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Miami Dade College Inducts 2013 Alumni Hall of Fame Honorees

Hall of Fame

Distinguished alumni honored at the 2013 MDC Alumni Hall of Fame gala held at the J.W. Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami.

Miami, June 7, 2013 - Miami Dade College (MDC) honored a new group of distinguished alumni and professionals across several industries – including business, health care, visual arts, journalism, sports, law, and public service – at its 2013 Alumni Hall of Fame Awards Gala held at the J.W. Marriott Marquis Miami on June 6, 2013.  

This year’s inductees join the ranks of MDC Hall of Famers actor Andy Garcia, music industry mogul Emilio Estefan, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, former Dolphins receiver Nat Moore, Carnival Chairman & CEO Micky Arison and U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, to name a few. MDC’s annual Hall of Fame Gala benefits the Alumni Scholarship Fund, a prime source of scholarship funding and support for MDC students.

The 2013 MDC Alumni Hall of Fame honorees are: 


Agustín J. Barrera

Vice President


Born in Havana, Cuba, Barrera emigrated to Miami when he was seven years old. For more than 25 years, Barrera has worked in all facets of architectural design, project management and construction administration to facilitate the creation and completion of commercial, education, aviation, institutional, and government projects. He is currently the vice president for AECOM, a global leader in architecture, engineering, planning, project management, and construction. He manages the company’s Orlando and Coral Gables offices’ 110 employees and several hundred projects – including the $180 million Broward Courthouse and Baha Mar, a $3.5 billion Resort Casino project in Bahamas. Since 1994, he has been a devoted member of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, serving on its board of directors and as president. He also served on the Miami-Dade County School Board, the advisory council of Take Stock in Children, the board of directors of The Education Fund, and is currently on the board of Miami Coalition for the Homeless.  


Jorge J. González

President and CEO

City National Bank

For the last four years, González has served as president and CEO of City National Bank, the fifth largest bank in Florida, with $4.8 billion in assets. His 26 years in the banking industry include 20 years as regional president of Wachovia for Southeast Florida. At City National Bank, González prides himself in the bank’s unique business model, which focuses on providing a best-in-class client experience through personal relationships. Among many accolades, the South Florida Business Journal recognized the bank’s record-setting year in 2012 with its Business of the Year Award. González was also named an Ultimate CEO by the Journal. A Miami native, González serves on the executive committees of the United Way and Young Presidents Organization, and on the board of directors of the FIU Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art.  


José L. Dotres

Assistant Superintendent

Office of Human Capital Management

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Appointed in 2013 as assistant superintendent of human capital management for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Dotres is tasked with developing a program to strengthen the leadership capacity of principals and assistant principals and to enhance the teacher evaltuation system aligned to the career growth of teachers. He began his career in 1988 as a teacher with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and went on to serve as a reading coach, assistant principle, principal, district administrative director of leadership development, and regional administrative director of curriculum. In 2009, he became superintendent of North Region Area of Miami-Dade County, responsible for 82 public schools in 12 municipalities. Dotres has received the Cervantes Outstanding Educator award from Nova Southeastern University and the District Administrator of the Year award from the Council for Exceptional Children. Currently he serves on the board of directors of the Miami Gardens Excellence in Education Council and on the Teacher Preparation Advisory Committee for Nova Southeastern University. 


Pedro Modía

Director of Transmission Services and Planning

Florida Power & Light Company

Born in Havana, Cuba, Modía said his father taught him the importance of a good education and hard work. As director of transmission services and planning at Florida Power & Light, Modía is responsible for planning the FPL transmission system and administering access to the transmission system for wholesale customers. Throughout his 35 year at FPL, he has held several key positions, including director, substations; general manager, generation; director, transmission; director, protection and control; and director, power supply. He is proud to have mentored more than 50 percent of the current transmission and substation leadership team through his various roles at FPL. In addition, Modía is a “pillar contributor” to the United Way and has participated in several FPL-sponsored community activities, such as the Power to Care. He was also involved with the Boys Scouts of America and served as the Assistant Cub Master for PAC 16 in Coral Gables. 


