Don Taft, business leader, philanthropist and namesake of the Don Taft University Center died on Feb. 20 at Holy Cross Hospital. Taft was 90.
Taft was hospitalized on Feb. 15 due to congestive heart failure.
Ray Ferrero Jr., NSU chancellor, said, “I can sum him up in a phrase that I have used in the past, but rarely. He was a gentleman. Then, I break it up: gentle man. In all things, that’s exactly what he was: a gentle man.”
Ferrero said he and Taft became friends a few years ago when Paul M. Sallarulo, a member of the board of trustees, introduced them.
“He used a cane and I some times use a cane for support so we would kid that we would have a three-legged race,” he said.
Taft became involved with the university in 2009. He was instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics to campus that year and making NSU the only private university in the nation with a chapter. The university named the U.C. in his honor in 2009 after he donated money to the university.
Ferrero said, “He saw the effect we were having in transforming people’s lives. He used to say we were giving people opportunities other institutions didn’t.”
Ferrero also said Taft was very involved in campus organizations he supported and attended many of NSU’s events.
He was also a board member of the Ronald McDonald House, Special Olympics Broward County and the board of governors of the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
“He was always willing to share his time and expertise,” said Ferrero.
He also said Taft loved football and liked to watch the Dolphins play.
Taft received many awards including the 2009 Board Member of the Year Award by Special Olympics, the Chancellor’s Community Award in 2010 and the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
On March 13, Taft will be named Humanitarian of the Year by the Emerald Society of Ft. Lauderdale, Inc.
There was a celebration of Taft’s life on Feb. 28. The celebration included a speech by Ferrero and George L. Hanbury II, NSU president, sharing their memories of Taft.
Andra Liwag, associate director in the Office of Public Affairs helped plan the event.
She said, “We meant it to be a celebration of his life and all the things he was able to accomplish in his life not only for NSU but for the South Florida community. He had a huge heart and we wanted to make sure we were doing him justice.”