Foote Prize recipients recognized for dedication to sustainability

The Cobb Fountain on the Coral Gables Campus. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Kelly Montoya

The Cobb Fountain on the Coral Gables Campus. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Foote Prize recipients recognized for dedication to sustainability

By Kelly Montoya
Charles “Chuck” Cobb and Sofia Mesa, commended for their vision and commitment, are named this year’s winners of the award that recognizes members of the University community who have made a meaningful contribution to the beauty, significance, and future of the campus.

In his inaugural address, former University of Miami President Edward “Tad” Foote II, made it clear that one of his highest priorities was to beautify the University of Miami campus. 

And with the help of a supportive Board of Trustees—which included Charles “Chuck” Cobb, who sat on the search committee that selected Foote as the University’s fourth president—and his wife Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote, who devoted 40 years of her life to make the vision come true, he was able to accomplish just that. 

Cobb, who has been a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 35 years and has served as vice chair and chair, explained that the critical defining moment in this process was when he turned to Foote and said, “We need to rip out all the faculty parking in the middle of the campus.”

“It was the best faculty parking in an American university, and we said to Tad, that has to go,” recalled Cobb.  “And Tad Foote took it on. Courageously took it on,” added Cobb. “The campus wouldn't be what it is today and therefore it’s really a legacy to what the Footes did together.” 

Under Cobb's role as the chairman of the master planning and construction committee, the faculty parking area was revamped into a large, open area that connected various areas of the University and is now an iconic multifunctional plaza. 

This year, Cobb has been recognized as one the recipients of the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize for his unwavering commitment to the University’s legacy of sustainability. 

“Throughout his career in community development and international trade policy, Ambassador Cobb has been forward-thinking. And as a leader at the University, he has embraced the importance of landscaping and campus beautification in making our campus environment inviting and sustainable,’’ said President Julio Frenk. “Ambassador Cobb’s selection for the Bosey Foote Prize captures how steadfast dedication to service can have a lasting impact.”

Cobb mentioned that he is ecstatic about being the recipient of the Bosey Foote Prize because it is an “opportunity to remind everybody about what we did. Improving the environment is something we ought to think about every day but particularly on Earth Day. And as a lifelong environmentalist, I was delighted to receive this recognition.” 

One of the high points for Cobb was donating a 40-foot-high fountain, which was installed in Lake Osceola to provide a focal point for the Coral Gables Campus and help transport oxygen to the deep lake waters. 

“The main reason for the Cobb fountain was to improve the water quality in Lake Osceola and we can see it get better each year,” explained Cobb. “Overall, it feels great to see the master plan for the campus come to life through those who remain passionate about the work proposed in the Foote era.” 

Cobb continued: “In particular, I am honored to hear from Willy, Julia, and Thad Foote who started the award under their mother's name and watching their continued devotion to their parents.” 

Along with Cobb, junior Sofia Mesa, chair of Student Government’s ECO Agency and sustainability director of UThrift, the campus’ thrift swap, was a recipient of the prize. 

“I love that I have been able to make free resources like clothes, shoes, and books more accessible on campus through UThrift and our free swap program,” said Mesa. “I also have been able to work in my role as ECO Agency chair with the incredible ECO board member Teresa Vazquez in bringing a free campus food pantry, 'Canes Community Pantry, to UM.” 

Much of Mesa’s work is centered on addressing and normalizing conversations about the food insecurity that exists around the world. 

“I think the future of environmentalism needs to be intersectional and programs like UThrift and a campus food pantry open the doors for everyone to participate in a sustainable future,” she said. “I hope I continue to honor the Foote family in these social and environmental efforts.”

In addition to her schoolwork, Mesa works part time as the internship director at Debris Free, a local nonprofit dedicated to making Miami a zero-waste city. She is double majoring in English and ecosystem science and policy on the pre-law track. 

“Sofia is a leader and change-maker supporting education and policy for a more environmentally sustainable planet,” Frenk noted. 

“I am extremely thankful for the amazing environmentally progressive community that I am a part of here in South Florida and at the U,” said Mesa. “It feels incredible to have been recognized with this award and have the affirmation that the University of Miami is looking to the future of sustainability and wants to be pioneers in this field. I have loved learning more about Roberta Bosey Fulbright and all her incredible work in making this University a beautiful and pristine reflection of the tropical paradise that is South Florida.”