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University of Miami Announces 2022 Athletics Trailblazer Award Winners

University of Miami Announces 2022 Athletics Trailblazer Award Winners

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami announced Friday the 2022 winners of the University of Miami Athletics Trailblazer Award.

Two former student-athletes—Aisha Chow (rowing, 1995-99) and Burgess Owens (football, 1970-72)—as well as former University President Donna Shalala—comprise the 2022 class of University of Miami Athletics Trailblazer Award winners.

Miami Athletics launched the award in 2021 to honor and recognize current and former student-athletes of color and others affiliated with athletics who have distinguished themselves as pioneers and game changers in sports and life. The award originates from the Diversity and Inclusion unit within the athletic department.

“We are proud to recognize Aisha, Burgess and Donna with our 2022 Trailblazer Award,” Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said. “They have all distinguished themselves with their pioneering spirit and commitment to public service, and we are thankful for everything they have done—and continue to do—for the University of Miami.”

The University will recognize Chow, Owens, and Shalala throughout the month of February as part of its Black History Month initiatives.

“We are excited and honored to recognize these trailblazing Canes with the University of Miami Athletics Trailblazer Award,” said Dr. Renae Myles Payne, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Chief Diversity Officer. “It’s important for us to share their stories so we can continue to educate everyone on the historical impact they have made on our athletic department, our University, and our community.”

Chow competed on the University’s rowing team from 1995-99, arrived at Miami on an academic scholarship before trying out rowing as a novice. She quickly found success and was thrust into the top varsity boat as a freshman. Chow helped the Hurricanes excel at notable regattas, including Head of the Hooch, and helped the team become one of the top programs at the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship. As a junior, Chow was part of the U’s varsity eight that won a title at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship in 1997-98. Chow later competed in two Summer Olympics for Trinidad & Tobago—Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020—becoming the first Olympic rower in her country’s history.

After graduating from Miami, Chow earned her Ph.D. in pharmacology from Duke University. For the past 16 years she has worked for FibroGen, Inc., first as a research scientist and now as associate director of cell biology, where she is the program lead for one of FibroGen’s pre-clinical molecule oncology programs.

Owens was a stellar defensive back for the Hurricanes from 1970-72. He amassed 160 career tackles, eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior. He was named Defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl before getting selected by the New York Jets with the 13th overall pick of the 1973 NFL Draft—one spot behind teammate Chuck Foreman. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UM in biology with a minor in chemistry.

Owens played seven seasons for the Jets before moving on to the Raiders, where he played three seasons and was a member of Oakland’s Super Bowl XV winning squad. He was the first Black student-athlete inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2020, Owens was elected to national office, capturing the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Utah’s fourth congressional district. He is also founder, board member, and CEO of Second Chance 4 Youth, a nonprofit he founded in 2019 dedicated to helping troubled and incarcerated youth.

Shalala served as president of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015. She was previously chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and president of Hunter College. During her tenure, the University of Miami solidified its position among top U.S. research universities. The University’s two successful Momentum campaigns raised $3 billion in support for the University’s endowment, academic and research programs, and facilities.

While on leave from the University, Shalala served as president of the Clinton Foundation from June 2015 to March 2017. In 1993 President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. At the end of her tenure, a Washington Post article described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.” In 2008 the Council on Excellence in Government named Shalala one of the greatest public servants of the past 25 years. In 2011 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, and in 2014 she was recognized by the Harry S. Truman Library with the Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award and received the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor, the Sand in My Shoes Award, for her significant contributions to the community.

Shalala most recently served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida’s 27th congressional district.