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Miami Dade College Honors Top Leaders at Alumni Hall of Fame Gala

HOF 2014 3

Miami Dade College inducts 28 new members into the prestigious MDC Hall of Fame.

Miami, April 23, 2014 - Miami Dade College (MDC) today celebrated one of its most cherished traditions, recognizing distinguished alumni making a difference in the community and beyond at the 2014 Alumni Hall of Fame Awards Gala, which was heldat the J.W. Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami.

This year’s inductees represent a variety of industries including - business, health care, visual arts, journalism, sports, law, and public service. They will join the ranks of MDC Hall of Famers actor Andy Garcia, music industry mogul Emilio Estefan, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, former Dolphins receiver Nat Moore, Carnival Chairman & CEO Micky Arison and U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, among many other luminaries.

MDC’s annual Hall of Fame Gala benefits the Alumni Scholarship Fund, a prime source of scholarship funding and support for MDC students.

The 2014 MDC Hall of Fame inductees are:


Javier Font        

Architect and Principal

Behar Font & Partners P.A.

Javier Font, an architect with more than 30 years of architectural design and project management experience, is a co-founder and principal of Behar, Font & Partners. Working with his father, also an architect, through high school and college, awakened his interest in all facets of the real estate development industry. As a progression to learning the business, Font earned a real estate, architecture and a general contractor’s license and has made a name for himself as a Developer’s Architect, helping his clients design attractive and efficient buildings. Font and his company utilize their talents to impact the community by helping Big Brothers Big Sisters find a new home and providing the Miracle League with plans for a baseball field for athletes with physical challenges.


Guillermo G. Castillo

Market President


Four years ago, Guillermo G. Castillo was hired to lead commercial banking business for JP Morgan Chase, one of the strongest and most stable financial institutions in the world today. As president of middle market banking, he serves mid-sized businesses from Vero Beach to Key West – a Top 10 Market/MSA in the franchise. Castillo was recognized by South Florida Business Journal as one of the Top 100 Power leaders in Banking. In 2013, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Hispanic Leadership in Banking Award. He is also passionate about giving back, serving as an active member on the Boards of Trustees and Executive Committees of Chapman Partnership, Greater Miami of Chamber of Commerce, as well as the United Way of Miami.


Cristina Alfaro   

Director of External Diverse Partnerships

McDonald's Corp.

Cristina Alfaro is serving up smiles to millions of people across the country. After six years of leading McDonald’s communications’ programming for the national Hispanic consumer market, including new-product launches, promotions, and brand trust initiatives, she is now leading the international company as director of external diverse partnerships on McDonald’s Global Inclusion and Intercultural Management Team. Alfaro’s responsibilities include identifying, building, and maintaining partnerships with key, diverse organizations by developing and executing strategies that create mutually-beneficial collaboration opportunities between stakeholder groups and the McDonald’s brand. She is also the lead for McDonald’s Global Women’s Initiative, which includes working as liaison with McDonald’s Women’s Leadership Networks across the globe. Alfaro’s love of math provided the opportunity for a full scholarship to MDC, where she earned her AA in 1985.


Manny García-Tuñón


Lemartec Engineering & Construction Corp.

Born and raised in Miami by Cuban parents, Manny Garcia-Tuñón serves as president of the family business, Lemartec, an international design-build firm that manages specialized projects in the industrial, aviation and renewable energy sectors. Garcia-Tuñón is an internationally recognized business columnist for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and His weekly business column appears in newspapers in cities across the country. He is one of the only bicultural/bilingual business motivational writers and speakers in the United States who is an actual business owner. He is a founding board member and Secretary of the national organization CALL (Catholic Association of Latino Leaders) and is President of the Miami chapter. He was a member of Archdiocese of Miami’s 2nd General Synod Leadership Team, and serves on Archbishop Wenski’s Pastoral Council.

Culinary Arts   

Steven H. Haas 


City Hall the Restaurant

Steven Haas opened his highly anticipated restaurant, City Hall the Restaurant, in June 2011. Previously, he was co-owner and operating partner for Soyka Restaurant/News Café Corp. For 11 years, he was the general manager for China Grill, Tuscan Steak, Red Square, and the Social at the Sagamore Hotel – all under the umbrella of China Grill Management. As Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Board Chair, he helped develop the Miami Begins with Me customer service initiative for PortMiami employees and Miami-Dade taxi cab drivers. Haas is also the architect of the extremely successful Miami Spice Restaurant Month that is now in its 12th year. He is former chair of the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority. Haas has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement award from the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and named Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame.


