Cyrus "Russ" Jollivette, a civic leader, a former senior administrator at the University of Miami and the nephew of longtime Miami Times publisher, Garth Reeves, died Monday. He was 71.
Jollivette, an alumnus of UM's law school, worked at the university for 24 years — from 1977 to 2001 — and served in multiple senior-level positions during his tenure there, including as executive assistant to former UM President Edward "Tad" Foote, the university said.
The two had similar career paths — they were both lawyers who became journalists and then administrators in higher education.
Julia Foote LeStage, Foote's daughter, said Jollivette was "one of the heroes in my household" and part of her father's "brain trust" at UM.
"There was not one part of Dad's tenure and impact as President that was touched and built without Russ," she said in a statement. "He is part of the foundation of the University of Miami — the bedrock, or coral rock, on which it is built. How fortunate we all are to have this legacy all around us."
Jollivette died "unexpectedly from unknown causes" in Miami, said his daughter Lynn Jollivette Johns. Jollivette is survived by his daughter, two sisters — Regina Jollivette Frazier and Cleo L. Jollivette — and two grandchildren.
Prior to working at UM, Jollivette was managing editor from 1971-77 of the Miami Times, the black-owned newspaper founded by Reeves' father in 1923. In 2011, the National Newspaper Publishers Association recognized the paper as the top black newspaper in the country.
After leaving UM, Jollivette served in several high-level capacities at insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield Florida, including as vice president, before opening his own public relations firm in 2014. While there, he helped develop a generous gift to UM’s School of Nursing and Health Studies for scholarships for minority nursing students.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, founder of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, said her childhood friend "had a sense of humor and enjoyed questioning others to see if they knew obscure facts he had learned."
The two met at Mrs. Adderly's nursery school at Booker T. Washington High in Overtown.
When Jollivette was managing editor for the Miami Times, their paths crossed again, as Fields wrote occasional columns for the paper. Today, Fields writes a column on black history in the Miami Herald's Neighbors section.
Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who knew Jollivette in his capacity as a lobbyist, called him "a wonderful person and friend" and said she and her husband were "saddened by his sudden passing."
“Lobbyists get a bad name in many towns, but Russ was an advocate anyone could be proud of and want to deal with, which is no easy feat," she said in a statement. "He was a warm, jovial guy who was also credible and knowledgeable about issues."
Jollivette's wake will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 415 NE 105th St. in Miami Shores. His funeral Mass will take place at the church at 10 a.m. the following day.
In addition to his daughter, Jollivette is survived by his sisters Regina Jollivette Frazier and Cleo L. Jollivette.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Ritz Chamber Music Society in Jacksonville, where Jollivette served as chairman.