Miami-Dade County

Miami philanthropist donates $50 million to UF’s College of Engineering

Herbert Wertheim applauds the inaugural class of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in the Health and Life Sciences II building on the Florida International University Modesto A. Maidique campus in west Miami Monday, August 3, 2009.
Herbert Wertheim applauds the inaugural class of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in the Health and Life Sciences II building on the Florida International University Modesto A. Maidique campus in west Miami Monday, August 3, 2009. For the Miami Herald

Dr. Herbert Wertheim, the Miami optometrist who invented the eyeglass tints that block UV rays, has pledged $50 million to the University of Florida’s College of Engineering.

The gift is the largest cash pledge in UF’s 105-year history, UF officials say.

Wertheim, who also has given millions to Florida International University, is a graduate of UF.

Wertheim, 76, who was recognized at a UF football game Saturday, said he loves his school and wants to give back.

“This is going to change the way engineering is taught,” he said.

The $50 million donation, through the Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Family Foundation, will launch a $300 million public and private investment into UF’s College of Engineering. The gift will fund the largest expansion of the engineering school in UF’s history, school officials said.

The college will be known as the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.

“It’s befitting to name the college in honor of someone who exemplifies what we call ‘the New Engineer,’ ” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of the engineering college, in a press release. “Herbie is the future of engineering. He’s innovative, entrepreneurial and a service-oriented leader.”

Among the plans:

▪ Adding an 80,000-square-foot Engineering Innovation building, which will also be named in Wertheim’s honor.

▪ Collaboration between the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and FIU’s College of Engineering. Wertheim donated $20 million to help launch FIU’s medical school, which opened in 2009.

▪ Growing engineering student enrollment from the current 8,700 to 10,000 by 2022.

Wertheim, who made his fortune from inventing tints for sunglasses and lenses that protect the eye from damaging UV rays, has also donated $10 million to FIU’s nursing program in honor of his wife, Nicole. According to UF, the latest contribution means the Wertheim family — including daughters Erica Zohar and Vanessa Von Wertheim — have contributed more than $100 million to Florida’s public universities and colleges.

Werheim said Monday that his contribution to UF was an easy decision.

“It’s where I got my start,” he said. “I believe engineering is an important part of medicine.”

Wertheim is the founder of the Miami-based company Brain Power Inc., which has amassed more than 100 patents.

“This transformation will further accelerate social and economic development in the state of Florida and the nation,” UF President Kent Fuchs said in a news release. The gift “raises the stature of both the engineering college and the university.”

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