Aurora Calvo-Menendez


Aurora Dental Group PA

Dr. Aurora Calvo-Menendez remembers toting a dentistry bag as a young child. She would achieve her dream of becoming a dentist years later after immigrating to the United States from Cuba and receiving a dentistry degree from Nova Southeastern University in 2007. She also earned her bachelor of science in biology from Florida International University. After working at various dental offices, she opened her own practice in 2012, in the heart of South Miami. Her favorite aspect of being a dentist is developing relationships with her clients and providing them with beautiful, healthy smiles. Additionally, she is very involved in her church community and supports missionary outreach programs in Africa, Spain and Cuba.


Ana L. Cordal   


Renaissance Elementary & Middle Charter School

Ana Cordal wanted to be a journalist, but her career journey led her on a different path – to influence the lives of children. That passion took her from teacher to administrator. In 2003, she became principal at Renaissance Elementary Charter School and Renaissance Middle Charter School. Under her leadership, both campuses have been continuously recognized for academic achievements, including the U.S. Department of Education’s naming Renaissance Elementary a “No Child Left Behind” Blue Ribbon School. Cordal believes compassion has lasting effects. For the past 17 years, she has taken a group of fifth-graders to Everglades National Park for an environmental, educational camping trip. In 2012, she traveled to Haiti to deliver donations of school supplies and shared education best practices with teachers at the Passion Rescue Mission.


Brenda  J. Westhorp      


Westhorp & Associates Inc.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Brenda J. Westhorp immigrated to Miami when she was nine years old.  She was the first in her family to attend college. At the suggestion of her professor at Miami Dade College, she looked into the environmental engineering program and went on to earn a master’s in environmental engineering. She has worked at CH2M Hill in San Francisco as a senior engineer and later at Brown and Caldwell in the San Francisco Bay area, where she managed projects in California and Hawaii for three years before returning to Miami to open her own firm. She currently serves as president of Citizens for a Better South Florida, a non-profit organization dedicated to grass-roots, community based environmental education.  Her firm has been named Miami-Dade ASCE firm of the year twice in the last two years.


Kevin Sharpley  

President and CEO

Kijik Multimedia Inc.

Kevin Sharpley is president of Kijik Multimedia, a full-service production company specializing in integrated, branded and convergent media and in-house projects. His work includes films, television, documentary, commercials, music videos, web, multi-media, and event video production. Current projects include “Sove Nou,” narrated by Danny Glover, and the multi-media project “The Beach Chronicles,” featuring Daryl Hannah, Michael Chiklis and William Shatner. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, as well as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Film and Entertainment Advisory Board and executive director of CineVisun Transmedia and the Black Film Media Group, non-profit organizations that support independent film, media and entertainment. He serves on the Advisory Board of Hollywood Unites for Haiti. He is currently developing a community center for underserved youth programs in multi-media production.

Financial Services

Luis A. Castellanos       

Managing Director         

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Luis A. Castellanos has more than 20 years of international banking experience and has held a number of leadership roles in Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, including Credit, Trade Services, Regulatory Supervision, Business Development and the Enterprise Client Coverage group in Latin America, where he partnered with leaders and specialists from different lines of business to identify strategic client opportunities. Born in Cuba, he immigrated to the United States at the age of 14 and at 20 began his banking career at a commercial bank in Miami. 

Funeral Services

Fernando Caballero       

Owner and President

Ferdinand Funeral Homes and Crematory

Fernando Caballero is a fourth-generation funeral industry leader who opened Ferdinand Funeral Homes and Crematory in 2002. His passion for the mortuary business has taken him to Europe, where he worked as an independent acquisitions contractor for Stewart Enterprises and embarked on the privatization of funeral homes in Spain. Among his affiliations, Caballero is a member of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, National Funeral Directors Association, Florida Funeral Directors Association and Cremation Association of North America. He is also a member of the Key Biscayne Yacht Club and the Kiwanis Club.


