Miami-Dade County

UM exceeds fundraising goal with Miller family $55 million gift

Sebastian and Donna Shalala attend a celebration to honor the University of Miami president’s 14 years of leadership at the Student Activities Center on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Sebastian and Donna Shalala attend a celebration to honor the University of Miami president’s 14 years of leadership at the Student Activities Center on Thursday, April 30, 2015. Miami Herald Staff

The University of Miami’s plan to build a biomedical research powerhouse capable of training the next generation of physician-researchers and public health leaders took a giant stride forward this month with the help of a longtime benefactor.

Stuart Miller, chairman of the Miami-based homebuilding and mortgage giant Lennar Corporation, and his family announced Monday that they are giving $50 million for a new medical education building on the campus of UM’s medical school, which is named for the Miller family patriarch, Leonard M. Miller, who founded Lennar in the mid-1950s. An additional $5 million goes to the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.

Miller’s company is one of the largest home builders, land owners and loan makers in the country, delivering more than 21,000 homes at an average price of $326,000 in 2014, according to Hoover’s, a business research service.

Stuart Miller is chairman of UM’s board of trustees and leader of the medical school fund drive. He, his family — including mother, Sue, brother Jeffrey, sister Leslie and brother-in-law Steven Saiontz — and Lennar have been longtime boosters of the university.

In October, the Lennar Foundation, a charitable arm of Lennar, announced a naming gift of $50 million for a new UM Health System outpatient medical center in Coral Gables — raising the total from the Miller family and Lennar to more than $221 million.

“Our family couldn’t be prouder of our commitment to the university,’’ Stuart Miller said in a written statement.

The Miller family’s gift pushes UM's latest fund drive titled Momentum 2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami past its $1.6 billion goal more than a year ahead of schedule — a considerable feat of fund raising under outgoing UM President Donna Shalala.

Combined with $1.4 billion raised during the first Momentum campaign, the private university has raised more than $3 billion during 14 years of leadership by Shalala, who is stepping down in June to head the Clinton Foundation. Julio Frenk, dean of faculty at Harvard’s school of public health and a former minister of health in his native Mexico, has been tapped as her replacement.

The Miller family’s latest gift will provide $5 million toward the Frost School of Music, and the remaining $50 million for a new medical education building fitted with the latest technology, said Laurence B. Gardner, a physician and executive dean for education and policy.

“It gives us the opportunity to be with the front of the pack, in terms of offering students really unique stuff,” Gardner said. “We won’t let education get ahead of us anywhere.”

Among the capabilities of the new educational building, Gardner said, will be interactive and online instructional programs delivered outside the traditional classroom setting, and the ability for students to work on activities in small groups or lecture halls on campus — in a strategy known as “the flipped classroom.”

The new building also will allow UM professors to develop competency-based assessments and education, where student proficiency would be tested using simulation technology.

Another prominent feature of the new building: a 400- to 500-seat auditorium that can be configured for smaller groups.

“We need a space like that,” Gardner said. “We’re not able to meet with two medical school classes simultaneously anywhere on this campus.’’

The total $1.6 billion raised during the Momentum 2 campaign launched in February 2012 comes from a record 137,890 donors, according to UM officials.

The lead gift of $100 million comes from the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, and another 261 gifts of $1 million or more have been received, helping to establish a total of 30 endowed chairs and professorships.

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