Camila Fernandez/Assistant News Director
It was a day Larry Lunsford dreaded to see arrive.
“We will celebrate 35 years of unmatched loyalty and dedication,” said Lunsford, vice president of Student Affairs on Friday, May 9 at the tribute event held for retiree executive director of Graham Center, Ruth Hamilton.
Almost 500 attendees were present at GC Ballrooms to show their appreciation to Hamilton, including past president of FIU Gregory Wolfe.
“Ruth, Ruth, Ruth… How can you retire? We may have to close Graham Center,” joked Lunsford who was MC for the event.
Lunsford was first appointed Director of Student Activities in 1989. He said that for him and his family Miami was a new city, and Hamilton befriended and adopted him.
During the tribute, Provost Douglas Wartzok titled Hamilton as first lady of Graham Center. Also, as part of the University’s Ignite campaign, Hamilton’s Make a Difference Fund was announced with aims to help students obtain internship and mentorship opportunities.
A chair, in remembrance of Hamilton’s 35 years of beauty and professionalism, has been permanently installed at the University’s Santi’s Hair and Nail Salon.
As guest of honor, Hamilton said she considers herself the luckiest person in the universe and that she is blessed.
She spoke about how she was pulled from the slums in Lima, Peru as a young orphan by someone she had never met before, and was given a scholarship for education. Hamilton said she also feels lucky and blessed to have been a part of the University.
“When one is given the opportunity to be a part of a visionary team with top-notch leaders who work very hard to build and transform, not only a university, but transform people’s lives, that’s being lucky and I’m blessed,” she said.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner and alumni Esteban Bovo, spoke and presented Hamilton with an award on behalf of the residence of Miami-Dade County, as well as Trustee Emeritus Albert Dotson on behalf of the University’s Board of Trustees.
“The way she ushered you in and out of the Graham Center – it was like you were a VIP. Everybody – students, faculty, board members, and just ordinary people like me – she treated us all the same,” said Dotson.
Past SGA presidents Carlos Becerra (1996-98) and Liane Sippin (2013-14) spoke as well.
Current SGA president Alexis Calatayud at Modesto Maidique campus was present at the event. Unlike past SGA presidents, Calatayud may not be able to work as thoroughly with Hamilton.
However, Calatayud said she does not feel at a disadvantage. She said Hamilton has been encouraging.
“She’s left amazing people for me to work with,” said Calatayud. “The foundation was already laid.”
President Mark B. Rosenberg identified Ruth with three words: compassionate, soul, and love. Also, to send a message both locally and globally that the university is world’s ahead, we are to draw on the example of Ruth.
“We’re going to draw on the energy, on the love, on the passion, on the hope, on the spirit, to continue what we have always done – build a university that responds to the needs of this community.”
After thanking her mentors and husband, Hamilton concluded with a poem called Life’s Mirror by Madeline Bridges.
“It says, ‘Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.’ That has really guided me through my whole life,” said Hamilton.