Lourdes Rivas   


Simply Healthcare Plans Inc.

A veteran healthcare industry executive, Lourdes Rivas currently serves as Simply Healthcare’s chief executive officer. Upon graduating from MDC in 1987, she earned a psychology degree from Florida International University and went on to lead healthcare organizations in Florida and nationally. During her tenure with Simply Healthcare, she’s served as chief operating officer and helped expand operations to 31 Florida counties, created 600 jobs and launched its first HIV/AIDS Medicaid plan. Previously, she served as regional vice president for DentaQuest, chief operating officer for the former Atlantic Dental, chief executive officer of PrescribIT and senior vice president for United Home Care Services.

Hospitality & Tourism

Henry A. Delgado          

General Manager           

Smith & Wollensky Restaurant

As general manager of Smith & Wollensky in Miami Beach, Henry A. Delgado leads a team of 200 employees to the highest degree of customer service, attending to more than 350,000 customers per year. He began his career in hospitality in New York City, where he trained with Doral Hotels of New York and later worked at the Carlyle Hotel, HK Hotel, Morgan Hotel, and Penn Club of New York. He moved to Miami in 1996 and a year later joined Smith & Wollensky. He currently serves as Miami Chapter President for Restaurants for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. He is a member of the Greater Miami & Beaches Hotel Association and served on the Pillar Board of Trustees for Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he is a senior member of the Miami Beach Hospitality Coalition and has been involved with the Miami Wine Festival, supports the Miami Heat Foundation, Ronald McDonald Foundation, and is a board member of the Safe Haven Foundation for Newborns.

Journalism – Broadcast

E.R. Bert Medina

Vice President and General Manager      


As vice president and general manager of WPLG-TV, Bert Medina oversees the station and its digital channels (MeTV and Live Well network), as well at the station’s web and mobile sites and related applications. Previously, Medina has held a variety of executive management positions at both English and Spanish-language local and network television stations over 27 years, including Univision and WSVN. Most recently, he founded and led Cangas Communications, a media investment and management firm focused on commercial television stations, film/TV production and digital media assets in U.S. and global markets. Medina has served on the boards of the Museum of Science and Industry, Columbia College, Illinois State Broadcasters Association, the South Florida Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the American Marketing Association (Miami).  

Journalism – Print

Lisette A. García           


FOIA Resource Center

In 2013, Garcia founded FOIA Resource Center, a public records consulting firm. She assists lawmakers, journalists, and nonprofit organizations quickly and cost-effectively obtain executive agency records. Notable successes include verification of Dodd-Frank’s government transparency provisions; investigation of congressional staff exclusion from standard coverage under the Affordable Care Act; and allocation of border patrol officers and other resources among southern states. She was a reporter at The Miami Herald, features editor at the Kansas City Star and national editor for the Associated Press in New York. She is also a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and is currently pursuing a master’s in political science at George Washington University in Washington, DC.


Michael Mattimore        


Allen Norton & Blue P.A.

Michael Mattimore is a shareholder with Allen Norton & Blue, which exclusively practices labor and employment law in Florida. He has been with the firm since 1981, except for a four-year term (1987-1991) as chairman of the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission, where he oversaw all public sector labor relations in the state. He served as chairman under both Governor Martinez and Governor Chiles. Currently, Mattimore acts as chief negotiator for Governor Rick Scott in his role as the public employer for all state employees and as special counsel for litigation involving labor issues. He previously served as special labor counsel to Governor Chiles and as chief negotiator for Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. From 2007 to 2013, he was recognized by Florida Trend Magazine as a “Legal Elite Attorney”.

Literary Arts

Howard Camner           

Author and Poet

Howard Camner has had more than 2,000 poems published throughout the U.S., Great Britain and India, and 17 poetry books, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Poems from the Mud Room: Collected Works 1976 – 2012 and his autobiography, Turbulence at 67 Inches. In Miami, he was nominated for Poet Laureate of Florida at the age of 23. In Los Angeles, one of his screenplays, Duck Duck Goose, was placed in the Archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also produced, wrote, and hosted the comedy talk show Life is a Four-Letter Word, which was placed in the UCLA Film and Television Archives. Sound recordings of his poetry are in the permanent poetry collection of the Library of Congress. Camner has received several awards, including the First Annual MiPo Literary Award, the Fine Arts Press Poetry Award and was named Best Poet in Miami by the Miami New Times in 2007. He also represents the U.S. in the Poet 2000 Sculpted Library.

