MIAMI (CBSMiami) — South Florida philanthropist Florence Hecht passed away on Friday.
Nothing pleased her more than serving her traditional midnight breakfast to stressed out University of Miami students at the residence halls during final exams week.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports it was her way of letting them know how much she cared.
Hecht, 95, a longtime member of the UM Board of Trustees whose generosity helped establish the University’s first residential college, died in her sleep Friday of natural causes, family members said.
Most recognized Hecht by the building that bore her name— the Florence Ruth Hecht Residential College at the University of Miami. Hecht’s donations ensured the institution’s first residential college in 1986.
The Hecht family’s dedication to UM is evident throughout by the numerous campus facilities and scholarships bearing the family name, including the wIsadore Hecht Athletic Center, named for her late husband, who was owner of the former Flagler Dog Track and now Magic City Casino.
Her reach as a philanthropist extended beyond South Florida. The Hecht House on Florida State University’s campus is named after her.
“She never feared a man or a beast,” said her grandson, Izzy Havenick, who described his grandmother as “courageous and determined.”
“She would say ‘be honest in what you do and you will achieve anything you want.’ And that’s exactly what she did.”
“Florence was larger than life, tough as nails,’’said Leonard Abess, Chair of the UM Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “In the half century I knew her she always demanded I do my best and no one said no to Florence”
She inspired others and infected all around her “with her smile and zest for life,” said her daughter, Barbara Havenick, also a member of the University of Miami Board of Trustees. “She was known as the energizer bunny. She lived life always believing that part of her work was to leave her community a much stronger place.”
Family members say Hecht was best known for her favorite song, “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
“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.”
She was very involved in culture and the arts, and would be found in the best seat in the house for any performance. Her grandchildren lovingly referred to her as “Front Row Flo.”
Friend Marvin Ross Friedman described her as an “interesting and interested” woman.
“She was a pioneer in Miami.” he said.
Hecht’s involvements also extended into the Jewish community. In 1973 she helped establish the Jewish Museum of Florida.
In addition to Havenick, she is survived by another daughter, Isabelle Amdur, a brother, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach. UM will fly its flags at half-mast through Sunday in honor of Hecht’s many contributions.
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