Former Miami Mayor Looks to Future, Funds Scholarship for Real Property LL.M. Program

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Former Miami Mayor and Miami Law graduate Manny Diaz, J.D. ’80, is giving back to the school that helped launch his career—in the hopes of doing the same for others. It’s a gift based on personal experience, with a view toward the future.

“The University obviously gave me the opportunity to do what I’ve done all my life and for that I am forever grateful,” he says. “I had to depend on financial assistance my first year, because we could not afford it. Had I not gotten the financial assistance, I can’t say if I ever would’ve been an attorney, but I certainly, at that particular time, I would not have been able to enroll. So that helped me and I want to help others that are sort of in the same position I was.”

He has established the Manuel A. Diaz Scholarship Fund to support a student in the Robert Traurig/Greenberg Traurig Real Property Development LL.M. Program.

“I’ve practiced real estate law since I started,” he says. “And urban design to me is an extremely critical area, I think for everybody, but I think more and more so for lawyers because whether you talk about transit issues or climate change, it’s just what our future is all about.”

Diaz is a senior partner at Lydecker Diaz, a corporate and real estate law practice. He served as Mayor of the City of Miami from 2001 until he was forced out by term limits eight years later. He was president of the United States Conference of Mayors in 2008. 

During his two terms as mayor, Diaz gained national recognition, and praise, for bringing the city from bankruptcy to financial stability, and for successfully championing of several ambitious public and private projects that transformed Miami’s urban landscape. He is credited for rallying support for Midtown Miami, the Miami Marlins baseball stadium, the Port of Miami tunnel, new parks and museums. He is also responsible for historic preservation efforts that saw the creation of new historic districts and the preservation of the Bacardi complex of buildings, among others. 

He has received almost 100 awards and recognitions for his efforts, including being named as one America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. As mayor, he was known for traveling in a hybrid Toyota Highlander and for wearing a green tie to reflect his environmental consciousness. 

His hope is that the scholarship will help a new generation of lawyers to recognize, value, and promote comprehensive urban design.

“Being able to use your expertise in the law to influence decisions regarding urban planning and how to make a city work, to make a city makes sense, to do things together outside of our cars, to do things that are going to help our environment I think are more and more important in terms of our social responsibility as lawyers,” he says, “not just drafting agreements and doing the typical lawyerly things but also sort of being involved and being an advocate in those areas.” 

Diaz has already given to the University in another way: His son, also named Manny, is the Hurricanes football team’s defensive coordinator.