South Florida bid farewell to an icon Thursday as it celebrated an important life.
Prayers, scripture readings, music, dancing and heartfelt memories filled the Ocean Bank Convocation Center as hundreds gathered to honor a man who made a difference.
Albert E. Dotson Sr. came into the world without special privileges, but came to prominence through the abundant content of his character at a time when examples of successful individuals who resembled him were scarce.
Through a combination of hard work, humility and humor, and an uncanny ability to connect with people across a broad spectrum, he turned his extraordinary engagement into a disproportionate influence on the region and leaves behind. a legacy that has earned him love and respect from all corners. .
“Al Dotson has fostered the mindset in us to get things done, move forward, make an impact and never give up,” President Mark B. Rosenberg told those gathered on the influence of Dotson during a nearly 40-year association with the university.
“Al Dotson, by his actions and his words, uplifted us. He summoned our best angels. He allowed us to be better ourselves. He did it with style, conviction, humility and love. —Mark B. Rosenberg
Dotson joined the CRF Foundation Board of directors in 1983 and served until 2001, when he became a founding member of the CRF Board of Directors, within which he served with distinction for a decade, notably as president from 2009 to 2011.
Cuban-American businessman Leslie Puppet over the years he has worked with Dotson on behalf of the FIU and several other institutions, and the two have become lifelong friends. “It’s very, very difficult to point out some things about Al Dotson Sr. because there are so many of them,” he told the mourners. Puppet spoke about their collaboration with the legendary University of Miami football coach Howard Schnellenberger will lead Partners for Youth, a public initiative to bring new sports facilities to the city center in the 1980s following social unrest. Dotson attended Pantín’s wedding and later, as chairman of the Miami-Dade Youth Fair and Exhibition, had Pantín’s children pass a queue and told the attendant that the children Hispanics were his niece and nephew. “You should have seen the faces of the Carnie workers,” Pantín said with a laugh.
Born in 1938, Dotson was raised in an isolated Memphis neighborhood by a single mother and eventually moved to Detroit. There he completed high school and a year of college before dropping out for an entry-level job at Sears and, a few years later, marrying the love of his life.
With the support of his wife Earlene and unwavering diligence, Dotson rose through the ranks to become the first black store manager in Sears Roebuck & Company history. This corporate confidence contrasted with the response from many surprised customers who, when Dotson came into the auction room to resolve a question, often asked to deal with “the white manager” instead.
Undeterred, Dotson held his position with the company for internships in Chicago, Atlanta and South Florida, where he arrived in 1976 to manage the Westland Mall store in Hialeah.
As he had done elsewhere, Dotson got involved with many organizations including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami Urban League, United Way, Baptist Health South Florida, and others. Along the way, he has built up a long list as the first member or chairman of the Black board of directors, most notably as chairman and chairman of the famous Orange Bowl Committee.
But that elevation had nothing to do with diversity and everything to do with human quality, said longtime friend Jack Seiler, the current chairman and chairman of the Orange Bowl Committee and former representative of the State and Mayor of Fort Lauderdale who has traveled with Dotson for college football games and remains close to the Dotson family.
“This gentleman was a pioneer. We know he was a pioneer, what he did with Sears, what he did in so many organizations, “Seiler said privately a day before the funeral,” but [his appointment] was so much more than that.
Seiler recalled that Dotson had distinguished himself by working closely for years with like-minded committee volunteers who recognized his talent.
“And to me, that’s the real story of Al Dotson, not the fact that he might be the first black leader. Regardless of his skin, he was just a great leader.
To explain his philosophy of life, Dotson sometimes quoted the Bible verse “To whom you give a lot, you need a lot”. But that line provided cover to deflect praise, Seiler explained: The man made by himself, though blessed, has never, ever been given everything except the given place of itself.
“He won everything he did, and he deserved all the accolades and recognitions that he reluctantly accepted. There was never any question of him. It was always about the others.
“Someone asked me to describe it, and I said it was a situation in which someone who truly leads a life of kindness has achieved greatness.” – Jack Seiler
Much of Dotson’s greatness, Seiler added, emanates from a foundation founded on family and faith. (At Sweet Home Baptist Missionary Church in Cutler Bay, he was a deacon). Dotson’s five children attribute their own success to their parents, and his son Al Dotson Jr. recalled the couple.‘his love and support as he spoke publicly about his father. But, he added, Dotson the grandfather considered his 13 grandchildren to be the best versions of his own offspring, and they couldn’t hurt.
Realizing that he had cut his own education short, Dotson made sure his two sons and three daughters went the distance, after which he and Earlene felt ready to complete their own education. This experience made him an ever-growing champion of higher education in general – he also served on the boards of Florida Memorial and Barry Universities – and informed his advocacy for the FIU.
While at university, he was instrumental in founding the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the College of Law and helped secure campus football and stadium. He created the Dotson Family MLK Speaker Endowment, which supports the recruitment of renowned speakers for the university’s annual Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. Dotson even coined the popular phrase “FIU: The Finest Institution in the Universe”.
A planned gift of $ 1 million from the Dotson children in honor of their parents is recognized on campus with the name of the Earlene and Al Dotson pavilion.
Dotson retired from Sears in 1986 after three decades and with his wife, diplomas in hand, established a consulting company and two concession stores at Miami International Airport, launching a second career as an entrepreneur.
A man more often described with names – pioneer, visionary, community builder, mentor, philanthropist, patriarch, friend – rather than just adjectives, Dotson creates a void with his passing, but one that his motivated life inspires others to fill.
Artrice Shepherd, recently president of the Black Student Union, who graduated in August, is among those committed to furthering Dotson’s legacy. As she embarks on a new career in communications and public relations, Shepherd takes with her lessons from a man she calls a legend.
“He was just someone you wanted to learn from, every chance, every opportunity you had,” Shepherd said. He once advised her to “be courageous in the way you choose to lead, however you choose to lead”. She takes this advice in the context of Dotson’s example of dignity and integrity.
“If I am to call myself a servant-leader, I must honor him. I have to present myself in the best possible way for him and for his family because they left an impression on me and just an impact that I will always be loyal to, “she said,” and try to make him proud. in every possible way.