Ds Scholarship

Anh-Kay Pizano, who inspired Tampa Latino students like her, dead at 45

TAMPA — Anh-Kay Pizano helped people reach their goals across wide swaths of the Tampa community.

She served as a gatekeeper for would-be doctors as assistant director of admissions and scholarships at USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine. She volunteered with the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council, raising money to send Latinos to the University of South Florida and encouraging students to pursue higher education as a means of diversifying the workforce through the council’s Development Accelerator for Latinos Education.

She was the pride of the local Cuban community — an immigrant and daughter of immigrants who eagerly made phone calls in English for her Spanish-speaking family, an honors graduate from the Jefferson High School class of 1994, and a scholarship student who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USF before receiving her Ph.D. in community college education.

Ms. Pizano, who had suffered from depression, took her own life March 3, her family confirmed.

“She always worked to lift up others,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. “Though we will miss her dearly, her impact and legacy will carry on in the lives she changed forever.”

Castor will be among members of the local Hispanic community, USF community and from across Tampa who are expected to attend a celebration of life for Ms. Pizano from 4 pm to 5:30 pm Friday at the University of South Florida Alumni Center’s Traditions Hall, 11810 Sago Dr.

“Her passion was to help others excel,” said her brother, Rafael Pizano. “We celebrate her labor of love. Her efforts will not be forgotten.”

Ms. Pizano was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to Tampa in 1983 as her parents went into exile. She was the daughter of the late Beatriz Pizano and Roberto Pizano, 83, a former political prisoner in Cuba and a leader in the local movement to oust the island nation’s communist regime. She had two siblings, Cecilia, 49, and Rafael, 41, a firefighter who also is a leader of the local Cuba dissident movement.

Divorced in 2011, Ms. Pizano has a daughter, Belize, now 17. She was engaged to be married to Edwing Daniel, assistant dean of admissions and scholarships at the Morsani College of Medicine.

When she arrived in Tampa, Ms. Pizano didn’t know English but she learned fast, determined to study and make new friends.

“She was the one who made the phone calls for the whole family in English because my parents were workers and only spoke Spanish,” her brother said. “Anh-Kay always liked to help. She was proud of her roots and of being bilingual.”

She was the first student to receive a USF scholarship from Club 15, a Cuban-American nonprofit that has helped low-income families and a minority students in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years.

“We have always been very proud of her accomplishments, ever since she was a student,” said Bellita Canasi, 93, former president of Club 15. “Anh-Kay was a dedicated mother and a woman who worked hard to improve herself and achieve her goals, including her doctorate.”

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Ms. Pizano joined the College of Medicine in November 2015 and later she was appointed director of medical doctor admissions and scholarships.

“Anh-Kay was an amazing person with a huge heart who impacted countless students as they applied and were admitted into our MD program,” said Dr. Bryan Bognar, College of Medicine professor and vice-dean of educational affairs. “She was also beloved by many within USF, across USF Health and throughout Tampa Bay. Our hearts are broken with this loss.”

Ms. Pizano had been invited to speak in April to a group of Hillsborough Community College Honors College students who take part in a community leadership program, said Odette Figueruelo, a language and education professor in the program.

Her perseverance inspired many of her own friends, including Sylvia Parker, a Tampa business consultant.

“Ironically enough, she inspired me to go back to school to finish my degree,” Parker said. “She was an inspiration to all of us and impacted us in one way or another. Her untimely death is still surreal for many of us. We were so blessed to have known the essence of who she was.”

Ms. Pizano volunteered last summer to co-chair the annual Latinos Unidos Luncheon of the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council, which raises money for college scholarships, said Brian Serrano, council chairman. She has rallied the luncheon committee with her demand for, “All hands on deck,” and this year’s event promises to be one of the best ever, said Parker, who serves on the committee.

“As our leader, she wanted every one of us to do our part to make the event a success,” Serrano said. “Her call to us made an impression, and ‘All hands on deck’ became a mantra.”

“All hands on deck” has become the motto of the Hispanic Advisory Council.

The luncheon will be dedicated to Ms. Piano. It will be held May 11 at Armature Works on the Tampa River Walk.


Anh-Kay Pizano

Born: Oct. 13, 1976

Died: March 3, 2022

Survivors: Daughter Belize, father Roberto, brother Rafael, sister Carmen, and nephew Roberto, as well as several cousins. She was predeceased by her mother Beatriz Pizano. She was engaged to be married to Edwing Daniel.

Service: A Celebration of the Life of Anh-Kay Pizano will be held 4 pm to 5:30 pm Friday, March 18, at the USF Alumni Center’s Traditions Hall, 11810 Sago Dr. Signs will direct guests to a free parking location.

Need help?

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.

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