Robert McCabe, Who Helped Expand Miami Dade College, Dies At 86

Dec 24, 2014

A MIAMI INSTITUTION: Robert H. McCabe, who was president of Miami Dade College from 1980 to 1995 and helped build the school’s national reputation, celebrated with wife, historian Arva Moore Parks, during the March 1997 dedication ceremonies for a campus building named in his honor, Robert H. McCabe Hall and the Betty and Alvah Chapman Conference Center.
Credit Al Diaz / Miami Herald

During the time Robert McCabe was president of Miami Dade College, no school in the country awarded as many associate of arts degrees.

McCabe, 86, died of cancer Tuesday night.

His widow, Arva Moore Parks, says her husband had a simple philosophy for education.

“That everybody could achieve if you help them along," she said. "He really, truly believed that – and he proved it.”

That meant accepting every student who applied to Miami Dade College. And the students who weren’t ready for college work had to take refresher courses on the basics of math, reading or writing.

But remedial courses have fallen out of fashion in higher education. Advocates say the courses add to the time it takes to earn a degree – making it less likely students will finish.

Last year, Florida made the courses optional.

Parks says her husband was opposed to that change. He planned to tell the Legislature it was a bad idea.

“He was going to go out there and fight for keeping it," she says. "Because it worked. It absolutely worked.”

McCabe also helped conceive New World School of the Arts. In 1992 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.