South Dade farmer pledges $12.5 million to University of Miami

The University of Miami on Thursday announced that South Dade tomato grower — and well-known philanthropist — Paul DiMare is pledging $8 million to the university’s current fund-raising campaign.

The latest gift from DiMare and his wife Swanee comes after the family had already pledged $4.5 million to UM’s current fund-raising drive, known as Momentum2.

UM officials said the $12.5 million total now pledged by the DiMares ranks among the largest gifts received from an individual or family.

“We are lucky to have them as leaders and as supporters of the U,” said Sergio Gonzalez, UM’s senior vice president for university advancement.

UM’s current fund-raising drive is a follow-up to the first Momentum campaign, which began in 2003 and wrapped up several years later as a record-breaking success. That first campaign hauled in $1.4 billion.

The university publicly announced the Momentum2 campaign about two years ago, with the goal of raising $1.6 billion by 2016. The money will fund a wide range of initiatives, from medical school improvements to student scholarships to renovating dorms.

At the launch two years ago, UM had already amassed $905 million during the silent phase of the fund-raising effort.

The total now: about $1.26 billion, which puts UM ahead of schedule in reaching the final $1.6 billion goal.

The $12.5 million from the DiMares breaks down as follows: $6 million for medical school scholarships, $2 million for a 200-seat performance hall in UM’s new music building, $1.5 million to athletic scholarships, $1 million to the new Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, $1 million to paralysis research, and $500,000 to stem cell research.

Paul DiMare said the $6 million gift was prompted by UM losing out on 27 top-notch students who wanted to attend medical school here but received more-generous financial aid offers elsewhere. DiMare said the scholarships will reward the best students who also have a demonstrated financial need.

“I said to myself, ‘This is terrible. We can’t be losing the top students,’ ” DiMare said. “Now we’ll be able to match the money.”

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