I left the memorial service for Henry King Stanford, past president of the university, with mixed emotions.
As I listened to speakers relate stories of their interactions with Dr. Stanford, my eyes welled with tears as fond memories came back of my own interactions with this great man who shaped the future of the University of Miami.
But I was also confused. While I chose to wear a dark suit to the memorial service, I was surrounded by people, including President Shalala, wearing brightly-colored ceremonial jackets that I assume represented Iron Arrow. I earned two of my three degrees from Miami, the last being in 1990. I suppose that somehow, over the past 18 years, the culture at the U has changed from one in which those jackets were mainly seen at homecoming football games to one in which it is now acceptable to wear this jacket at events including a memorial service.
While distracted from parts of the memorial service by the contemplation of this brightly-colored garb, as I listened to the fine words spoken by former USBG President (1978-1979) Alicia Cervera Lamadrid and spotted former USBG President (1979-1980) Paul Novack in the audience, I noticed that they were not wearing any brightly-colored jackets. It was then that I was truly saddened.
It was under the leadership of USBG presidents such as Cervera Lamadrid and Novack, as well as university President Henry King Stanford, that Iron Arrow was forced to leave campus because they did not accept women into their ranks. Ultimately, Iron Arrow came to see the error of their ways and now includes women in their membership. Nonetheless, and while the current female university president is a member, these “mavericks” who helped shaped the future of Iron Arrow to include women were never recognized by that same organization for their brave stand or their tremendous contributions to the university through their service as USBG presidents. In no small way, Dr. Shalala is a member of Iron Arrow today because of the courageous stand that leaders such as Ms. Lamadrid and Mr. Novack took with the support of Dr. Stanford in the 1970s. The fact that Iron Arrow’s proclamation of being “the university’s highest honor” may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that those who not only contributed so much to the university but also took a brave stance on Iron Arrow were never recognized by that organization calls into question whether Iron Arrow is truly “the university’s highest honor.”
As I sat in the audience, I couldn’t help but think that the fond memory of our greatest university leader who similarly fought for the rights of women on campus, including the right to a membership in Iron Arrow, was marred by the display of the bright colors at his memorial service.
Perhaps it is time to create a new honor society that truly is worthy of the designation of being the university’s highest honor. One that recognizes academic excellence, service to the university, attitude, demeanor and ethical conduct. That honor society should be named after the man who embodied all of those qualities and more: The Stanford Honor Society.
Bradley S. Feuer