Former Manhattan College Trustee Michael Bette Dies at 76

College mourns construction industry icon, philanthropist

Michael F. Bette ’59, a benefactor, veteran of the construction industry and longtime member of the Manhattan College Board of Trustees, died April 11 at the College of an apparent heart attack. He was 76.

Bette, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the College in 1959, was the owner of BBL Florida and BBL Texas companies, which specialize in the construction of large, high-end apartment and condominium complexes.

Bette was elected to the College’s Board of Trustees in 1991 and sat on the facilities committee. During his 15-year tenure he was instrumental in overseeing the College’s multiyear campus renovation plan, including a program that ensured the upgrade of every campus building and facility.  

Born in the Bronx, Bette grew up in Long Island and attended Chaminade High School. He began his career in 1962 as construction manager with D. Fortunato, a Long Island-based contracting firm. When the company expanded, Bette was tapped to co-manage its upstate New York operations with colleague Robert Barry. In 1973, he and Barry established their own construction firm, Barry & Bette, Inc.

Ten years later, that company merged with an Albany-based firm, which ultimately became Barry, Bette & Led Duke, Inc. (BBL). During the next 26 years, BBL grew to become a diversified general contracting and construction management firm with several divisions and annual construction sales in excess of $400 million.

During his 40-year career, Bette was responsible for more than $4 billion in construction projects, including highway and bridge construction, educational facilities, health-care-related facilities, correctional facilities, multifamily housing and general office buildings. He was a licensed professional engineer in several states, including New York, Florida, Texas and Louisiana, and he changed the skyline of Southwest Florida and constructed many of the high-rise condominiums along the Gulf Coast. His projects included major construction work at the New York World’s Fair, and Empire State Plaza.

In 2004 Manhattan College bestowed Bette with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. During that year’s Fall Honors Convocation he was lauded for having been “a wise voice leading the College in a long series of building and renovation projects.”

In 2006, upon stepping down as a Trustee, Bette was praised by the College’s Board of Trustees for having “served his alma mater well and faithfully by being a stalwart friend and by his unstinting generosity as a major benefactor which has provided leadership in its measure as well as its challenge for others to emulate his example.”

In addition to his trusteeship at the College, Bette was a trustee emeritus of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. A dedicated philanthropist, he also served on the boards of Hope House, the Twin Rivers Council and Boy Scouts of America. 

The long-time Albany resident is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, along with seven children and 16 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at St. Pius X in Loudonville, N.Y., at 10 a.m. Friday, April 19. In keeping with Bette’s wishes and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in his name to Catholic Charities of Albany, and to St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation, also of Albany.

For more information contact John Tucker at 718-862-7232 or john.tucker@manhattan.edu.