TAMPA— In 1979, after nearly three decades teaching physics in high schools and colleges, during which time he designed courses for a new Hillsborough Community College and launched the county's first science fair, Philip Rosete was ready to retire.
Instead, he was lured back to teaching at Jesuit High. He stayed 19 years, trying to instill an order in students he hoped would govern their lives.
Mr. Rosete, a local educator for 48 years and a community leader, died March 3 at Melech Hospice House, of kidney failure. He was 89.
"He was without a doubt the most influential teacher in my life," said Tampa cardiologist Dr. Benedict Maniscalco, 70, a former student at Jefferson High.
"He left a great legacy in education," said former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, another Jefferson High student who forged a long friendship with Mr. Rosete.
Nephew Mark Beiro, a longtime sports announcer, likened his uncle to "a Spanish Hugh Beaumont," referring to the actor who played Ward Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. A disappointed look could bring a youngster in line. Some misbehaviors prompted a wide-ranging lecture that included elements of history and contained moral lessons.
"He could go back to the beginning of time," said Marlena Scardino, 61, Mr. Rosete's daughter.
Mr. Rosete was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1922, and arrived in Tampa at age 3. As a teenager growing up in Ybor City, he worked at Los Helados, a family restaurant specializing in homemade ice cream.
A few years later, he was fighting with the Army in Normandy, one of the defining experiences of his life.
"He thought he would die there," Beiro said.
Back in Tampa, he married Ofelia, whom he had met at a dance. Mr. Rosete graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in math and physics, then did graduate work. He served part time for 10 years in the National Guard.
Between 1952 and 1964, Mr. Rosete taught on Jefferson High's original campus, then moved to Leto High. Along the way, he taught at the University of Tampa, University of Florida and Florida State University.
In the late 1960s he took an administrator's role at Hillsborough Community College, where he served as a dean, contributing to curriculum planning and facilities design for the college's Dale Mabry, Plant City and Ybor City campuses.
He landed at Jesuit in 1979 and taught physics, retiring in 1998. While at Jesuit, he served on the board of Centro Asturiano Hospital, including time as its president.
In retirement he enjoyed Saturday breakfasts at El Gallo de Oro in Fiesta Plaza, where he often ran into former students.
"He taught you two things," said Maniscalco, who founded St. Joseph's Heart Institute. "How to think, and how to comport yourself to live a good life."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.