August 01, 2011 — Coral Gables — University of Miami senior trustee Sherwood M. “Woody” Weiser, an influential hotelier described as having a “passion for Miami” and UM, passed away on Monday, August 1.
Weiser was chairman and chief executive officer of The Continental Companies, a leading Miami-based hotel development and management firm that he and his partner, Donald Lefton, founded in 1970. A 1952 graduate of Ohio State University’s School of Business, Weiser also was chairman and CEO of Carnival Hotels, which was sold in 2001.
A generous UM supporter, Weiser gave unselfishly to the institution’s Athletics Department, the Lowe Art Museum, and the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies.
UM President Donna E. Shalala called him a man of “unmatched generosity.”
“The passing of Woody Weiser, a distinguished member of our Board of Trustees, leaves a huge void in civic and University leadership,” President Shalala said in a written statement. “He was a man of unmatched generosity, thoughtfulness, and grace. His passion for Miami and the University was clear and always enthusiastic.”
Shalala said that in honor of his major contributions to the community, flags on the UM campus will be flown at half-staff.
Weiser, who graduated with honors from Case Western University School of Law in 1955, practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio. He purchased his first hotel in 1959, and five years later became a special counsel land hotel consultant to ITT, traveling extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, while negotiating hotel acquisitions, including the purchase of Sheraton Corporation, which was concluded in 1967.
Weiser moved to Coral Gables, Florida, in 1969.
After the purchase of his first property more than 50 years ago, Weiser’s career and reputation skyrocketed, as he went on to develop, own, and operate some of the most successful hotels in the world.
Prior to a partial merger in 1997, his company operated assets with about $2 billion in total value, and ran 9,000 hotel rooms with 17,000 employees.
Weiser received several honors and awards. He received the 1994 Joseph Wharton Business Statesman Award, given annually by the Board of Directors of Wharton School Clubs across the country to a corporate leader who exemplifies outstanding executive management and who has made significant contributions in the area of public service or governmental affairs.
In 1992 he was named Dade County Tourism Professional of the Year, an award presented by the Dade County Academy for Tourism, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. That same year Florida International University honored him for his outstanding community service.
In 1998, he received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and in 2004 was named “Humanitarian of the Year” for South Florida by the American Red Cross.
In February 2008 Weiser received the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s “Sand In My Shoes” award.
He served on the boards of six publicly traded companies, among them, Carnival Corporation, WinsLoew Furniture Group, Wyndham International, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and Watsco, Inc. He was a current member of the board of Mellon United National Bank.
Weiser was active in numerous civic organizations, chairing various civic boards. He became a UM trustee in 1988, a life trustee in 2003, and a senior trustee in 2009. He was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Miami Asset Management Company, Inc. (MAMCO), chairman emeritus of the Board of Directors of the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami and was a member of that board. He was a trustee of the New World Symphony, and served on the Board of Advisors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami and on the board of the Orange Bowl Committee.
He is survived by his wife, Judith; three sons, Douglas, a two-time UM alumnus, and Bradley and Warren, who are members of the UM Citizens Board; and seven grandchildren.
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