Christopher G. Korge

Chairman, NewsLink Group LLC

Partner, Korge & Korge

Korge is co-founder and chairman of NewsLink Group LLC, an award-winning airport retail company that owns more than 50 stores in six airports. He was general counsel for the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority, and was the city’s point man in obtaining the Miami Heat franchise and the development of the Miami Arena, the first arena in Florida. He earned partner status at Holland & Knight in just six years of practicing law. Ultimately, he started his own law firm, Korge & Korge. Starting in the 1990s, Korge focused on real estate development, resulting in tremendous financial success. He currently is developing more than 3,500 units in Miami-Dade County. He also is invested in the technology sector, concentrating on energy and reforming education. Korge has been active politically for more than 25 years, including serving as national finance co-chairman for the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, and as chairman of the Democratic Business Council. He has hosted President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, among other political luminaries. Korge has served on several boards including the FIU Foundation, the FIU Medical School, a trustee of the Miami Art Museum and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Health Care

Albert R. Maury

President and CEO

Leon Medical Centers Health Plans

Maury has worked in the health care field since 1993, when he started with Physician’s Corporation of America. Shortly after, he became head of Medicaid Sales at Neighborhood Health Partnerships. When Benjamin Leon, Jr. founded Leon Medical Centers in 1996, Maury joined his team as chief financial officer. His expertise, combined with his dedication and hard work, became invaluable to the success of the company. In 2007, he accepted his current position as president and CEO of Leon Medical Health Plans, a Medicare HMO with more than 37,000 members. Maury was appointed to the FIU Board of Trustees in 2007, making history as the university’s first undergraduate alumnus appointed to the board, to which he was recently elected chairman. He has also served as board member to Alliance for Aging for six consecutive years and on the board of the Bertha Abess Children’s Center, a non-profit providing services to children with emotional disabilities. Most recently, he was asked to serve on the regional panel of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.   

Hospitality, Culinary Arts

And Tourism

José Tomás

Former Chief People Officer and

President of Latin America and the Caribbean

Burger King Corporation

Tomás joined Burger King Corporation in 2004, during the early preparation stages of its successful IPO in 2006. He held two concurrent leadership positions. As president of Latin American and the Caribbean, he oversaw more than 1,400 restaurants in 30 countries, generating more than $1 billion in sales. He was responsible for all regional operations, marketing, quality and business development. As global chief people officer, he led the human resources, corporate communications and PR, diversity and inclusion, and security teams for the company. Tomás is passionate about equal access to education, volunteering time and leveraging his extensive talent development experience to help improve the chances of success for deserving young adults who may be overlooked by traditional university selection systems. He is the chair of the Posse Miami Advisory Board. 

Journalism – Broadcast

Sandra Peebles

News Anchor/Reporter

Univision 23

Peebles is a six-time Emmy Award-winning, bilingual news anchor/reporter for Univision 23. She launched her journalism career at Dynamic Cablevision News, executing two daily stories where she shot the video, conducted the interviews, wrote the scripts, edited and anchored the news segment – all in a day’s work. The experience prepared her for a stint as weather anchor at the Miami Telemundo affiliate. Peebles’ next adventure led her to WTVJ, an NBC-owned and operated station. Four years later, Univision 23 hired her to become the weekend anchor. Over the past 14 years, she has showcased her versatility by reporting general assignments, health and politics. She received an award for her political reporting from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Peebles’ true passion is serving her community. She has been involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program since 2002, having run five half-marathons and one 26.2-mile race to raise funds and awareness. She is a regular presenter at Autism Speaks and a founding board member of Kakes 4 Kids, an organization that celebrates birthday parties for foster-care children with the message that their lives matter. She was crowned Miss Florida Latina 1989, and took third place in the South Florida Fitness, Figure and Body Building Championship in 2008. She has won the Goya Literary Award. 

