José Milton Foundation Unveiling Ceremony

Fr. Willie ‘87 | President
(Father Willie delivered this speech at the José Milton Foundation Unveiling Ceremony on February 1, 2023. Click here to watch the ceremony. Click here to view the photo album.)

In 1961, when a small group of Jesuit priests made their way to the shores of South Florida from the shores of Havana, Cuba, they kept alive the hope that the extraordinary education they had provided for Cuban children for over 100 years would not die at the hands of the heartless dictatorship that had seized from them what they worked so hard to establish. Through the generosity of so many and the tenacity of faith so typical of the sons of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Belen Jesuit was not only able to survive, but thrive.
While it is true the first Belen campus in Little Havana was a far cry from the extraordinary building of Marianao, Cuba, it was home for 20 years to many young men while the Jesuits found a way to better their circumstances. That circumstance happened in 1981 when they made their way west down 8th Street and settled on these 33 acres of land that truly define the beauty and greatness of a Jesuit education. It did not happen by itself, but thanks to so many who desired only the continuation of a tradition of educational excellence.
In our archives, there is a photograph I have looked at on many occasions. It pictures Fr. Pérez-Lerena, then president of Belen Jesuit, standing by a sign at the time located right there on the corner of 6th Street and 127th Avenue. Behind him was an empty lot with a lake, what a very select few envisioned as the next campus of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. Next to Fr. Pérez-Lerena was one of those visionaries, Lázaro Milton, who would build this new building. On the sign could be read the name of another one of those visionaries, José Milton, whose generosity would fund it.
Since then, the Miltons have been an integral part of the dynamic success of Belen Jesuit. Thanks to them, thousands of young men have been able to sit in classrooms, walk through hallways, and play in fields in order to receive the best education Miami and the Society of Jesus could provide.
And now, here we are again. Over forty years later, it is the sons of José Milton and nephews of Lázaro Milton who stand in front of this building. They have followed in their father’s and family’s footsteps and answered the call that has not and will not allow an incredible dream to die. They are actively assuring the future of a thriving Jesuit community that continues to provide an extraordinary education to young men from all over our Miami community.
This building behind me was not only built by a Milton and first funded by a Milton, but also had various Miltons study under its roof. Cecil Milton from the extraordinary class of 1987, Frank Milton from the class of 1988, José Milton from the class of 1982, Nicolas Milton from the class of 2017 and Justin Milton class of 2018 have made their father and grandfather proud by investing in the formation of the future leaders of South Florida.
The 4.5-million-dollar donation from their family foundation they have pledged to Belen responds to the future needs of our school and will help continue to spark the diversity initiatives of their school. It is this generosity and their family history that makes it only appropriate that the very building their father and uncle built, the very building they themselves studied in, be renamed in their honor.
On behalf of the Jesuits in Miami, the administration, faculty, staff, parents and alumni of Belen Jesuit, thank you to the Milton family for your generosity and kindness. Thank you for your love and support of Belen Jesuit, our alma mater, our home.
500 SW 127th Avenue, Miami, FL 33184
phone: 305.223.8600 | fax: 305.227.2565 | email:
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.