UM Trustee Robert Mann Passes Away

Alumnus and WVUM co-founder’s influential gifts and service strengthened the U

When Robert Mann, B.A. ’70, enrolled at the University of Miami in the late 1960s, the institution didn’t have a School of Communication. Back then, Mann’s area of study—radio and television broadcasting—was a department within UM’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“The facilities were not great, but it was the professors who were very dedicated,” Mann once said, noting students had to work with surplus equipment from a local television station.

But despite not having the best cameras and microphones, Mann would go on to make his mark in the field of communications studies at UM, co-founding the University’s student-run radio station, WVUM, and serving as its first general manager. And even after Mann graduated and became a successful entrepreneur, his unwavering love for his alma mater would continue in the form of service and philanthropy that would impact the University in immeasurable ways.

Robert “Bob” Mann, the University of Miami alumnus and trustee whose influential gifts to UM’s School of Communication have helped transform the educational experience for students, allowing them to learn and create in state-of-the-art classrooms and television studios, passed away on Thursday, October 5. He was 70.

“A dedicated and generous advocate for his alma mater and our community” is how UM President Julio Frenk remembers Mann. “He was a passionate leader and made us a stronger institution. Our thoughts are with Lauren [his wife] and his family. His extended UM family will miss him deeply.”

The former president of R.A. Mann Inc. and a co-founder of U.S. Biochemical Corporation, a Cleveland, Ohio-based life science and biotechnology company, Mann gave millions to UM, saying his generosity was part of his genetic code.

“I think people want to give back, generally. I think in my case it’s part of my DNA, that I was taught that by my parents. I think it’s something you can take pride in. You hope that the students appreciate us and that they learn to give back as well,” Mann said. 

Four years ago, when UM was in the midst of its record-breaking Momentum2 fundraising campaign, Mann made a $1 million planned gift to a School of Communication scholarship fund, designating his gift to the Samuel and Grace Mann Endowed Scholarship Fund named after his parents. The fund supports scholarships for deserving undergraduate students majoring in broadcast journalism each year.

The gift built on Mann’s significant donations to the school and University over the years. In 2015, he made another milestone Momentum2 donation, giving $1 million to the Athletics Department to support Hurricanes football, basketball, baseball, and emergency needs for all student-athletes. His other contributions to Athletics include supporting the construction of Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field and the Robert A. Mann Auditorium in the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

“All of us in the University of Miami Athletics family are saddened by the news of the passing of Bob Mann,” said Director of Athletics Blake James. “Bob’s generosity to our University was unending, and his leadership and support to me and to so many others has helped build UM into a world-class university and athletics program. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

But it was the School of Communication for which Mann held a special admiration. In 2002, he helped the school reach new heights, contributing $500,000 to its Communication Building Fund, which supported the construction of the International Building, a five-story, 24,600-square-foot-facility that includes state-of-the-art classrooms, a theater-style auditorium, and professionally equipped work rooms for student groups.

“Bob Mann was the School of Communication’s best friend,” said Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the school. “He chaired our visiting committee and was also our campaign chair during Momentum2. He was a generous donor, a wise counselor, and a vocal champion for all school-related causes and projects. He was also my personal friend, and I will miss him very, very much.”

Shepherd, who said Mann was close to many faculty members in the school and loved seeing and interacting with students, recalled the first time he ever met Mann.

“He was one of my appointments when I was here interviewing for the job,” Shepherd remembers. “I wondered why a guy who made his fortune in pharmaceuticals was interested in a candidate for the School of Communication deanship. I quickly discovered that he knew more about cameras, studios, radio towers, cell phones, routers, switchers, and all communication equipment and technology than most broadcast engineers. And I remember him displaying all that knowledge in our 45-minute interview not with arrogance or ego, but with eagerness and love. He was a communication guy through and through.”

Mann also gave funds to help construct the school’s Robert and Lauren Mann Broadcast Center, which opened last year in conjunction with the Koenigsberg and Nadal Interactive Media Center.

Mann was elected to UM’s Board of Trustees on October 11, 2002. He also chaired the visiting committee of Intercollegiate Athletics and served on the library’s visiting committee. He served as vice chair of both the Student Affairs and Athletic Advisory committees and served on the Academic Affairs, University Advancement, Master Planning and Construction, and Investments committees.

The Cleveland, Ohio native has been recognized numerous times for his unwavering commitment to UM.  In 1968, he was tapped into Iron Arrow, one of UM’s highest honors, and was named Henry King Stanford Alumnus of the Year in 2008. He is a member of Alpha Epsilon Rho, the honor society of the National Broadcasting Society, and the Order of Omega, an honorary fraternity.

He is survived by his wife, Lauren; mother, Grace; brother, Thomas; nephews, William and David; and niece Julie Simons.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made in his memory to the University of Miami Hurricane Club. Note: Robert Mann Athletics Endowment; to the attention of Jesse Marks-Sr. Associate Athletic Director, 5821 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, Florida 33146.

A memorial service will be held at the University of Miami; information will be made available once it is scheduled.