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Business Law Professor Honored Among Change Agents in Faculty Senate Award Ceremony

April 20, 2015
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Pictured, from right to left: René Sacasas, department chair and professor of business law; Linda L. Neider, vice dean of internal university relations, global initiatives/cross-disciplinary programs, and undergraduate business programs; and Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami.

René Sacasas was a curious eight-year-old the first time he ever set foot on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus. That was 60 years ago, and Sacasas’ family had come to get a close-up look at the school to which his older sister had just been accepted.

“It wasn’t much to look at in 1955, but even then I felt it was a special place,” he recalled.

Over the next eight years, Sacasas fell in love with the University, swimming in its on-campus pool, attending Hurricanes football games in the Orange Bowl, and listening to the Band of the Hour. “The U,” he said, “became a great part of what Miami meant to me as a community. It meant home.”

He eventually moved to Washington, D.C., to attend college, got married, worked on Wall Street, earned a law degree, then returned to Miami in 1976 to practice law. But something was missing—a true sense of community. So when a former mentor called him in 1985 with a job offer as an assistant professor in the UM School of Business Administration’s Business Law Department, Sacasas took the job.

“I came home,” he said.

On April 15, with colleagues, friends and family looking on, Sacasas, who has built a remarkable career in academia and service over his 30-year University of Miami career, accepted one of the institution’s highest honors: the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award. Named after the co-founder of Burger King and former chair of the UM Board of Trustees, the award honors a member of the University community who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in service to the institution.

“Service is the one pillar of the three traditional pillars of academia that you truly cannot do alone,” he said at the awards ceremony, going on to thank those who have helped and worked with him for the past three decades.

He was one of three distinguished faculty members honored during the 2015 Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony. Mary E. Mckay, a nurse-educator who has spearheaded patient safety, inter-professional education, and technology initiatives at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, received the Outstanding Teaching Award, while Jay S. Skyler, a Miller School of Medicine physician and diabetes researcher who pioneered the use of patient self-monitoring of blood glucose and developed the concept of intensive insulin therapy, picked up the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award.

University President Donna E. Shalala, who was honored with the Special Senate Award, described the three awardees as “change agents” who have gone the “extra mile in their devotion to the University and to our mission.”

 “He leads by example,” Linda L. Neider, professor of management, said of Sacasas, noting that her colleague never sought the spotlight but worked “behind the scenes” to accomplish such goals as increasing the size and diversity of the business school’s faculty.

Chair of the Business Law Department for the past 22 years, Sacasas was one of the first faculty fellows at Eaton Residential College, serving later as an associate master at Mahoney and then as headmaster for Hecht. During that time he counseled and mentored thousands of students.

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