Jacksonville University mourns loss of former president

Robert Spiro was instrumental in creating Florida's first Naval ROTC program

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Dr. Robert H. "Bob" Spiro Jr., who served from 1964 to 1979 as Jacksonville University's president and was a U.S. Navy Reserve rear admiral and Undersecretary of the Army, died Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., the university announced Thursday.

He was 92.

As the university's longest-serving president, Dr. Spiro had an enduring impact on campus -- and was a U.S. patriot, as well, said JU President Tim Cost.

"Jacksonville University has lost one of its most instrumental and patriotic leaders; under Dr. Spiro's 15 years of leadership, JU experienced growth in stature, facilities and enhancements in all areas of campus life," Cost said. "Admiral Spiro also served our country for nearly four decades in the U.S. Navy and as Undersecretary of the Army, and created Florida's first Naval ROTC program here at JU.

"We are honored to have graduated more than 1,250 officers who went on to become military leaders in both our Navy and Marine Corps, and will forever be beholden to Dr. Spiro's contributions to JU and to our country."

Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne, who succeded Dr. Spiro as JU president and now is the university's chancellor emeritus, says she was impressed by Dr. Spiro's leadership, faculty support, and "how he became part of the JU community."

The university said Dr. Spiro chaired Jacksonville's Sesquicentennial celebration in 1972.

"(Dr. Spiro) will be remembered for the continuity he provided when we were a young university, and for the stability he lent to JU over the course of his entire tenure," Dr. Kinne said.

Dr. Spiro's daughter, Jacksonville resident Elizabeth Spiro, said her father -- who was JU's president in 1970 when Artis Gilmore led the basketball team to the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship game -- was a loving man with a special place in his heart for JU.

"For many years, the only watch my father had and wore was his NCAA watch, from the Artis Gilmore era," she said. "It reminded him of those times and of JU. It showed his love for the school...One of the things that I admired most about Dad was his dedication to JU and Jacksonville, to making his university the best it could be, and his city better. Also, his and my mother's deep faith was a guiding factor in my life. Dad was a remarkable man."

Spiro also served as President Jimmy Carter's Undersecretary of the Army appointee from 1980-81, and later undertook various business, academic, governmental and charitable endeavors.

In addition to his daughter, the university said Dr. Spiro is survived by his wife, Juanita T. Henderson, of Charlotte; his sons, Dr. Robert T. Spiro of Silverdale, Wash., and James M. Spiro of Sylva, N.C.; sister, Sarah Scott of Bristol, Tenn.; and his eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Suenell Spiro; and sister, Margaret Norwood.

A memorial service is planned at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, in the chapel of Hankins & Whittington Funeral Service in Charlotte.

In lieu of flowers, the university says memorial contributions may be in Dr. Spiro's honor made to the American Security Council Foundation, 1250 24th St. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20037; or The Admiral Robert H. Spiro NROTC Award Endowment, Jacksonville University, 2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, FL 32211.

All photos courtesy of Jacksonville University

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