florida’s Medicare Quality Improvement Organization recognized him as a Qualified Culturally Competent Care Provider Award.

Beatrice Louissaint
President, Florida Regional Minority Business Council

Beatrice Louissaint credits much of her success to her father, Jean Louissaint, founder of Miami’s first Haitian church. The elder Louissaint immersed his daughter in the political, economic and cultural issues of the growing Haitian Diaspora. As an adult, Beatrice Louisaint has emerged as a powerhouse in her own right working toward her community’s advancement.

Louissaint is the president and CEO of the Florida Regional Minority Business Council, one of 39 affiliates comprising the National Minority Supplier Development Council whose membership includes 60 percent of the Fortune 500 companies and 3,500 corporate members nationwide. The organization has linked minority firms to $5 billion in corporate procurement sales, and its annual Business Expo is now the largest minority trade event in the Southeast.

Earlier in her career, Louissaint was a founding member of Miami-Dade County Public School’s Project HOPE and was also a staff member of the Haitian American Association. She founded the Haitian American Women’s Coalition and served as the first executive director for the Black Business Association. During her seven-year tenure, she increased revenue from $30,000 to $300,000 and debuted initiatives like the International Trade Assistance, a program that took black businesses on trade missions to Brazil, Mexico, Haiti and Ghana, resulting in $1.7 million in new sales in its first year.

Louissaint earned an associate degree at Miami Dade College before earning bachelor’s and master’s in business administration. She was hand-picked by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to serve as vice chair of the One Florida Accountability Commission. In 1994, she was appointed to the steering committee for the first Summit of the Americas, which convened 34 heads of state from the Western Hemisphere. She currently sits on the board for the MDC Foundation.

Cheryl Cottrell, R.N.
Vice President of Nursing, Mariners Hospital

Cheryl Cottrell began her career in health care in 1972 and has emerged as a leading voice in the campaign to improve the lives of women and children in Monroe County.

As vice president of nursing at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, Cottrell oversees nursing operations in the hospital’s operating room, emergency room and intensive care units, and its medical/surgical, infection control, employee health, outpatient surgery and social services divisions. She’s also the president of the Florida Keys Health Start Coalition, a community-based prenatal and infant care coalition of private and public agencies and community providers.

Cottrell began her career at Keys Community Hospital, a predecessor to Mariners, in 1974 as a patient care technician.  She quickly advanced, serving in various clinical sites before receiving a promotion to assistant director of nursing in 1984. She served as acting director of nursing for four months in 1988. Thart same year, she became director/vice president of nursing services. When Baptist Health South Florida acquired Mariners in 1996, Cottrell continued as vice president. 

She built the groundwork she needed at Miami Dade College where she earned an associate in nursing before pursuing a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in health science. Cottrell is a member of the Florida Nursing Association and the South Florida Organization Nurse Executives.

Otto Drozd III
Fire Chief, City of El Paso, Texas

Otto Drozd III established himself as a leader in his hometown fire department. The experience he gained managing fire services in Hialeah, he sixth largest city in Florida, will serve him well in his latest post, fire chief in the city of El Paso, the fourth most populous city in Texas. With Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, El Paso makes up the largest population center on any international border in the world.

Drozd has been a fire engineer, lieutenant, captain and district chief. After climbing the ranks by competitive examination for 20 years, Drozd was became Hialeah’s fire chief in 2001. As chief, he has been extremely committed to his fiduciary responsibilities. When he took the position eight years ago, the department was funded by the city at nearly 100 percent. Drozd has reduced municipal costs by 25 percent by seeking grants, creating strong relationships and fundraising creatively.

To be an effective leader, Drozd said, you must educate yourself first. He earned associate degrees in fire science and management at Miami Dade College. Later, he earned a bachelor’s degree in public management and a master’s degree in management as well as completed the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.

Drozd works hands-on with the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross of Greater Miami and the Keys, the MDC Fire Science Advisory Board and the Southeast Regional Domestic Security Task Force.

A man of great composure, Drozd often looks to his children – sons Jonah and Noah and daughter, Katya – to make him smile. Also a proud husband to wife Sonia, Drozd says he sees the future in his children’s eyes and more than anything, they make him feel like there is no such thing as a bad day.

Charles R. Press
Chief of Police, Village of Key Biscayne

For more than 30 years, Charles R. Press has lived out his calling to positively change and alter the course of people’s lives. As the Chief of Police of the Key Biscayne Police Department (KBPD), he is responsible for major crime investigations including homicides, narcotics and robbery.

Prior to joining the Key Biscayne department, Press was a member of the Miami Beach Police Department for 29 years, where he served in various posts from patrol officer to commander of the criminal investigations division (Press recalls the anxiety of talking a 14-year-old girl off a ledge at the Roney Palace Condo in Miami Beach). Throughout his career, he has built a record of distinguished service.

He received an associate degree from Miami Dade College and later earned a bachelor’s degree, graduated from the University of Louisville’s Southern Police Institute School of Command and completed the 205th session of the FBI National Academy.

Press has received more than 80 departmental and civilian commendations. In 2006, he was named Cambridge Who’s Who Executive & Professional of the Year in the law enforcement category. His civic involvement includes membership in the FBI National Academy Associates, International Narcotics Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police and Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police.

Paula Pearson-Tucker
Professional Golfer

Paula Pearson-Tucker abandoned a 14-year career in the financial services industry to pursue a passion for golf. She turned professional in 2004 and became the only African-American competing on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, the official developmental tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Pearson-Tucker grew up in a rough neighborhood in Opa-Locka, where she heard gunshots, witnessed the perils of drug addiction and withstood the negativity of naysayers. She put herself through college with a gymnastics scholarship and went on to become a licensed financial planner.

