Paralympic Athlete Ileana Rodriguez

Ileana Rodriguez joined the world’s top athletes at the 2012 London Paralympic Games as one of only eight paralympic athletes on Team USA.

While a competitive swimmer in Cuba, Ileana Rodriguez ’08, M.Arch ’11 developed Arterial Venus Malformation inside her spinal cord, leaving her athlete’s body permanently weakened. At 13, the swimmer and ballerina was told she would never walk again.

Two years later, Rodriguez emigrated to Miami and joined the swim team at Palmetto High School. After enrolling at FIU, she took a hiatus from training, focusing instead on her architecture studies. In 2008, she rekindled her childhood dreams of Olympic glory and was the only South Florida swimmer at the Paralympic Trials.

Rodriguez holds the American record in the 200-meter breaststroke. She was seventh in the 100-meter breaststroke at 2012 Paralympic Games.

Rodriguez now works as an architect with the United States Olympic committee on their renovation project in Colorado Springs.

Attorney and Author Elizabeth Price Foley

A self-described “recovering liberal” turned classical libertarian, Elizabeth Price Foley is passionate about educating all Americans about the Constitution, its original meaning, and the importance of preserving its structure and principles.

Elizabeth Price Foley is the chair of constitutional litigation at the Institute of Justice, a nonprofit that represents citizens whose rights have been violated by the government. As an FIU College of Law professor, Foley teaches constitutional law, healthcare law and bioethics, and civil procedure. She writes about constitutional law and its intersection with health care law/bioethics.

Foley clerked for the Honorable Carolyn Dineen King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and spent several years on Capitol Hill as a health policy advisor. She served as a member of the committee on embryonic stem cell guidelines at the Institute of Medicine, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the National University of Ireland.

Student Philanthropist Ximena Prugue

Ximena Prugue believes that the future of energy consumption relies on educating and enticing the next generation to get involved.

Ximena Prugue is a mechanical engineering undergraduate student and research assistant at Florida International University, working at the Applied Research Center as a Department of Energy Fellow. She is also the founder of Giving the Green Light, a non-profit organization that replaces kerosene lamps in rural India with solar powered lighting to alleviate energy poverty. Prugue received the Clinton Global Initiative Outstanding Commitment Award for her work on Giving the Green Light. Prugue was the United Nation’s Environmental Programme’s official blogger for World Environment Day 2011 in India and awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award by Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix in 2010.

Musician/Composer Tony Succar

Tony Succar has  turned the King of Pop’s iconic work into salsa hits.

Assembling an exceptional production team and international artists, Tony Succar ’08, MA ’10  has created the UNITY Project, a collaboration that fuzes American pop, jazz, tropical, and world music using Michael Jackson’s music.The UNITY album’s first single, “I Want You Back” was No. 3 on Latin DJs’ top songs list after only one week on the air.

A bandleader, percussionist, producer, composer and arranger, Succar is a diverse artist who has played with musical greats such as Arturo Sandoval, Néstor Torres, Tito Nieves and La India. “Manipula Dora,” the first salsa song Succar wrote, took first place on the show “Salsa y Punto.” He is currently the director of “Tony Succar y Mixtura;” the orchestra performs a unique blend of traditional influenced latin music with modern variations.

In 2012, Succar became the youngest artist-in-residence at FIU.

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Dr. Pedro “Joe” Greer

Pedro Greer has dedicated his career to help bring health care to those who can’t afford it.

Dr. Pedro J. Greer has an unwavering commitment to those without access to health care. For his work, he was honored as a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” Fellow in 1993 and, most recently, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 from President Obama. Dr. Greer is board certified in Medicine and Gastroenterology and has been practicing in Miami since 1991. He is the founder of Camillus Health Concern and Saint John Bosco to provide health care for the homeless, undocumented, uninsured, and low income. Better known as “Joe,” Dr. Greer wrote Waking up in America, an autobiographical account of caring the homeless. In July 2007, Dr. Greer joined the newly established Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, and among his duties, spearheads a unique undergraduate medical education program to educate highly skilled, ethical, and culturally-competent physicians attuned to the complex health and social needs of South Florida’s diverse populations.

Extra-Galactic Astronomer James Webb

James Webb is FIU’s resident astronomer. With unrivaled enthusiasm for space exploration, the physics professor has introduced the university and South Florida community to the universe.

Every semester, James Webb steps out of the classroom and hosts a series of star parties. These events feature a lecture designed so anyone can understand the complexity of the universe and are capped off by a chance at some stargazing.

For 20 years, Webb has worked to build an on-campus observatory. In 2012, FIU broke ground on the Stocker AstroScience Center, a four-story astronomy observatory that will benefit 700 students every semester.

When he is not teaching or speaking at local museums or planetariums, Webb performs with his guitar at local coffee shops. His repertoire includes original songs like “The Black Hole Song.”

The director of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory, Webb has had access to five satellite observatories and been awarded 15 research grants.

Extreme Events Researcher Richard Olson

Richard Olson travels the world preparing communities for the unthinkable.

Richard Olson, professor and director of extreme events research has devoted his career to disasters. Since the 1980’s, Olson has focused his academic work on disaster research, arguing that catastrophes are inherently and inescapably political. Olson is now director of the newly-created Extreme Events Institute, which will study the varying ways that disasters affect a society. Under the Institute’s purview, for example, is the 12-fan Wall of Wind, the first-of-its-kind facility to simulate a Category 5 hurricane. Research from the WoW will help communities better prepare and quickly recover for destructive storms.

Student Leader Philip Koenig

International relations student Philip Koenig is the founder and president of Leading Miami, a non-profit organization that hosts leadership development workshops in middle schools throughout Miami-Dade County.

At FIU, Philip Koenig is the Student Government Association’s chief of staff. He supervises 28 cabinet members and supports the administration in overseeing a $15 million budget. He also serves as vice president of recruitment for Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Born in the city of Hamburg, Germany, Koenig moved to Manchester, England at the age of two, then to London at the age of five. After having spent a majority of his life in England, Koenig moved to Florida in 2006. He is fluent in English, German and Spanish.

Leading Miami ‘s 10-week workshops include lessons on team management, public speaking and overall personal presentation. The organization started with two people in 2009 and has now grown to more than 25 team members serving 15 schools.


The program will be hosted by:

FIU Alumnus Alberto Padron

Alberto PadronA two-time graduate of FIU, Alberto Padron is a marketing professional who fell in love with TED a few years ago when he was seeking inspiration at work.

The big ad agency he works for was on the eve of pitching a big new account. Padron was on the pitch team. He googled “How to create a movement” and was led to a TED Talk by the same name. Padron got fired up. The agency won the account. And TED got another fan.

Padron has worked for some of the country’s most recognized brands including Ford Motor Company, American Airlines and Walgreens, among others. He is just as proud of his marketing work with nonprofit organizations such as Convent House, which assists homeless youth in New York City, and The Christian Appalachian Project, an organization that supports the poorest among us along the Appalachian Trail. Padron is on the board of the Advertising Federation of Miami.

In addition to advertising and marketing, Padron can be found blogging about culture and society, spending time with his family or attending an FIU athletic event.

Padron is on the FIU Alumni Association Board of Directors.