In Memoriam

Robert L. Blake Passes Away

Robert. L. Blake

Robert. L. Blake

Robert L. Blake, who served as vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the University of Miami under two presidents, passed away on August 10, leaving an indelible impact on the University and the community.

Blake, who served at the University from 1994 to 2006, under the administrations of Edward T. “Tad” Foote  and Donna E. Shalala, worked on many far-reaching projects  for the greater good of both UM and the community. He reached common ground with our Coral Gables neighbors, leading to the construction and opening of the University Village, an on-campus student apartment project that dramatically changed student residential life.

Along with the late Ken Myers, a life member of the Board of Trustees, Blake drafted the Florida statute and Miami-Dade County ordinance authorizing the referendum to levy a sales tax to benefit the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. That tax still enables UM/Jackson to deliver the same standard of care to all patients. regardless of their ability to pay.

Prior to joining the UM family, Blake distinguished himself through his outstanding service in the public sector, serving as division chief in the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office and as general counsel to the Public Health Trust. He also helped educate our community’s future leaders by teaching at Barry University and Miami-Dade Community College.

Family and friends are invited to a visitation on Monday, August 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Mount Hermon AME Church, 17800 N.W. 25 Avenue, Miami Gardens, Florida, 33056. The service will follow on Tuesday, August 16, at 11 a.m., also at Mount Hermon AME Church. The church’s telephone number is 305-621-5067.

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Tad Foote Remembered with Stories, Songs, and Love

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Foote Memorial 2

From left, Elijah Shaw, President Foote’s nephew; sons William Fulbright Foote and Edward “Thad” Thaddeus Foote III; and nephew Nathan Tolliver-Shaw perform a musical tribute to President Foote.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 27, 2016)—It was a simple wave of the hand that made a then-8-year-old Edward “Thad” Thaddeus Foote III “feel good.”

Amid all the pomp and circumstance of his father’s inauguration as the University of Miami’s fourth president in 1981, “he found me in the crowd, made eye contact with me, and flashed me a little wave,” recalled Foote III. “It made me feel important and comfortable. It made me feel good.”

With stories, aphorisms, and music, the younger Foote, along with his older brother and sister, honored his late father, Edward Thaddeus “Tad” Foote II, who served as UM president from 1981 to 2001, on Tuesday at a memorial service held at Gusman Concert Hall on the Coral Gables campus.

“He cared deeply about making the world a better place,” said William Fulbright Foote. His father, he noted, was an accomplished folk singer and musician who was once offered a contract by RCA Records but turned it down, and used to transcribe old recordings of cowboy songs while he was a newspaper reporter. His life, he said, was filled with music right up until the end.

Foote passed away on February 15. He was 78.

“Music didn’t make the man. Dad loved making the music,” said William, occasionally singing verses from some of his father’s favorite songs.

In honor of Foote, the two sons, along with nephews Elijah Shaw and Nathan Tolliver-Shaw, performed “Angel Band.”

Julia Foote LeStage, Foote’s daughter, spoke lovingly of her father from a family perspective, noting that he raised her with the same standards he held for himself. “He always made me feel special,” she said.

Foote also never failed to acknowledge how important his wife, Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote, who passed away last May, was to him. “His steady counselor” is how he often referred to her, said LeStage.

LeStage told the audience of more than 400 people that when a then-3-year-old Foote lost his own father, his mother told him he was the man of the house. “He wore the mantle of responsibility for the next 75 years of his life,” and that was evident in Foote’s ability to step up and lead in difficult times, said LeStage.

As UM’s fourth president, Foote 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 set the bar high when it came to guiding this University with both authority and grace, always keeping the development and enrichment of our students as his top priority,” said current UM President Julio Frenk.

Foote’s first cousin, Adlai Hardin, said UM’s former president was “no stranger to complex and difficult tasks,” noting that in 1969 as an attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, Foote helped found the New City School, a private elementary school with a diverse student body.

Foote had an uncanny ability to speak off the cuff, Hardin said, recalling that the “remarkable man” he knew since they were little boys delivered, without any preparation, the keynote address at the eighth grade graduation ceremony for Hardin’s son.

