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Late grads inducted into Heritage of Leadership Society, faculty and alumni meet for annual retreat

Cason Family

The Cason Family (Photos by Vincent Massaro)

By Richard Goldstein

It was a night for remembering two men who helped make modern Florida.

D. Burke Kibler III (JD 49) and Warren M. Cason (JD 50) were inducted posthumously into the Heritage of Leadership Society during a ceremony April 8 at the Levin College of Law and sponsored by Florida-based Holland & Knight.

"There is no place that I'd rather be today than here, honoring two of the best lawyers to come out of the University of Florida and certainly the best lawyers to come out of Holland & Knight, " Martha Barnett (JD 73), told a crowd of more than 160 in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom.

Barnett, a senior partner with Holland & Knight and a past president of the American Bar Association, recalled that the early 1970s, when she was interviewing for a job, was a time when most blue chip law firms were only beginning to think about women as lawyers. It was Burke Kibler, then the recruiting partner at the firm, who hired her.

"I always thought that Burke's hiring me was an example of the vision and courage that marked his life," she said. "He always said — with a twinkle in his eye — that it was just because he like being around smart, pretty little girls."

Barnett noted Kibler's accomplishments in war, politics, the law and education.

"By every possible measure, Burke Kibler's life story is one of a man who lived his life to the fullest and along the way made such a difference in the lives of so many people and so many institutions: His alma mater, the University of Florida; the state of Florida; Holland & Knight; most of you in this room and certainly to me."

Doug Wright, (JD 86, LLMT 87), a tax lawyer for Holland & Knight, took to the podium and lauded Cason, his long-time friend. "Somebody observed recently that there are three types of people in the world: People who make things happen, people who watch what's happening, and people who don't know what's happening," Wright said. "Warren Cason made things happen."

Kibler Family

The Kibler Family

Wright noted Cason's struggles growing up as he had to help run his farm after his father died and then joined the Navy, performing underwater demolitions during World War II.

The adversity "created somebody who was not going to shrink from problems," Wright said.

Kibler's and Cason's families accepted plaques commemorating the induction ceremony.

Cason was a senior partner with Holland & Knight, and Kibler served as the firm's chairman from 1983 to 1995.

Cason, 1924-2010, was chairman of the Law Center Association Board of Trustees, director of the UF Athletic Association and president of the UF Foundation. He was a State Road Board member, Tampa city attorney, Hillsborough County attorney and senior partner with Holland & Knight.

Kibler, 1924-2009, served as second lieutenant during World War II in Europe where he was a forward artillery observer and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was a tireless advocate of higher education and served as chairman of the Board of Regents, governing body for Florida's university system.

Cason and Kibler's images and a few of their most significant accomplishments are etched into glass on the second floor of Holland Hall as a permanent tribute to their contributions to the nation, the state and the university. An electronic interactive display accompanies the glass etching.

"For every person who walks by that display, and most of us do that at least once a day, it's an inspiring presentation for what we as lawyers try to accomplish for the good of others," UF Law Dean Robert Jerry said during the induction ceremony.

Now six of the 29 members of the Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society are Holland & Knight alumni.

The Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society represents illustrious personalities in the history of the University of Florida College of Law since it was founded in 1909. Members are pre-eminent graduates and others who have been involved in the college in very significant ways. They assumed national leadership positions and distinguished themselves in legal, governmental, academic and corporate sectors. They labored to improve the administration of justice and received the highest commendations for contributions to the profession and service to education, civic, charitable and cultural causes.

Members of the Heritage of Leadership Recognition Society are selected by the Heritage of Leadership Committee, which presents the slate for discussion and approval to the full membership of the University of Florida Law Center Association, Inc. Board of Trustees.

During the same weekend, UF Law alumni, faculty and administrators convened at the Levin College of Law's first Law Center Association Board of Trustees-Faculty Retreat. The unique three-day event, which began Friday, stressed alumni interaction and feedback, and offered information and strategies for improving the college's performance in key areas such as employment, the curriculum and preparing students for a changing legal profession.

It included reports on admissions, finances, bar passage rates, international programs, distance learning, U.S. News rankings, the capital campaign and annual fund. On the morning of April 9, a panel of students discussed their feelings about the college and answered alumni questions ranging from how much they had relied on U.S. News rankings in making the decision to attend UF Law to the vital importance of alumni involvement in proactive recruitment, mentoring and employment efforts.

Consistent themes were the immense power of the Gator Nation in attracting and supporting its members, and the value of students developing strong writing and research skills, gaining practical experience through clinics, externships and volunteer opportunities, and adequately preparing for the Bar exam.

Participants also included members of the Law Alumni Council and student leaders. Feedback from participants was glowing, and plans are to make the retreat a regular event.

Former American Bar Association President and Holland & Knight Partner Martha Barnett (JD 73) was among the distinguished guests who spoke eloquently about the two late graduates.