In his inaugural address as president of the University of Miami, Edward “Tad” Foote II noted that he wanted to raise the profile of the University, both academically and aesthetically. And during his two decades in office, he often credited his wife, Bosey Foote, with helping in those accomplishments.
“Bosey’s contribution to the University has been tremendous,” Foote once said. “The most obvious example is the campus environment, but no one will ever truly know how important she has been to the University of Miami, except me. We’ve done this together.”
Roberta “Bosey” Foote, UM’s former first lady who made it her mission to turn UM’s grounds into a “Campus in a Tropical Garden” and was at President Foote’s side for numerous University occasions during his 20 years in office, passed away on May 5, 2015, after a long battle with cancer.
She was 76.
“Bosey Foote was a devoted partner and parent and a pillar of the University of Miami community,” said UM President Donna E. Shalala. “She was always at Tad’s side in helping to raise this University to new heights, and she served this institution with strength and grace and was the driving force behind turning our Coral Gables campus into the beautiful botanical garden that it is today.”
When Bosey Foote arrived at the University of Miami in 1981 with her husband, who was previously dean of the law school at Washington University in St. Louis, her attention to the physical beauty of the Coral Gables campus became evident, and over the years, UM, as part of an extensive beautification program, transformed its landscaping—among other things, planting a palmetum featuring palms and cycads from several countries.
“I attribute so much of what our campus looks like today to Bosey’s remarkable leadership,” said former Vice President for Student Affairs William R. Butler, noting that she often met with senior administrators on plans to beautify the campus.
Bosey Foote became an ardent supporter of the University’s John C. Gifford Arboretum, a collection of rare plants and trees maintained primarily for educational and research purposes but also to inspire interest in and greater appreciation for tropical plants.
During her 20 years as UM’s first lady, Bosey Foote also worked to improve the status of women at the University, and in 2001 at the 30th Annual Women’s Commission Breakfast, she was recognized for those efforts with the May A. Brunson Award, named after UM’s second dean of women.
She also cared tremendously for UM’s student body, which was most evident at UM’s freshman picnics held at the Footes’ Coral Gables residence. “She was always out there with Tad, walking around, talking with students, showing great interest in what they had to say,” recalls Butler. “She represented the University as a first lady in extraordinary ways.”
Born Roberta Waugh Fulbright, she was the daughter of the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, the prominent and gifted American statesman of the 20th century who initiated the international exchange program for scholars known as the Fulbright scholarship.
Along with her husband, she gave unselfishly to the University of Miami, contributing primarily to the Foote Fellows Program, a scholarship initiative for highly motivated students who enter the University with advanced knowledge in several disciplines and demonstrate intellectual rigor and interest in a broad-based curriculum.
The Footes are 2001 Ashe Society members, with generous donations toward the Edward T. and Roberta Foote Fellows Program Fund and the President’s Initiative.
She is survived by her husband and three children, Julia, William, and Thaddeus, and eight grandchildren.
Flags on the Gables campus will be at half staff in her honor.
A memorial service is scheduled to be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 29, 2015, at the Edward T. Foote II University Green on the Coral Gables campus. A reception will follow. Those planning to attend are requested to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-284-2875.