Journalism – Print

Jay Ducassi

Metro Editor

The Miami Herald

In the late ‘70s, Ducassi aspired to become an actor – until a passionate Miami Dade College journalism professor urged him to join The Falcon Times, the former student newspaper at MDC’s North Campus. Today, he is living his dream job: metro editor at The Miami Herald. As metro editor, he is in charge of local news editors and reporters, as well as the state desk, which covers Tallahassee, the governor’s office and the Legislature. Throughout Ducassi’s 30-plus years reporting news, he has covered important Miami stories such as Hurricane Andrew, the Mariel Boatlift, the 1980 riots and the controversy over the filming of Scarface, to name just a few. Ducassi’s career started at an all-news Spanish radio station, WOCN AM, in 1980. Months later, he began working as a news reporter for WINZ AM, another all-news radio station. In 1981, friends encouraged Ducassi to apply for a job at The Miami Herald, where he first worked as a reporter and later covered civil, criminal and federal courts. In 1987, Ducassi became an editor, eventually overseeing the courts and police reporters along with immigration coverage. He left the Herald in 1992 for The Wall Street Journal, where he was a Page 1 editor for seven years. 


Richard Patiño


The Patiño Law Firm

After graduating from law school, Patiño worked for an insurance defense firm and quickly decided it was not for him. He went to for his cousin’s established real estate law office in Hialeah, where he practiced “little guy law” and found his niche. In 1995, he founded The Patiño Law Firm, a boutique firm specializing in first-party insurance cases and personal injury protection cases. Patiño is frequently called upon as a trial specialist as he has seen thousands of cases. Patiño believes in helping young adults achieve real-world experience; he provides clerkships, internships and employment to students. He is also a longtime supporter of the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High PTSA Scholarship Fundraiser and a sponsor for the Mourning Law Academy. He is extremely hands on, hosting judicial panels and arranging visits to the criminal courthouse where high school students are given tours, sit in on cases and meet judges. In 2012, the Miami-Dade County School Board awarded Patiño the Dream Award for being an “outstanding partner” of the Miami-Dade County Public School District. He is also a partner in Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis’ “Justice Teaching” program. 


Lourdes M. Cuzán

Managing Director, International Marketing

Fowler Rodriguez

Cuzán embarked on a career to create programs for international exchanges that provide closer ties between foreign cultures and the United States. As managing director/international marketing at Fowler Rodriguez, Cuzán implements strategic marketing initiatives to source new and strengthen existing client relationships locally and abroad. She is also the office administrator and oversees the accounting office. Cuzán began her career working in the City of Coral Gables’ Finance Department. After seven years, she left to raise her family. She returned to become Mayor Corrigan’s part-time assistant, which grew into a full-time job when Mayor Valdés-Fauli was elected into office. Cuzán became secretary to the Board of the International Affairs Coordinating Council in 1995. She organized visits and programs for high-ranking government officials, such as the former vice president of Taiwan, the former president of Spain, the minister of finance from Peru, and the president of the Inter-American Development Bank. During Mayor Slesnick’s term she was promoted to international affairs coordinator. In 2008, after a 23-year career with the city of Coral Gables, she was offered a position with the Fowler Rodriguez law firm. 


Isaac Bassan, M.D.

Gastroenterologist/Hepatologist and Weight Loss Specialist

Bassan & Bloom M.D.s P.L.

After graduating from UM’s Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Bassan’s post-graduate work included a residency and chief residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. He also did a fellowship in hepatology at UM. He opened his private practice, Bassan and Bloom, M.D.s P.L., in 1986. He focuses on consultative gastroenterology and hepatology, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, small intestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy, colon cancer screening, and physician-supervised weight loss. A pioneering medical researcher, Dr. Bassan has been involved in clinical research since 2003 and has been principal investigator in more than 60 clinical trials. He has helped to develop some of the world’s most effective drugs for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, hepatitis B, C and IBS. In 2008, Dr. Bassan was voted by peers as one of the top doctors throughout Florida in gastroenterology/hepatology, in The New York Times-South Florida Edition. In addition, Dr. Bassan has been teaching for 25 years, and for the past two years, he has offered clinical externships to foreign medical students through the FMG Portal program. 