Hardin also recalled Foote’s wit and sense of humor. In the summer of 1954, while traveling from Wyoming to Wisconsin in Foote’s Dodge coupe, the two decided to take shelter in an abandoned Nebraska farmhouse until a storm passed. As the storm raged outside, Hardin fell asleep but was suddenly jolted from his slumber by a loud noise. Foote had hurled one of his boots against the farmhouse wall—a practical joke that Hardin, he said laughingly, would eventually recover from. He was a “great friend and confidant of my entire lifetime. There was none better,” said Hardin.

UM Trustee Charles E. Cobb, Jr. said being a “leader of change” was one of the key qualities members of the then-search committee for the University’s fourth president wanted in a new presidential candidate, “and we certainly found that in Tad Foote.” Cobb, who served on that committee, noted Foote’s decision to decrease the student body and raise admission standards—a policy trustees were a bit reluctant to accept at first. But over time, Cobb said, that decision was the right one, as the average SAT score of incoming freshmen rose from 1072 to 1202 by the end of Foote’s administration.

Cobb also called Foote an “extraordinary leader in the broader community,” noting that he tackled Miami’s drug and crime problems head-on by creating the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community, a broad-based task force that approached the community’s drug problems from every conceivable angle, such as establishing treatment programs, destroying crack houses, securing federal funding to strengthen law enforcement, and creating drug-free school zones.

A 10-minute video tribute, produced by UM’s Division of University Communications, provided the audience with further insight into the type of man Foote was.

“He was the No. 1 Hurricane,” Cyrus “Russ” Jollivette, who served as executive assistant to the president and vice president for government relations under Foote, said in the video tribute.

He was “ethical, hardworking, super smart, and always wanted UM to get better,” said Pat Whitely, who became vice president for student affairs during Foote’s administration.

“Distinguished” and “noble” is how former School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk described Foote.

Former UM Provost Luis Glaser; former Senior Vice President for Business and Finance David Lieberman; Senior Trustees Ronald “Ron” Stone and David R. Weaver; former Athletic Director Sam Jankovich, and former Faculty Senate Chairs Eugene Clasby and George Alexandrakis are among others who appear in the video tribute.

In delivering a prayer at the end of Tuesday’s memorial service, Foote’s sister, Letitia Shields, said her brother was “guided by what he believed was right and moral, and through it all never sought glory for himself.”

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President Foote’s Memorial to Be Streamed Live

FooteThe University of Miami will hold a memorial service to honor its fourth president, Edward Thaddeus “Tad” Foote II, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at Gusman Concert Hall on the Coral Gables campus.

As its fourth president, Foote significantly raised the academic and research stature of the University, 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.

During his tenure from 1981 to 2001, the University added three new schools—the School of Architecture, School of Communication, and the Graduate School of International Studies. 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.

Foote passed away on February 15 at age 78.

RSVPs are required to attend the memorial service at Gusman Hall, 1314 Miller Road. Email eventsmanagement@miami.edu or call 305-284-2875. The memorial alos will be streamed live. To watch visit UM livestream.

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.

To find more information and to make memorial donations, visit the Foote Fellows Program or send to the Foote Fellows program, University of Miami Division of University Advancement, P.O. Box 025388, Coral Gables, Florida 33102-9811.

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Memorial Service for Longtime Miller Center Fellow Eugene Rothman to Be Held November 10

Celebrate the life and accomplishments of the late Eugene Rothman, senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, on Tuesday, November 10, at 4 p.m. in the Miller Center Auditorium, 105 Merrick Building, Coral Gables campus.

Rothman, who was also associate director of academic development for the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies and worked tirelessly on such projects as a Holocaust Survivor Support Internship Program and a Study Abroad initiative in Israel on the theme of Jewish peoplehood, passed away on September 26. He was 73.

To RSVP for the memorial service, call 305-284-6882 or email ccjs@miami.edu.

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Colleagues Remember Distinguished Researcher and Educator Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

During his long and distinguished career as a cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D., made a series of scientific discoveries pointing the way toward more effective treatments for lung cancer, infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system. The renowned professor and Chairman of the Miller School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Podack passed away on Thursday, October 8, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Our loss is substantial, not only of a friend who we adored and shared wonderful memories with, but also of a colleague whose talent was akin to those who have received the Nobel Prize,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

A fellow in the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Podack was widely respected around the world for his pioneering laboratory studies and dedication to finding better treatments for cancer patients and patients with severe infections, such as HIV and listeriosis. In the past four decades, Podack wrote or contributed to more than 305 professional articles, books and monographs.

