At the age of 93, Dr. William R. (Bill) Mote left a legacy of vision, pursuit, accomplishment. Although he made his fortune as a young man in the transportation business, developing efficient means of moving cargo from ship to shore, he is best known for his unwavering commitment to marine discovery and for his generous spirit. A dedicated conservationist and an avid fisherman with an inordinate fondness for snook rivaling the creator’s for beetles1, Mr. Mote put his energy and his money where his heart led him. Few men or women of means have made similar commitments, particularly as early in their philanthropic careers as he.
Bill Mote (L) & Perry Gilbert (R)
He rescued a fledgling and orphaned Cape Haze Marine Laboratory and, together with the late Dr. Perry Gilbert (Cornell University) and the late Dr. Eugenie Clark (University of Maryland) – both former directors of the lab -- moved it physically and philosophically to become one of the better independent laboratories in the country. The laboratory bearing his name I think he would consider his finest accomplishment--an institution committed to pursuits in marine education and understanding on every level.
By establishing the William R. and Lenore Mote Endowment at Florida State University, Dr. Mote encouraged global interaction among scientists and brought eminent scholars to the university. The Mote Symposia address critical issues in marine science, tackling emerging areas of concern--stock enhancement, marine reserves, species interactions--to investigate divergent points of view, and focus on the root problems resulting from human impacts on the sea. The publications following from these symposia feed directly into conservation and policy arenas. They serve as palpable testimony to Bill Mote's interests and philanthropy and will continue in the same vein in the years ahead.
(L to R) Perry Gilbert, Sylvia Earle, Eugenie Clark, Bill Mote
Bill Mote retained to the end a crystal-clear vision of his mission in life. He voiced his often-repeated concern that we’d taken too much from the sea and that it was time to give something back. He was certainly right on the first point, given recent statements by the United Nations and the National Academy of Science that most of the world’s oceans are in fact in trouble. Given the legacy he’s left us, he clearly accomplished the second. He has most assur-edly given back, and we thank him gratefully for it.
1 Both Charles Darwin and to the geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane are credited with the attribution that “the creator had an inordinate fondness for beetles”, given that there are some 30,000 species of them.