The Honorable David A. Straz Jr. is the chair of the Carthage College Board of Trustees.
Ambassador Straz is an extraordinarily successful banking entrepreneur, an internationally respected philanthropist, and an envoy of understanding in Central America, Africa, and the United States.
He and his wife, Catherine, selectively support institutions principally in higher education and the visual and performing arts. Since 1994, Carthage has prospered through their active guidance and generosity. Catherine served as a 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 continues to provide counsel for other financial institutions.
Catherine and David Straz have earned widespread respect and appreciation for their philanthropy across many years. Major buildings at Marquette University, the University of Tampa, and Carthage carry the Straz name. The performing arts center of the City of Tampa is named for the Ambassador. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is noted for its David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital.
The Strazes have served on a wide variety of nonprofit boards. Ambassador Straz is immediate past chairman and trustee of Tampa General Hospital, a major tertiary care medical center. Previously, he has served as Chairman of the Board at Marquette, the University of Tampa, and the Lowry Park Zoo Foundation, and as Past Treasurer of the Tampa Yacht & Country Club. He is Director/Trustee of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Ambassador Straz holds honorary doctorates from Carthage, the Catholic University of Honduras, 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 extends abroad. In addition to his honorary degrees, he received the “Humanitarian of the Decade” award from the College of West Africa. He holds the key to the City of Monrovia and was knighted into the Humane Order of African Redemption.
In the United States, Ambassador Straz serves both the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Honduras. He is Ambassador at Large and Honorary Consul General for Liberia, and Honorary Consul General for Honduras.
David, Catherine, and their daughter, Keebler, reside among an extensive collection of French Impressionist paintings, Dresden china, and European antiques. He presided over Tampa’s 2012 Gasparilla festival as King XCIX of Ye Mystic Krewe.