Opinion

Former president Foote transformed UM with academic idealism

I never knew Edward “Tad” Foote II.

Foote left the University of Miami, where he had been president for 20 years since 2001. At the time, I was in sixth grade and didn’t know what college was. I consider it a testament to his vision that the opportunities I now face and the grief I feel at his passing are both so complex and rich. Such were the qualities of his life in reflection.

He led a life of personal integrity and kaleidoscopic experience. His decades-long marriage to his wife Bosey was, by all accounts, a rock of stability in his life. His resume included stints in the Marines like John Glenn, at a Midwestern newspaper like Ernest Hemingway, and as a law professor like Barack Obama.

Of course, leading an institution like the University of Miami to prominence over such a long period would be enough to make a career. He had the stats to point to: an increase in endowment by an order of magnitude; a jump in the average incoming freshman SAT scores by 200 points; unprecedented accomplishments in research and scholarship.

I also think of the personal characteristics that would lead him to a place like this in the first place.

Let’s be clear: Miami in 1981 was not much to write about. The school had until recently been a de facto open-admission campus, and it was swollen with students who didn’t even consider that there should be a ‘U’ in “Suntan U.” By contrast, Foote had been serving as the dean of the Law School of Washington University in St. Louis, the oldest private law school west of the Mississippi River.

He was only 43, but already had a promising outlook for the rest of his academic career. Like any American at their best, he saw opportunity where others saw risk, and thus he came down to South Florida for good.

While here, he built institutions that lifted up people. Cognizant of the gap between town and gown, he founded the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community. This was at a time when Scarface and Miami Vice were thought to be representations of South Florida.

He arrived with a vision that our school should one day aspire to be a “Harvard of the South,” and it was his academic idealism that, to me, is the foundation on which the rest of his legacy rests. We’ve had a few presidents, and in general, they have a building named after them when they leave.

It would have been fitting for Foote, who increased the architecture of campus by 50 buildings in his time. But instead, he opted instead for something truer to form: a fellowship program for undergraduates that would let them tailor their own educations.

I came to this school in part because of a Foote Fellowship, and I’ve made many of my best friends who came in with the same impression of UM that I held: this is a school that recognizes potential and opportunity, and this is a school that is willing to invest in possibilities. That’s what I think of when I think of Tad Foote, and I’m sorry to hear that he is gone.

Patrick Quinlan is a senior majoring in political science and international studies.

February 19, 2016

Reporters

Patrick Quinlan


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Two came back to win a national championship and earn their degrees. The other is just a junior but ...

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

UM dining services team earns national recognition for special event catering. ...

From hammerheads to great whites, University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag is a dedicated sp ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.