Served for students

Memorial honors UF's James Scott


Dr. Wayne Griffin, associate director of the University of Florida Counseling Center, gives a dedication at the conclusion of the memorial service for former vice president for student affairs Dr. Jim Scott who lost a long battle with cancer.

Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 12:05 a.m.
Throughout his career in education, James E. Scott always put students first.
That was the sentiment echoed by his University of Florida co-workers at a memorial service Friday morning, where Scott was remembered as inspirational, kind and caring in his role as vice president for student affairs.
Scott, 55, who first served as dean of students from 1981 to 1993, died of cancer on Feb. 16.
"My friend Jim was the face of calm in an ocean of chaos," Gail Baker-McCarty, vice president of UF's public relations office, told an audience of more than 400 at the University Auditorium.
"Knowing him was my pleasure, working with him my honor," she said.
Scott, a native of Albion, Mich., came to UF from his alma mater, Eastern Michigan University, in 1981. He left to work at Georgia State University in 1993, but returned to UF six years later to lead the office of student affairs.
Student Body President Nikki Fried said students knew Scott as an advocate who was more interested in them as people instead of the position or title they occupied.
"He always believed students had the strongest voice," she said.
Scott's daughter Lori Scott Cockrell, one of three children with his wife, Ann, said the family has received a legion of comforting letters and e-mails in the two weeks since Scott's death.
While visiting her father's office this week to pick up some of his belongings, Cockrell said she noticed his desk was packed with, among other things, memos to set up new task forces.
"That visit reminded me of how important (the university) was to him," she said.
Even while undergoing chemotherapy, Cockrell said, her father would work four days at UF and travel to Houston for medical treatment the other three days.
His bond with the university community was too important to stay at home even as cancer was taking its toll, she said.
Scott's newly named interim replacement, J. Michael Rollo, who worked under Scott as associate vice president, said ever since Scott arrived at UF in 1981 he worked to improve the university experience for students.
Rollo said Scott opened the doors for students to be more comfortable with each other by helping to make diversity-centered People Awareness Week a campuswide program, providing forums for students to speak about issues of race, and adding Gator Connection, a convocation to welcome new students to UF.
"Jim saw his role as conductor, his staff was the orchestra but the students were the symphony," he said.
Rollo also referenced Scott's leadership during the 1990 Gainesville student murders and in creating Gator Nights, the popular late-night entertainment program for students.
"Jim loved the University of Florida, but most of all he loved the students," Rollo said.
Provost David Colburn credited Scott for his part in UF's recent decisions to honor the late black lawyer Virgil Hawkins, who was denied admission to UF's law school for nearly a decade in the 1950s, and the Rev. Thomas A. Wright of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, a Gainesville leader of the Civil Rights movement, with honorary degrees.
Colburn stressed that Scott's passing didn't mean the university would forget what he believed was his legacy - the promotion of diversity.
"Jim knew we were all able capable of doing better . . . so he gently appealed to the angel in us," he said.

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