NonProfit Sector

Marisel Losa

President and CEO

Health Council of South Florida

During her professional career over three decades, Losa founded the Florida Association of Free Clinics and Miami Matters. She co-founded Health Action Network, and serves on the Leadership Council for Healthy Aging Regional Collaborative. Losa made her way up the corporate ladder starting as a work-study, file-room clerk at Mercy Hospital, then served as director of the Mercy Mission Services and St. John Bosco Clinic. Today, Losa is president and CEO of the Health Council of South Florida, a nonprofit organization with a mission to be the source of unbiased health and quality-of-life data and analysis; preferred partner for quality program planning, management, evaluation and community services; facilitator of partnerships in South Florida; and trusted champion of ethical, targeted health care policy at all levels. Notably, she has received the Miami Foundation’s Engaged Leaders Award, Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Local Hero Award, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Health Care Hero Award, March of Dimes Humanitarian of the Year Award, FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work Path Award as well as the Distinguished Alumna Torch Award. 


Linda J. Timmons, R.N., CNOR

Nurse Manager of Surgery

Baptist Hospital of Miami

Timmons is currently a nurse manager of surgery at Baptist Hospital of Miami, overseeing the staffing of 18 operating rooms. She is involved with capital and operational budgets and with interviewing candidates to ensure great patient care. Timmons’ first job out of nursing school was at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, where she worked in the operating room at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She did fundus photography and taught other nurses how to scrub and circulate for ophthalmic surgery. Her first job at Baptist Hospital was in 1978 as a nurse manager, where she learned all types of surgery and was a member of the open-heart surgery team. Timmons has worked in many managerial capacities, including director of surgical services at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and director of perioperative services at the University of Miami Health System’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has been a member of the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) for more than 40 years, serving at the local, state and national levels. Timmons is an expert speaker; this has led her to speaking engagements in Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Barbados, to name a few. She is involved with the Big Brother Big Sister program, mentoring a junior in high school. 

Public Safety – Police

Manuel Orosa

Chief of Police

Miami Police Department

Chief Orosa was officially sworn in as Miami’s 39th chief of police on Dec.15, 2011. As chief of police, Orosa is leading the Miami Police Department in its organizational initiatives, accountability measures, and the reduction of crime and police-involved shootings. He is respected for restructuring the Miami Police Department’s human resources function for greater effectiveness. Chief Orosa became a Miami police officer at the age of 23. While rising through the ranks, he carried out significant assignments as commander in several divisions of the department, such as Special Investigations, Internal Affairs, Patrol, Criminal Investigations and Street Narcotics. As commander of Criminal Investigations, he played a vital role in major cases, including investigations of a serial rapist, high-profile robberies and the resolution of a police officer’s murder. In 1998, Orosa worked with the U.S. State Department to assess police response capabilities in the emerging democracy of South Africa. He also participated as a delegate to the White House Conference for a Drug Free America, hosted by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Among his many accolades, Argentina honored him in 1995 with its Secretary of Sports Medal; in 1997, as a reflection of his work in the Brickell business district, he received the Herman Goldstein Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Problem- Oriented Policing. 

Public Service

Hiram Ruiz

Statewide Director of Refugee Services

Florida Department of Children and Families

In 2004, Ruiz became political director of the Service Employees International Union. He was appointed director of DCF’s Refugee Services Program in October 2008, where he oversees the nation’s largest refugee program, assisting refugees to become economically self-sufficient and integrate in communities statewide. Ruiz has spent his career assisting those seeking refuge. His volunteer work with Miami Dade College’s Golden Key International Honor Society with migrant labor farmers in Homestead opened his eyes to needs of the world. After completing a master’s degree in social work at FIU, he spent eight years as a social worker in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods in London, and later in Vietnamese refugee resettlement centers in Scotland and England. Ruiz worked with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Somalia assisting Ethiopian refugees, and then in Darfur, Sudan, as a field officer in camps for Chadian refugees. He returned to the U.S. and joined the District of Columbia’s refugee program. He later worked 16 years as a senior policy analyst with the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), documenting conditions for refugees and displaced persons in dozens of countries and advocating for critical U.S. and international assistance and protection. Ruiz has authored more than 20 publications on refugees and was a staff writer for USCR’s World Refugee Survey and Refugee Reports. 