Marketing & Advertising

Roberto Capó   

Chief Marketing Officer  

El Dorado Furniture Corp.

Roberto Capó got his hands dirty and his passion ignited in his father’s furniture business, operating the forklift, working as a receiving clerk, and managing inventory, for many years. As the business grew, so did his responsibilities. After countless hours lending a hand after school, on weekends, and during summer break, Capóearned the title of chief marketing officer for El Dorado Furniture. Since taking the helm of that department, he’s helped transition the family business from a locally-known retailer to a globally-recognized company. In addition to his marketing duties, Capó finds the time to give back to the community that watched him grow. For the company’s 45th anniversary, El Dorado Furniture awarded 45 families more than a quarter-million dollars in furniture for their homes.


Dr. Deise Granado-Villar

Chief Medical Officer     

Miami Children’s Hospital

Dr. Deise Granado-Villar’s dreams of becoming a doctor were sparked as a child in her native Cuba. Today she is chief medical officer and senior vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Miami Children’s Hospital. She holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Miami, a medical degree from Universidad Central del Este and a master’s in public health administration from Florida International University. In addition to creating “Health on Wheels,” which has served more than 325,000 children since 1995, Dr. Granado-Villar pioneered the Miami-Dade County Campaign for the Children.  She has served as chair for the Council of Community Pediatrics. Among her many honors and accolades, she was named “Most Dynamic Woman of the Year” by the American Cancer Society.

Nonprofit Sector

Nannette M. Zapata       

Chief Operating Officer  

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Those who have indulged in the mouthwatering delicacies offered at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s annual Chocolate Festival have Nannette Zapata to thank. Named one of South Florida Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 top talents, Zapata oversees operations of the 85-acre horticultural jewel in Coral Gables. As the chief operating officer, she supervises nearly 100 employees and a budget of several million dollars. She is responsible for the Garden’s infrastructure, social media, membership, admissions, retail, facilities, marketing, special events, and donor relations. Zapata is also the editor of The Tropical Garden Magazine. Since joining the Garden in 2002, she has developed and implemented a series of events and exhibitions that celebrate diverse plant products including orchids and tropical fruit, as well as created a thriving art and sculpture garden.


Lourdes Camps

Chief Nursing Officer     

Hialeah Hospital

Lourdes Camps began her tenure as head nurse at Hialeah Hospital more than 30 years ago and has served as director of professional services, director of nursing and administrative director of critical care. She was appointed Hialeah Hospital’s chief nursing officer in 2007. A committed leader, Camps was recognized as an "accomplished professional" by the Hialeah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2006. She received an "award of merit" in recognition of outstanding achievement from the City of Hialeah in 2006 and was presented with the "Tenet President’s Award" for exemplary service as a managerial employee in 2003. Upon receiving her associate in nursing degree from MDC in 1985, she went on to earn a bachelor of science degree from Florida International University and a master’s of science in health service administration from Nova Southeastern University in 2000.

Performing Arts – Visual

Charo Oquet

Founding Executive Director and Curator

Edge Zones Art Projects

Charo Oquet created Zones Art Fair Miami in 2006 to coincide with Art Basel Miami. She founded the Miami Performance International Festival in 2012 and Performia1 in 2013. Her art work is found in the permanent collections of several museums in New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Spain, and Florida. Locally, it’s featured in the Bass, Fort Lauderdale and Frost Art Museums. She has also been featured in notable publications, including Atlantica, African Arts and Art in America. Oquet is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the Grand Prize in the Dominican Biennial of Santo Domingo, the South Florida Cultural Visual and Media Artists Fellowship, Florida Artists Fellowship, and the QE II Grant from the Arts Council of New Zealand. In addition, Oquet has authored and published four books: Miami Now, Wet, Wet II, and Supermix, which include the works of hundreds of Florida and international artists.

