June 6, 2011

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By the time famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle met philanthropist Edward Harte in 2000, the two had accomplished more than most can dream.

Harte, the former publisher of the Caller-Times and philanthropist, helped grow his family business into a $775 million empire while also becoming well known for his conservation efforts locally and abroad. Mr. Harte was an advocate of habitat protection and offshore drilling regulation for many years. William H. Dietel, chairman of the American Farmland Trust, said, “Ed has been a man of conservation for many years… Ed has the capacity to see critical need.”

Harte died on Wednesday, May 18th. He was 88.

It was not until Harte read one of Earle’s books, “Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans” that their lives crossed. Harte credited the book with inspiring him to give $46 million in 2000 to help start the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Earle, an institute advisory board member, said Thursday that she and Harte became fast friends. “Ed had an almost childlike enthusiasm for learning more, connecting the dots,” she said. “Call it a newsman’s interest in understanding how everything effects everything else. He was a newsman’s newsman.” The institute the two helped build has gained worldwide recognition for its efforts at connecting the Gulf’s vast environmental significance with its socioeconomic and political value, Earle said Thursday.

Harte’s gift came with one condition, she said. “Make a difference,” she said. “That was the only constraint.” Earle said Harte invested his life in a way that will continue giving. “I am just personally and tremendously honored to have known him, to catch his infectious vision, and to be a part of helping make the vision come true,” she said.

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