Between sobs, Edward “Thad” Thaddeus Foote III listed mantras his dad lived by: Always carry a Swiss Army knife (you never know when you will have a naked graham cracker that needs peanut butter); never be late for dinner (that’s when you talk about your day); and if there is a fish lurking, catch it (it’ll make a nice dinner.)
The younger Foote remembered his father, Edward “Tad” Thaddeus Foote II, who served as the University of Miami’s fourth president, Tuesday at a memorial ceremony filled will laughs, memories and tears.
Among Thad’s favorite memories: When his dad was sworn in as UM’s president in 1981.
“He stood on stage dressed in a black robe and there were all these other formally dressed black-robed folks up on stage... pomp and circumstance,” he recalled. “More importantly, however, to an 8-year-old, which I was at the time, he found me in the crowd and he made eye contact with me, just briefly, and he flashed me a little wave, which clearly made an impression on me. It made me feel important.”
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More than 500 former and current UM faculty members, trustees, friends, alumni and family members packed the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall to remember Foote, who served from 1981 to 2001 and is credited with transforming UM from Suntan U into an academically rigorous university. Foote, who was remembered as a leader, musician, funny man and friend, died Feb 15 at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson’s.
“He was generous, compassionate and an outstanding leader,” said Rhonda DuBord, who recently retired as UM’s associate director of wellness and recreation, who came out for the memorial. “He meant a lot to everyone.”
With the help of a 10-minute video that gave a snapshot of Foote’s tenure at the university, colleagues and friends spoke about Foote’s ability to make tough decisions and follow through.
It was because of him that academic standards were raised, increasing the SAT score needed to be accepted, they said. It was because of him and his late wife, Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote, that the university transformed from an “unattractive” campus to a beautiful one, a professor recalled. Foote also helped grow the university and added the School of Architecture, School of Communication and the Graduate School of International Studies.
His wife, who died in May 2015, was also remembered as playing an important role in Foote’s success. On Tuesday, UM’s current president, Julio Frenk, announced the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize, which will be given to a member of the UM community — faculty, staff, student, or trustee — who has made a meaningful contribution to the beauty of the campus. The first prize will be awarded on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.
William Fulbright Foote recalled sitting in his father’s room at the East Ridge nursing facility in Cutler Bay with other family members the day before he died doing what they did best — harmonizing. William Foote said singing Jimmy Buffett’s A Pirate Looks at Forty was fitting because his dad was a dreamer:
And in your belly you can hold the treasures
Few have ever seen
Most of them dream
Most of them dream