Calling for a new generation of leadership that will inspire a community to transcend personal differences to serve others, David Lawrence Jr., former publisher of the Miami Herald, delivered the keynote address for The Chapman Leadership Lecture, the first of an annual event presented by the FIU Center for Leadership.
“Each of us does have within us the power to get things done—good things, powerful things, things that transcend our lives,” he told the gathering of more than 350 students, faculty and community members gathered at FIU’s Graham Center ballroom. The inaugural lecture honored the legacy of extraordinary civic leader Alvah H. Chapman, Jr., whose widow Betty, daughter Dale and grandson Aubrey attended the event.
Lawrence told how he drew inspiration from Chapman, who focused his efforts on the “least, last and lost,” including the homeless and the community devastated by Hurricane Andrew. He also shared his own story: an avid reader who grew up on a chicken farm, became managing editor of a newspaper at 27, and went on to sit down with major heads of state as publisher of one of the nation’s most honored newspapers. An ardent advocate for the education of young children, Lawrence now leads the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and the Children’s Movement of Florida, and was instrumental in the passage of a state-wide constitutional amendment to provide pre-K education for all four-year-olds.
Calling Miami “the biggest small town in America,” Lawrence also made a point of calling for a greater sense of community and inclusion amidst people of diverse backgrounds.
“We make better decisions,” he said, “if there is a real willingness to listen.”
The evening was also an opportunity to remember Chapman’s vision and wisdom. FIU President Emeritus Modesto A. Maidique, executive director of the Center for Leadership, recalled a time early in his FIU presidency when he was approached with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: becoming the first Hispanic Presidential Cabinet member. Seeking advice, he called Chapman, who reminded him of his five-year commitment to FIU.
“He told me, ‘Your only decision is whether you’ll be true to your commitment,’” Maidique said. “Alvah always zeroed in on the heart of the matter.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of “We Will Rebuild,” Chapman’s mobilization of the South Florida community to repair the devastation of Hurricane Andrew. In addition, through Chapman’s determination to eradicate homelessness, the Chapman Partnership (formerly Community Partnership for Homeless) stands behind many of Miami’s most important initiatives for the homeless population.
In addition to the Alvah H. Chapman Jr. Graduate School of Business, the Chapman family’s support of FIU has been integral to many aspects of the university’s ability to provide higher education to the Miami community.
“Alvah felt it was his duty to serve not only his company, but his community,” said Betty Chapman. “Once he set his mind to doing something, he was going to get it done, but his most important objective was always to encourage people to work together.”