“This is a sad loss to Eckhard’s family, his colleagues, his department, the School and basically to all of humanity from his unfinished work,” said Karl L. Magleby, Ph.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

A native of Germany who became interested in cancer research at an early age, Podack joined the Miller School in 1987 and became department Chairman in 1994.

Diana M. Lopez, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and Director of the department’s Undergraduate Program, invited Podack to Miami to speak about his research in 1985 after meeting him at two scientific conferences.

“You could tell immediately how brilliant he was,” she said. “Our faculty was very impressed, especially our Chair at the time, Dr. Wayne Streilein. He was charged with building our immunology program, and he thought it was a momentous achievement that we were able to attract a scientist of Eckhard’s caliber to Miami. He was doing translational work here before anyone else. When Wayne left to go to Harvard in 1994, Eckhard succeeded him.”

Together Lopez and Podack recently introduced a highly successful new undergraduate course that he had created called Innate Immunity.

“He was passionate about teaching,” Lopez said, “and we had 102 students sign up for the first course. He taught it, and the students loved it. He was just as passionate about his research, and before he died he was very excited about a new project he was beginning. Eckhard especially enjoyed helping young scientists start their career. He was not only a brilliant scientist, but also a very nice man. He is going to be irreplaceable.”

“Eckhard was an exceptional educator who was loved by his students, faculty and staff,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute. “He was also dedicated to turning scientific discoveries into effective clinical treatments.”

In the early 1990s, Podack created a monoclonal antibody to seek out and attach to CD-30, a receptor on lymphoma cells. He sold the technology to Seattle Genetics, which developed SGN-35, a therapy designed to target only cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone.

Podack also discovered Perforin-1 and, more recently, Perforin-2, antibacterial proteins that help the body’s immune system defend against infectious disease. One of Podack’s last published studies, “Perforin-2 is essential for intracellular defense of parenchymal cells and phagocytes against pathogenic bacteria,” appeared online September 24 in the eLife Sciences Journal. He was the lead author of the Miller School study.

“Eckhard’s work on immune therapies for cancer, and the killing of microorganisms with the Perforin family of proteins that he discovered, will have a long-lasting impact on our fellow humans,” Goldschmidt said.

Another of Podack’s accomplishments was developing a novel lung cancer vaccine using gp-96, a heat shock protein, to treat non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 85 percent of all lung cancers. For these patients, surgery and chemotherapy are often the only options, so this treatment will fill a substantial need.

While conventional vaccines are used to prevent infectious diseases, Podack’s treatment revs up the immune system to produce T cells and natural killer cells to fight the cancer. He also developed tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 25 agonists and antagonists that allow the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively.

In order to translate his discoveries into clinical treatments, Podack launched Heat Biologics in 2008 to develop “ImPACT” (Immune Pan-Antigen Cytotoxic Therapy), a proprietary cell-based immunotherapy for use in the treatment of a wide range of cancers. Heat Biologics completed a successful initial public offering in 2013, and continues to develop its leading-edge therapy.

Podack earned his medical degree from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1968, and his doctoral degree from Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany, in 1972. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry in 1974 at Georg-August University.

He joined the Department of Immunology at the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, in 1974. A decade later, he joined New York Medical College as professor of microbiology and immunology, and also became professor of medicine, before moving to Miami in 1987. Since 2009, he was also a guest professor at Shandong Gallo Institute of Virology at Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences in Jinan, China.

“Eckhard was a giant in his field, and his work will continue to advance through his outstanding colleagues in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and beyond,” Goldschmidt said. “We want to extend our sincerest condolences to Eckhart’s beloved wife, Kristin, and the entire Podack family.”

The Miller School will schedule a celebration of Podack’s life in the near future.

Donations in his memory may be made to:
Partners in Health: https://donate.pih.org/give-today
Florida Grand Opera: http://tickets.fgo.org/contribution/index.aspx
FGO donations should be designated for Mainstage Productions as a Memorial Gift in the name of Dr. Eckhard Podack.

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