When she was 38, she participated in a golf outing at a sales conference. Although she had always played sports, Pearson-Tucker had never held a golf club before then. Still, she made every single putt she attempted. She fell in love with the sport and has spent the last 15 years playing the game.

Pearson-Tucker is the head golf professional for the city of Lauderhill and a certified Life Skills Coach for The First Tee Miami, part of the Dade Amateur Golf Association. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Fore Life Inc., a nonprofit she founded with NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

She earned an associate from MDC before completing a bachelor’s in journalism and communications. She has received many accolades, including Who’s Who in Black South Florida, and is featured in the book The African American Woman Golfer: Her Legacy by M. Mikell Johnson.

Manuel Alvarez Sr.
CEO, Beam Radio Inc.

Manuel Alvarez Sr., founder and CEO of Beam Radio Inc., is a trailblazer in telecommunications. His company pioneered the LTR protocol now in use in more than 200 systems and 3,000 channels in Latin America and the Caribbean. And with the advent of the digital age, Beam Radio also pioneered the TETRA protocol, a standard for the European Union.

But for Alvarez, telecommunications is much more than a business. It’s a calling into which he was born. His father built Cuba’s first radio station and his mother was the first woman to earn a certificate to operate radio stations on the island. Early in his own career, Alvarez constructed clandestine transmitters for propaganda against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, work that would lead to his exile from the island for the first time. Upon his return in 1959, his work at Telemundo would lead to confrontations with the so-called revolution led by Fidel Castro, resulting in his permanent departure in 1960. He continued to work against the regime, installing a professional short-wave transmitter on an 85-foot yacht that operated near the coast of Cuba from July 1960 to January 1961, and integrating civil intelligence for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In 1961, Alvarez found steady work at WTVJ, part of Wometco Enterprises, where he broadened his knowledge to include video tape, color television and national programming. He enrolled at Miami Dade College, where he amplified his earlier work on valves and the transistor with education in new technology and English. At the same time, he was employed by the U.S. intelligence community and tasked with developing a plan for interception of radio communication signals from Cuba.

After an extensive career in the broadcasting industry, Alvarez saw a crucial need for communication in South Florida and nearby Latin America. With wife, Barbara, and son, Manuel, he established Beam Radio in 1976. As Hispanic businesses grew in South Florida, the need for widespread communication increased and Alvarez was on hand to handle this growth. Beam Radio is a Fortune 500 company and is ranked by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce as a “top 100” exporter.

Stuart Klaskin
Founder and Partner, Klaskin, Kushner and Co.

Stuart Klaskin knows flight. The nationally recognized expert is a regular commentator on ABC News, CNN and National Public Radio on matters concerning commercial aviation. A large part of his job, however, is advising a worldwide client base that includes the likes of American Airlines and HIG Capital in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and in the face of economic recessions.

As a child, Klaskin would go to the airport with his father, an airspace engineer, to watch airplanes take off and land. He was fascinated by the power of air travel, with the idea that through the marvels of modern engineering men and women could travel the globe.

At 15, he earned his private pilot’s license, and by the time he was a freshman at Miami Dade College, Klaskin was flying corporate and charter planes professionally. He went on to work at AeroVision Aviation Management Inc., Flying and Fishing Charters Inc., Federated Department Stores and Hallmark Insurance Group. He continued his studies, receiving the bachelor’s degree and attending FlightSafety International, a leading aviation training company.

In 1992, he founded Klaskin, Kushner and Co., a full service aviation consulting firm with a client list that includes Fortune 50 companies to small businesses. The company advises air carriers, aviation maintenance facilities, operators of corporate aircraft, aviation component manufacturers, aviation service providers, and governmental aviation authorities. The company also serve individual and institutional investors as well as commercial finance and investment banking firms whose portfolios include aviation interests.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Klaskin took calls from all over the world. They asked him: “What now?” And in the midst of uncertainty, Klaskin knew the human desire to travel the world was unshakable. Though the industry would change, he would endure the distress and recover to watch the world’s planes fly again.

Connie Lloveras
If Connie Lloveras’ work makes you question, then she has achieved her goal.

Lloveras finds her inspiration in pondering man’s existence, spirituality, purpose and even politics. A versatile artist whose career has spanned more than two decades, Lloveras produces metaphorical sculptures in clay, large-scale works for public spaces, paintings in oil and mixed media on small and large canvasses.

Globally renowned, Lloveras has exhibited her work in museums and galleries throughout the world, including Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Panama and Museo de America de Madrid in Spain. Thriving on feedback of her work, Lloveras enjoys nothing more than listening to observers interpret her work and uses her artistic expressions to provoke dialogue among viewers.

Locally, Lloveras has made her mark on a commonly viewed bridge in Coconut Grove. Miami’s Pot, a once plain pedestrian bridge was creatively transformed by Lloveras into a kitchen table. Sitting atop the table is a larger-than-life cauldron; inside are ingredients that do not melt. Her objective was to illustrate that Miami is not a melting pot, but a diverse city whose people are true to their heritage.

Honing in on her innate artistic ability, Lloveras began her career with an associate at MDC before continuing her studies to the Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Lloveras is the mother of three adult children who she considers to be her greatest masterpieces. She credits much of her success to the loving support of her husband of more than 30 years, Robert.


For more information about this special event, to become a sponsor, and any other related matter, please contact Glenn Kaufhold – executive director of the Miami Dade College Foundation at 305-237-7617 or


Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin,
ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, or genetic information.
Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.