Generosity helped establish UM's first residential college, plus other facilities and scholarships.
(August 24, 2012) — The traditional midnight breakfast served in the University of Miami’s Hecht-Stanford Residential College cafeteria during final exam week always drew a crowd of students. Serving them food on many occasions was Florence Ruth Hecht, the silver-haired lady with the big smile whom the students always enjoyed seeing.
“The students adored seeing her, and she loved wearing her name tag that read, ‘Florence Hecht,’ ” recalls UM Vice President for Student Affairs Pat Whitely. “They often asked her if she was really Florence Hecht for whom the college was named, and she loved replying, ‘Of course.’ ”
Florence Ruth Hecht, the longtime University of Miami trustee and passionate Miami Hurricane whose generosity benefited UM in so many ways, passed away on August 24. She was 95.
“Florence was a colorful, intelligent, and strong woman,” said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. “Together with her remarkable family, she helped shape the history of the University and our South Florida community. We will all miss her.”
Hecht’s relationship with the University extends over several decades. She and her late husband, Isadore Hecht, the owners of Flagler Dog Track, now the Magic City Casino, were longtime civic and philanthropic leaders in the community.
The Hecht family’s philanthropic influence is evident throughout the University, from the residential college and athletic center that bear the Hecht name to a visual communication center at the Miller School of Medicine’s Anne Bates Leach Eye Hospital/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The College of Arts and Sciences and School of Law also benefited from her largesse.
But it is Hecht Residential College that is arguably the most recognizable of UM landmarks that bear her name. The first of six residential colleges on the UM campus, the college was renamed in her honor in 1986 in recognition of her generosity.
She was often a presence at the college, participating in the Midnight Breakfast ritual, as Whitely noted. “She would jump right into one of the serving lines with her apron like all of the other resident faculty and University administrator who would serve food,” recalls Jon Baldessari, associate director of housing, who was a residence coordinator at Hecht during the early 1990s and had the opportunity to interact with Hecht. “ She accepted invitations to come to Hecht College to participate in student programs and activities over the years. She was a very student-engaged member of the Board of Trustees.”
“Always energized by students” is how longtime UM employee Norm Parsons, director of wellness and recreation, remembers her.
Hecht had been a UM trustee since 1983, serving on the Executive, Academic Affairs, Athletic Advisory, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Student Affairs, and University Advancement committees. She also served on visiting committees for the College of Arts and Sciences, Frost School of Music, and the Schools of Communication and Education.
“Florence was larger than life, tough as nails, and philanthropic,” said Leonard Abess, chair of the UM Board of Trustees. “She was a doting and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her children and grandchildren, of whom she was so proud, carry on her legacy of leadership and caring. In the half century I knew her she always demanded I do my best, and no one said no to Florence.”
Florence Ruth Hecht was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on November 1, 1916. She graduated from Smith College in 1937.
Flags on UM’s Coral Gables campus flew at half staff over the weekend.
Hecht’s daughter, Barbara Havenick, a double UM alumna, is a current trustee also known for her philanthropic efforts. Hecht is also survived by daughter Isabelle Amdur, B.A. ’63; and seven grandchildren, four of whom are UM alums. A son, David Steven Hecht, J.D. ’68, is deceased.
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