Edward Thaddeus “Tad” Foote II, who had a tremendous influence on the growth and development of the University of Miami for more than two decades, passed away on Monday, February 15. As the school’s fourth president, he significantly raised the academic and research stature of the school, spearheaded a capital fundraising campaign that was the second largest in the history of American higher education at the time, and instituted a series of other reforms that ranged from improved facilities to new academic programs.
He was 78.
"President Foote’s tenure as president from 1981 to 2001 was marked by a far-reaching and rigorous pursuit of academic excellence that helped to distinguish our students and faculty among the finest in the nation," said UM President Julio Frenk. "Together with his late wife, Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote, they made Miami their home, and we are a far better and stronger institution and community thanks to them."
"He was a remarkable leader and a real gentleman," said former UM President Donna E. Shalala. "The University improved greatly under his tenure."
A former dean of the law school at Washington University in St. Louis, Foote was only 43 when he succeeded Henry King Stanford as UM president in 1981.
Read the Spring 2001 Miami magazine story where UM President Edward T. Foote II reflects on his tenure.
Review "A President's Legacy," a tribute book published in celebration of UM President Edward T. Foote II's 20 year tenure as president.
Miami Herald: Long-serving president of UM 'Tad' Foote dies
The Miami Hurricane: Edward T. Foote II, UM's Fourth President, Passes Away
When Foote arrived at UM, there was arguably no more challenging a time to serve in any leadership role in Miami-Dade County, which faced intractable problems that painted a disturbing picture for the metropolitan area, creating a ripple effect that impacted nearly every industry and institution, even higher education.
Between the time he was hired and when he welcomed his first freshman class, more than 1,000 students, some of them probably influenced by the bad press garnered by the city, had withdrawn to study elsewhere, sending the University spiraling into a budget crisis. So much for the honeymoon.
But Foote, who said he was “convinced early on that the University of Miami was one of the most exciting institutions in the nation,” turned that initial shortfall of students into a major element of UM’s first long-term strategic plan: The University would get smaller to get better.
And so it did—over two dynamic decades of growth to be precise, with Foote always at the helm.
Foote’s youth belied his experience and the farsighted vision he had for the University. His strategy of admitting fewer and fewer students, allowed UM to become more selective, and as a result, the caliber of students improved significantly. It was just one of the many ingenious moves on his part.
A defining moment in his still-young presidency came in 1984 with the launch of the Campaign for the University of Miami, the fundraising goal of which was unclear heading into an important Board of Trustees meeting. A $200 million figure was the generally accepted goal, but Foote surprised trustees at the meeting by proposing a $500 million campaign. They settled on $400 million, but in the end, Foote actually won out, as the campaign raised a staggering $517.5 million, surpassing even his expectations.
Three new schools—the School of Architecture, School of Communication, and the Graduate School of International Studies—opened during Foote’s tenure. He transformed the University’s residence halls into residential colleges modeled after those at Oxford, Cambridge, and Yale. He made research a top priority and focused attention on strategic interdisciplinary initiatives.
The number of full-time faculty members increased by 560. He built numerous buildings, among them the James L. Knight Physics Building, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the R. Bunn Gautier Biochemistry Building, the School of Law Library, the Wellness Center, the Science Laboratories and Administration Building at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the L. Austin Weeks Center for Recording and Performance, the J. Neville McArthur Engineering Annex, the James W. McLamore Executive Education Center/Storer Auditorium, the Frances L. Wolfson Building, the Lois Pope LIFE Center, and the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute.
The University’s endowment grew almost tenfold during Foote’s tenure, from $47.4 million in 1981 to $465.2 million in 2000. Competitive research funding (sponsored programs expenditures) escalated from $58.1 million in 1981 to $193.9 million in 2000. Philanthropic dollars multiplied, surpassing $100 million for the first time in 2000.
UM became a national power in collegiate athletics under Foote, winning four national championships in football and three College World Series titles during his presidency. The school also reinstated the men’s basketball program.
Foote was a staunch defender of women’s rights. Shortly after becoming UM president, he advised the once all-male Iron Arrow Honor Society—the highest honor one can attain at the University—that it would not be allowed back on campus unless it decided to admit women. Foote’s firm hand prevailed, and in 1985 a motion to allow women into the honor society was passed at a special meeting (after no less than six previous attempts), and the tribe returned to the University of Miami campus. Foote was tapped into Iron Arrow in 1986.
When Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Florida in 1992—delaying the start of fall classes—Foote led the University community through a swift and complete recovery effort. Within a year, the campuses were not just back to normal, they were better than ever.
Foote was just as influential in the outside community, tackling Miami’s drug and crime problems head-on. He rallied Miami’s power elite to create The Miami Coalition For A Safe and Drug-Free Community, of which he was founding chairman. The broad-based task force approached the community’s drug problems from every conceivable angle—establishing treatment programs, destroying crack houses, securing federal funding to strengthen law enforcement, identifying money laundering schemes, creating drug-free school zones, educating the public, and developing drug-free workplace policies. The coalition became a national and international model for community-based anti-drug programs.
Foote was recognized and honored for his leadership by both the University and South Florida community. He received the University of Miami Faculty Senate’s James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award, the National Conference for Community and Justice’s Distinguished Community Service Award, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Sand In My Shoes Award, and the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald’s Charles Whited Spirit of Excellence Award.
In honor of its late president, UM established the Foote Fellows Honors 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 University also renamed the green space in front of its Richter Library in honor of Foote.
A native of Milwaukee, Foote earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a law degree from Georgetown University.
He was predeceased by his wife, Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote, who is credited with transforming the campus into one that is internationally recognized for the beauty of its landscape design. Foote frequently referred to the importance of their partnership in leading UM. She passed away last May.
He is survived by three children—Julia, William, and Thaddeus—and eight grandchildren.