The Honorable David A. Straz, Jr. served as a Carthage Trustee from 2011 to 2018, and as Chairman of the Carthage College Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2018. He passed away Nov. 18, 2019, at the age of 77.
Respected internationally for his generosity and philanthropical support, Ambassador Straz was a successful banking entrepreneur and an envoy of understanding in Central America, Africa, and the United States.
He and his wife, Catherine, selectively supported institutions principally in higher education and the visual and performing arts. Catherine served as a Carthage Trustee until 2011, when Ambassador Straz succeeded her on the Carthage Board.
Two years after graduating from college, David Straz acquired a small country bank near Milwaukee and built First Southeast Banking Corporation, with multiple branches, before his 40th birthday. After he sold that enterprise, his Wisconsin holdings eventually became part of U. S. Bank.
Ambassador Straz then repeated that achievement in Florida, where he built Southern Exchange Bank in the Tampa Bay area. After extended rapid growth of the bank, Ambassador Straz sold Southern Exchange in 2003, and it now operates as the Florida Gulf Coast branches of Fifth Third Bank. Ambassador Straz continued to provide counsel for other financial institutions during his life.
Catherine and David Straz earned widespread respect and appreciation for their philanthropy across many years. Major buildings at Carthage, Marquette University, and the University of Tampa carry the Straz name. The performing arts center of the City of Tampa was named for the Ambassador. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is noted for its David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital.
In addition to his service to the Carthage Board of Trustees, Ambassador Straz served as chairman and trustee of Tampa General Hospital; chairman of the board at Marquette University, the University of Tampa, and the Lowry Park Zoo Foundation; and as a past treasurer of the Tampa Yacht & Country Club. He also served as a director/trustee of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Ambassador Straz held honorary doctorates from Carthage, the Catholic University of Honduras, Marquette University, Polytechnic University of Honduras, and the University of Liberia. He received the 19th Carthage Flame, the highest honor bestowed by the College.
In Wisconsin, Ambassador Straz was named the Marquette “Alumnus of the Year” and received formal commendation by the Governor for service to higher education and the arts. In Florida, he was inducted into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame, named the “Philanthropist of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and awarded the keys to the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County for “true philanthropy and community leadership.”
Respect for Ambassador Straz extended abroad. In addition to his honorary degrees, he received the “Humanitarian of the Decade” award from the College of West Africa. He held the key to the City of Monrovia and was knighted into the Humane Order of African Redemption. He served as Ambassador at Large and Honorary Consul General for the Republic of Liberia, and as Honorary Consul General for the Republic of Honduras.