Michael J. Piazza

Former Major League Baseball Catcher

Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins,

New York Mets, San Diego Padres and

The Oakland Athletics

Piazza is a former Major League Baseball player, widely regarded as the greatest hitting catcher of all time. A 16-year veteran, Piazza played for five different teams and earned several accolades during a storybook career that came to a close following the 2007 season. He was selected as the National League Rookie of the Year in 1993, made 12 All-Star Game appearances and earned a record 10 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards. From 1993 to 2001, Piazza posted a minimum of a .300 batting average with 20 or more home runs and 90-plus RBI’s in each season. With a lifetime batting average of .308, Piazza slugged 427 home runs and holds the all-time record for most home runs by a catcher with 396. Originally from Norristown, Penn., Piazza shined on MDC’s baseball team. In 1988, as he was completing his associate degree at MDC, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round. Over the past few years, Piazza has been involved with the Italian Baseball Federation and served on the coaching staff of many Italian national teams, including the last two World Baseball Classic tournaments. He has served as the Master of Ceremonies for the National Italian American Federation and appeared as a guest speaker at several Catholic athletes group functions. Recently, Piazza released his memoir, Long Shot. Published by Simon & Schuster, its on The New York Times bestsellers list. 

Urban Development

Guillermo Fernández

President and Co-Owner

Link Construction Group Inc

Fernández is president of Link Construction Group Inc., a South Florida-based general contracting/ construction management company, founded in 2001. He manages financial activities and business development, and has developed it into one of South Florida’s most successful construction companies, with revenues of more than $350 million. Marquee projects include Hialeah Park Casino and the new Miami Herald production facility and headquarters. He is also a State of Florida-Certified Licensed General Contractor. Fernandez got his start in construction working with family members in the business while in college. Years later, he and business partner Miguel Cerra decided to start their own construction company. Fernández believes in giving back to the community. In 2011, he took on a pro bono project with International Solidarity for Human Rights, in collaboration with MDCs North Campus. The project, Route to Human Rights, unveiled a series of sculptures that promote human rights education through the arts. In 2012, Fernández, along with Link Construction employees, participated in Habitat for Humanity’s Blitz Build, a two-week, 10-home accelerated building event in Liberty City. He has also been involved with the American Heart Association and Kristi’s House. Fernández is an active member of many construction industry-related organizations. He currently serves as president-elect for the Latin Builders Association (LBA) for 2014-15 and is on the board for the LBA Academy Charter School.

Visual Arts

César Santos


Santos has coined his work as “Syncretism,” a combination of contemporary techniques and those of the past to create works that are provocative and dramatic. Santos’ work has been seen around the globe, from the Annigoni Museum in Italy to museums in Beijing, China, and Chelsea, N.Y. He has received numerous accolades, including first place in a Metropolitan Museum of Art competition. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America, including the Villa Bardini Museum in Florence and the National Gallery in Costa Rica. Born in Cuba, Santos moved to Florida at age 12. His middle school art teacher discovered his incredible talent and encouraged him to attend Design Architecture Senior High (DASH). He earned an associate degree at MDC in 2003 and attended New World School of the Arts before traveling to Florence, Italy. There he completed the Fundamental Program in Drawing and Painting at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence in 2006. Santos knows the importance of encouragement and mentorship. He mentors at DASH to inspire young artists to accomplish their dreams. Santos won a gold medal in boxing from the Angered Centrum Box Cup in Sweden in 2008.


To learn more about MDC’s Alumni Hall of Fame, please call the MDC Foundation at 305-237-3240, or visit


Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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