David Straz, a Benefactor to Education Causes, Friend to Liberia, is Dead
Tampa – Mr. David Straz, Ambassador-at-Large & Honorary Consul General for both the Republics of Liberia & Republic of Honduras, who contributed millions to education in Liberia has died.
The millionaire’s family broke the news Monday evening. “It is with a heavy heart the Straz family regrets to inform you that while on a recent fishing trip with close friends David A. Straz Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep. The Straz family is asking the media to respect their privacy during this difficult time. We will release funeral plans once they are final.”
Most recently, Mr. Straz took a major leap into politics when he contested the mayoral race in US city of Tampa, Florida but lost to Jane Castor.
Over the years, Mr. Straz worked behind the scenes to help improve education in Liberia. One of those imprints was his singlehanded decision to refurbish the Sinje Technical and Vocational College of the University of Liberia (UL) which is now called the David a Straz Sinje Technical Vocational College at the University of Liberia.
The US$2 million project was dedicated by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2016.
Ambassador Straz contributed US$1 million for the construction of the polytechnic college.
Located in Grand Cape Mount, some 20 miles away from the capital, the school has been a ray of hope for many youngsters with very little access to education.
The school has been a ray of hope for former combatants and underprivileged students who now enjoy access to sound and free education.
Since its opening in 2010, the college has offered Associate Degree (AA) in agriculture, engineering and education.
Ambassador Straz says giving back and serving people has been a joy for he and his family.
He told PBS’s Suncoast Business Forum recently I 2017 that despite his desire to give back, his efforts have sometimes hit a wall.
The Ambassador who had previously renovated the College of West Africa, one of Liberia’s historically-relevant learning institutions, informed authorities in Liberia, including the presidency and the University of Liberia that he would step in; but there was a catch.
The ambassador agreed to give US$500,000 (five hundred thousand United States Dollars) if the government would match it and meet the challenge with US$500,000 but the legislature refused the request and the University of Liberia was unable to get Ambassador Straz’s US$500,000 offer.
The school had 356 registered candidates for 2016/2017 Entrance and Placement Exam, the highest, since establishment of the school in 1983.
Ambassador Straz’s interest in Liberia started in 2003, at the end of the civil when he paid a visit to Liberia – and the rest was history.
Over the years he has made numerous trips and made large donations to schools. It was his immense contributions that prompted President Sirleaf to name him an ambassador at-large, a diplomat who represents that country internationally.
“I enjoy it very much,” the ambassador told PBS’s the Suncoast Business Forum recently. “I’m very active in working with them on various diplomatic missions.”
He moved to Tampa in 1980 where he met and married his wife, Catherine Lowry. Born in Wisconsin, Straz was a graduate of Marquette University.
A former banker, Straz was a major supporter of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, for whom the center is named, the University of Tampa and ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
Ambassador. Straz says he’s learned a lot about Africa over the years and has been happy to give back. “I’ve learned a great deal about Africa. I’ve also been able to contribute a lot to them through missions I have led on behalf of the President and I became active in the University of Liberia which is the big public university.
Mr. Straz graduated from Marquette University in 1965 with a degree in finance. He moved into a leadership position in banking management before going on to build banking organizations in Wisconsin and Florida which he sold to U.S. Bank, Bank of America, and Fifth Third Bank.
In 1984 Marquette University dedicated its College of Business Administration, David A. Straz, Jr. Hall and in 2002 dedicated David A. Straz, Jr. Tower. In 2005 the University of Tampa dedicated David A. Straz, Jr. Hall. He was named Marquette University Alumnus of the Year and received a Commendation from the Governor of Wisconsin for dedication to education and the visual and performing arts. In 1995 Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin, dedicated the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for Natural and Social Sciences.
In 2000 Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo dedicated the David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital. In 2007 he received the Humanitarian Award of the Decade from the College of West Africa. In 2009 the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts (Tampa) was dedicated. In 2010 The Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame inducted him, and he was named Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2012 Berkeley Preparatory School dedicated the Straz Family Field House. In 2012 The University of Liberia dedicated the David A. Straz, Jr. Sinje Campus.
In 2011 he received a commendation from Hillsborough County and the Key to the County for “true philanthropy and community leadership to Hillsborough County and throughout the world.” The City of Tampa honored him with a commendation and the Key to the City. He received the Key to the City of Monrovia, Liberia and was Knighted into the Humane Order of African Redemption.