Prominent Developer and UT Donor Scarfone Dies

Published: Aug 2, 2005

Lee Scarfone, the prominent Tampa developer for whom the University’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery is named in part, died in his sleep at his Tampa home on May 28. He was 73. The son of Italian immigrants, Letterio Salvatore “Lee” Scarfone was born in New Jersey, where he lived until moving to St. Petersburg with his family when he was 16. He graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 1951, served four years in the Navy, then attended the University of Florida, graduating with a degree in architecture in 1959.

Known as a dedicated patron of the arts, Scarfone contributed funding to the 1977 creation of UT’s art gallery, in addition to designing its interior. Gallery director Dorothy Cowden said that Scarfone’s involvement with the gallery continued until his death.

As head of Lee Scarfone and Associates, Scarfone left his mark in the Tampa Bay area with major projects that included the Pinnacle condominium building and the Bigelow mansion, both on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard.

Scarfone had a reputation for allying himself with big projects, and not only in the realms of development and construction. He amassed a fortune as a design consultant for ARAMCO, an American and Saudi Arabian oil company, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

From 1982-86, he was a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League. The team’s other owners included actor Burt Reynolds, country music star and actor Jerry Reed, and the primary owner, the late professional sports tycoon John Bassett. Coached by Florida Gators legend Steve Spurrier, the team was successful on the field and at the cash register, but folded when the league went under.

Besides being a recognized patron of the arts, Scarfone also was known to be an avid art collector. In 1981, he purchased the entire collection of works by Tampa artist William Pachner. Earlier, he had been a leader in the establishment of an art gallery at UT.

“He made it happen here at the gallery,” Cowden said. “He scrambled and begged and borrowed to make it happen. He loved art, and that’s one reason he supported it so much.”

For more information, contact the Office of Public Information at publicinfo@ut.edu or (813) 253-6232.