Public Administration

Juan M. Kuryla 



Juan Kuryla began his career with Miami-Dade County in the Parks and Recreation Department in 1987. For nearly three decades, he has worked in various positions at the County, including the Finance and Public Works departments, as well as the County Manager’s Office. He was recently appointed as director of PortMiami, after working for the busy South Florida seaport since 1998, where he served as assistant to the port director, deputy port director, and director designee. His new position calls for the overseeing operations and capital development for the largest cruise port in the world that served more than 4.8 million passengers last year. PortMiami generates more than 200,000 jobs and has a local economic impact totaling $28 billion. Kuryla is a member of the American Association of Port Authorities and chairs the PortMiami Crane Management Company. He has also been involved with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Ports Council.

Public Safety – Fire

Eric Lang         

Fire Chief         

Village of Key Biscayne Fire Rescue

Eric Lang was appointed as Key Biscayne’s fire chief in 2012, and throughout his 21-year career has held numerous high-profile titles including, public information officer, fire lieutenant, fire marshal, and deputy chief. Upon graduating from MDC in 2000, he earned a bachelor in public administration from Barry University and a master’s in business administration from the University of Miami. A prominent community leader, Lang sits on advisory committees for the Key Biscayne K-8 Center Educational Excellence School, the MDC Fire College, Key Biscayne Community Foundation Grant and recently, the Miami Firefighters Federal Credit Union Supervisory Committee. He was named Village of Key Biscayne Firefighter of the Year in 1999.

Public Safety – Police

J.D. Patterson Jr.          


Miami-Dade Police Department

J.D. Patterson Jr. was appointed director of the Miami Dade Police Department in 2013 and oversees more than 4,000 employees and a $526 million budget. A military veteran, Patterson’s tenure with the Miami-Dade Police spans 30 years. An ordained minister and community leader, Patterson is a volunteer for 5000 Role Models of Excellence and the Big Brother Big Sister Program. He received a bachelor degree in human resources from Barry University in 1995 and a master’s in public administration from the University of Miami in 1998. 

Public Service            

Ambassador Simon Ferro


Gunster Law Firm

They say a love of politics runs in the blood. This could not be truer for Simon Ferro. Inheriting his grandfather’s passion for government as a well-known and respected public figure in Cuba, Ferro followed in his footsteps, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Panama under President Bill Clinton. In this position, he oversaw the historic handover of the Panama Canal and numerous military installations to Panamanian control in 1999. Since then, he has been working as a land use and zoning attorney in government relations, representing residential, commercial, and industrial developers in the legal and administrative process. His accolades include The Best Lawyers in America, Government Relations Practice, Land Use & Zoning Law from 2011-14, as well as a Florida Super Lawyer and Latin Builders Association Attorney of the Year. 


Plácido E. Polanco       

Second/Third Baseman

St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins

Plácido Polanco is living the American Dream. Like many young boys growing up in the Dominican Republic, playing baseball for the U.S. Major Leagues was a constant in his mind. With his father’s encouragement and support, Polanco received a scholarship to play for MDC in 1992. His hard work paid off. Crediting his coach at MDC, Stephen Hertz, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Polanco just two years later, in 1994. Since then, he’s gone on to play second and third base, and short stop for the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, and Miami Marlins. During his time with the Tigers, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen, taking the oath at Comerica Park, prior to a game. His 16-year career has garnered him many honors, including the Silver Slugger Award, the All Star Award twice, and the Gold Glove Award three times. 



Daniel Rodriguez

Chief Technology Officer           

United Data Technologies Inc.

As chief technology officer at United Data Technologies (UDT), Daniel Rodriguez is responsible for all UDT technical services and solutions, including professional services engineering, technology consulting, client services and operations center, instructional technology and professional development solutions, audio visual solutions, internal information technology infrastructure, facilities, and project management. In his role as CTO he meets with some of the greatest innovators in the industry such as Intel, Microsoft and Cisco in order to assist his clients solve their biggest challenges in technology. Early in his career, Rodriguez was managing director for StrataSys Corporation, a Miami-based systems and network integration firm. He later became a senior systems engineer at EMC Corporation, where he was responsible for pre-sales systems engineering, client solutions, technology consulting, and strategic technology direction for many global Fortune 500 customers. Over the course of ten years, he worked his way up to Global Alliances, chief technology officer, and helped shape the vision for this industry leader.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino Florin, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.