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Alumni Issue 70 for 70 Giving Challenge!

Five friends make a challenge gift for student scholarships, in honor of the College of Engineering’s 70th anniversary.

As part of the celebration of the College of Engineering’s 70th anniversary, alumnus Eric Cheng (BSBE ’95, MSIE ’01) is spearheading a unique 70 for 70 Giving Challenge, which asks CoE alumni and friends to give a total of $35,000 in gifts or pledges to the College of Engineering Scholarship Fund. Those gifts will be matched by $35,000 in gifts from Cheng and his friends and fellow alumni Jackie Maestri (BSEE ’85), her husband Hector Maestri (BSEE ’84), Basil Khalil (BSIE ’94, MSIE ’97) and Amy Powers (BBA ’93, MBA ’97, MSTX ’00).

“When I went to school, I had lots of scholarships, lots of grants. That’s how I was able to earn my degree,” says Cheng, who is a senior research and development project manager at medical device company Medtronic. “I’m very appreciative of the people who came before me, so when I have the opportunity to give back, that’s my motivation. This will help the next generation of engineers who are going to come into the field out of the University of Miami.”

Inspiration for the challenge came from a matching gift challenge issued to alumni of the Hurricanes “Band of the Hour” marching band, where Cheng was a baritone horn section leader during his time as a student. Seeing the success of that challenge, Cheng talked to CoE classmate and fellow band member Khalil (he had played trumpet) about doing something similar for the CoE. Khalil, the CoE’s 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award winner and vice president of planning and engineering at FedEx, agreed it was a great idea. “We both were already donors, so we thought this matching challenge was a good way to get other people to contribute,” Cheng says.

Cheng, who was vice president of the College of Engineering Alumni association at the time, then approached Jackie Maestri and Powers. “I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could raise $70,000 for a scholarship fund? Let’s raise some seed money and see if we can get better participation,’” Cheng recalls.

Maestri and Cheng had met at a Homecoming breakfast at the College when he was a student. She hired him for his first engineering job, as an intern at Johnson & Johnson, where she is currently vice president of Engineering and Property Services. The two have been friends since that first meeting. Bringing her onboard for the 70 for 70 Challenge “was an easy ask,” Cheng says, noting that her husband Hector is a CoE alumnus, as is their son Frank (BSIE ’14); their son Jose (BSC ’12) is a UM alumnus (their daughter is not yet in college).

Powers and Cheng had grown up near each other in Connecticut and attended the University at the same time, but they didn’t meet until Powers was working at the University’s alumni association. “She’s the one who actually got me into this whole giving back to the University world,” Cheng says. “She just invited me and got me involved at a very early stage in my career.” Powers, executive director of major gifts at Jupiter Medical Foundation, was happy to help with the challenge, too.

“Between the five of us, we’ve raised $35,000,” Cheng says. “So we are challenging the rest of the CoE alumni to match our $35,000 in gifts and pledges.” The funds will help students pay for their UM College of Engineering educations. Since its inception, the College of Engineering Scholarship Fund has helped hundreds of students. “I was ecstatic to see that I was chosen to receive this award, and it inspires me to know that my efforts are not going unnoticed,” says engineering student Sean Bartholomew (BSBME ’18), one of the fund’s current scholarship recipients. “This donation provides deeply appreciated assistance in paying for the [education] that will forever change my life, and allows me to spend more of my time on my studies.”

Cheng, Khalil, Powers and the Maestris are asking alumni, industry partners, parents and other CoE supporters to make gifts of any size in order to reach a goal of $70,000 for current-use scholarships. “For alumni out there who may have given in the past, or who may not have even thought about giving, we want to use this as a tool to get them to think about giving,” Cheng says. “I hope everyone is inspired to give, because it takes everyone’s help to make this a success.”
To make a contribution online, please click here. To make a gift by check, please make it payable to the “University of Miami” and indicate The College of Engineering Scholarship Fund on the memo line. Mail it to: Catarina Castruccio-Prince, Assistant Development Director, University of Miami, Newman Alumni Center, Suite 400, 6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146.

Many companies provide matching gifts for their employees as part of their employee benefit packages. If you plan to make a gift, please check with your employer or ask one of our advancement staff if your gift may be doubled, tripled or more through a matching gift program. You also can click here to find out if your employer will match your gift.

The College of Engineering Scholarship Fund, made possible through annual support from alumni, parents and others, was established in 1997. The fund provides support to undergraduate students with financial need. During the past 20 years, the scholarship fund has benefited hundreds of engineering students.


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