TAMPA — Philanthropist David A. Straz Jr. on Thursday received the key to the city for his contributions to institutions from the University of Tampa to Tampa General Hospital to the performing arts center that bears his name.
"This is a man whose generosity knows no bounds. He just wants to help, period," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a ceremony at the start of the City Council meeting. "This is the key to the city. More importantly, it's the key to our hearts."
After being elected in March, Buckhorn asked Straz, a retired banker, for advice on closing a multimillion-dollar gap in the city's budget. But the mayor was only the latest Tampa leader to turn to Straz for help.
Straz, 69, chairs the board of Tampa General Hospital and has chaired the boards of trustees at the University of Tampa, where a dormitory is named for him, as well as at his alma mater, Marquette University. His support for Lowry Park Zoo led to its manatee hospital being named for him, and he played a key role in helping secure direct flights between Tampa and Havana.
"David and his family are Tampa treasures, and they spread their contributions to where they will do the most good," said Michael Kilgore, vice president of marketing at the performing arts center, which two years ago received a gift from Straz estimated at up to $25 million.
But Straz's philanthropy goes well beyond Tampa. He is the ambassador at large and honorary consul general to the Republic of Liberia, and has supported several school projects in West Africa. He also is honorary consul general to the Republic of Honduras.
"Despite being an accomplished business leader, your humility is disarming," Lowry Park Zoo chief executive officer Craig Pugh told Straz.
Straz said he felt the "deepest gratitude" for the recognition.
"It has been our sincere privilege to play a positive role in Tampa's future," he said.