BY BRIAN M. BUTLER, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
ORLANDO – A few years ago my family established the Dr. Michael B. Butler Endowed Scholarship for students in the UCF College of Medicine, we did so not only to honor my father’s incredible legacy and celebrate his love for medicine but also to assist students who have a passion for service in underrepresented areas — just as he did. My father grew up in Florida during a tumultuous time in American history. He attended Talladega College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Alabama, a state where many key events in the civil rights movement took place.
My father was drawn to the cause but never spoke with bitterness about the injustices or preferential treatment he had witnessed. “He learned to cherish fairness,” as shared by my mother, Marian Jean Butler-Proffitt. At that time, fewer than two percent of all physicians were Black, and most had gone to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where my father also went to medical school. After graduation, he was drafted into military service serving in the US Navy, sent to Camp Pendleton in California and then to Vietnam. U.S. Navy Corpsmen (serving in U.S. Marine Corps units) were the enlisted “first responders” of the Vietnam War. They saved countless lives, often at incredible risk to themselves. Besides providing trauma care on the battlefield, they were responsible for the day-to-day prevention and treatment of a wide range of injuries and diseases among the troops. Once he had completed his service, he did his surgical residency and moved the family (his wife Jean, children Brian and Michele) to Orlando, FL where he established his medical practice in Parramore.
My father became involved in various organizations, including the Orange County Medical Society, where he served as its first Black president. He was also named Chief of Surgery at Florida Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Princeton Hospital and South Seminole Hospital. He served in many roles for the American Cancer Society and the YMCA, and as the chair of the United Negro College Fund of Central Florida, to name a few.
While my father’s aptitude for Chemistry and Science was not passed down to me, he did share his passion and love of three interests; Sports, Music, and Community Service.
Baseball (later Softball) was his first love. Little did my sister and I know that he chose attending Medical School over signing a minor league baseball contract. He was clearly (and thankfully) realistic about his dreams and the goals he wished to achieve. Softball leagues and tournaments filled the void as he played that sport from when we were pre-school and elementary school age until I graduated with my MBA in my late twenties.
When he couldn’t get on the softball field, he made due with tennis game of singles or doubles early in the morning, in the evenings or on the weekends. He was always competing.
He turned me on to football first through the Friday Night Lights because he would provide physicals to the local area players and served as Team Doctor. Being on the sidelines in elementary school was a tremendous thrill, felt like I was watching the pros. Just when I began to realize I wasn’t too much smaller than the HS Players when I was in Junior High, the Tampa Bay Bucs Franchise was founded and there we began our treks down I-4 to catch the woeful Bucs. I am still a season ticket holder today, probably because of those memories with my father.
Michael Butler had a love of music, especially R&B and Jazz. We got a chance to see Ike & Tina Turner, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Roger Zapp and many others and he always had a cassette tape or CD playing.
His most lasting impact for me and my sister was Community Service. Whether through church, Rotary Club, local or national non-profit organizations he served often times in leadership roles. Reflections as an adult about my father’s service was his commitment to serve no matter the circumstances. One of those special moments, just father and son delivering meals to the elderly with “Meals On Wheels.” A simple act of delivering meals, no fanfare, no limelight just dropping off food anonymously to grateful individuals without selfies or posts.
Education was very important to him, and although the state university system was not admitting Blacks when he was entering college, he was appointed by Governor Bob Graham and served on Florida Board of Regents in the mid to late 1980s.
Our family has been connected to UCF for decades; in addition to my mother’s pioneering role in Medical Records Administration, my wife, Cathy, and I made our first donation more than 15 years ago. We are now proud UCF parents — our son, Michael James, is a senior majoring in business and I am a member of the UCF Foundation Board. As we have grown to know more about UCF, we have been increasingly excited by the work at the university
“It is an honor for the College of Medicine to offer the Dr. Michael B. Butler Endowed Scholarship to deserving medical students. Dr. Butler’s legacy will live on through this scholarship and through the M.D. students whose lives will be forever changed.” — Deborah German, M.D., Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, UCF College of Medicine.
Our family had talked for some time about the best way to honor my father’s memory. Although we have always encouraged others to contribute to the various charities and causes that were important to him, we knew we wanted to do more. The Dr. Michael B. Butler Endowed Scholarship in the UCF College of Medicine honors my father’s legacy in a meaningful way, and we look forward to celebrating the successes of current and future student scholarship recipients —our doctors of tomorrow. We especially hope to impart to these students our father’s favorite message: He would often say, “What I had, I spent. What I saved, I lost. What I gave, I have.”