UM icon, dormitory namesake dies at 95

Courtesy E-Veritas

Known for her constant service to students and dedication to the University of Miami, longtime Board of Trustees member Florence Ruth Hecht passed away Friday. She was 95.

Hecht, a smiling, silver-haired lady who served students midnight breakfast at the Hecht-Stanford Residential College cafeteria during final exam week, had a long pedigree of Hurricane tradition.

“The students adored seeing her, and she loved wearing her name tag that read, ‘Florence Hecht,’ ” said Pat Whitely, the vice president for student affairs. “They often asked her if she was really Florence Hecht for whom the college was named, and she loved replying, ‘Of course.’ ”

Hecht and her late husband, Isadore Hecht, contributed much of their time and money to UM and the community. The couple, owners of Flagler Dog Track and the Magic City Casino, have had their last name etched into several locations in the university.

Hecht Residential College and the Hecht Athletic Center both bear the couples’ surname.

The Residential College is one of six on campus, and was renamed in her honor in 1986 in recognition of her generosity.

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 the School of Law also benefited from the family’s generosity.

“Florence was a colorful, intelligent, and strong woman,” said UM 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.”

According to many who knew her, her energy and engagement with students set her apart from other UM 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, in a story published on “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 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.