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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use June 29, 1999


Chancellor Michael Hooker dies at age 53

CHAPEL HILL – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Michael Hooker, who brought a high-tech vision of educating students in the 21st century and a commitment to reconnecting the state’s citizens with the nation’s oldest public university, died early this morning (June 29) at UNC Hospitals from complications stemming from his lymphoma. He was 53.

Hooker was diagnosed in January with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer in the lymph system, and immediately began chemotherapy treatment. He took a medical leave of absence in April to devote his full attention to his health. He then began experimental treatment at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. He resumed his duties as chancellor on June 1 and had been continuing treatment in Chapel Hill while working from the chancellor’s residence.

On Monday (June 28) he led by conference call a meeting of the Chancellor’s Cabinet and had continued to handle work-related activities into the early evening hours. He was admitted to UNC Hospitals late Monday night and died about 1 a.m. today, according to his physician.

University leaders reacted swiftly to the news of Hooker’s passing.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened at the loss of Chancellor Hooker, and our hearts go out to his wife, Carmen, his daughter, Alexandra, the Hooker family and the campus community," said UNC President Molly Corbett Broad. "Michael loved this university without reservation, and I know it was a great source of inspiration in his fight to recover."

Richard Stevens, current chairman of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, said, "One of Michael’s greatest strengths was his vision for higher education in general and UNC-Chapel Hill in particular. The university has moved forward dramatically under his leadership, and we will miss his energy, focus and determination."

Added trustee Anne Cates, vice-chair of the board, "Chancellor Hooker had the vision for our university – his beloved alma mater. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carmen. She is a strong supporter of this university, and our Carolina family grieves with her."

Said UNC-CH Provost Dick Richardson, "Michael Hooker brought a remarkable level of energy and a compelling vision to this campus over the past four years. Chapel Hill has been forever changed by the agenda that Michael placed before all of us. He was a wonderful harbinger of the new millennium. We will all be challenged by what he wanted this place, which he loved so much, to become."

Hooker’s physician, Dr. Lee R. Berkowitz, a hematologist at UNC Hospitals and professor of medicine at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, said, "He fought a brave and courageous fight. As a physician, it was a privilege to get to know and work with him. He certainly did everything that he could do to turn around a serious illness."

In 1969, Hooker became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. Hooker credited his parents’ strong work ethic -- his father was a coal miner -- and their unwavering belief in education with his academic success at UNC-CH and beyond.

Twenty-six years after leaving Chapel Hill to pursue graduate degrees in philosophy, Hooker returned in July 1995 as Carolina's eighth chancellor at age 49. He also was president of Bennington College; president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; and president of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.

Hooker long emphasized the need for UNC-CH to meet the challenges facing higher education in a knowledge-based economy. His dream for Carolina in that era included marshaling resources for students and faculty to assure UNC-CH’s standing as one of the nation’s top public universities.

The chancellor also stressed the university’s commitment to North Carolinians and his administration’s theme: "For the People." "There is only one reason to have a public university, and that is to serve the people of the state," he often said. "That should be the touchstone of everything we do: whether it’s in the interest of North Carolina and our citizens. Our litmus test is the question: Is what we do in Chapel Hill helping the factory worker in Kannapolis?"

To show that conviction, Hooker drew from the tradition of UNC President Frank Porter Graham, who barnstormed the state more than a half century ago to boost support for education at all levels during the economic shift from farming to manufacturing. Hooker spent 1996-97 personally visiting all 100 North Carolina counties to reconnect the university with the people and learn first-hand about the state’s economy and educational system.

The issue-oriented tour included speeches to civic, business and education groups in dozens of Tar Heel towns and cities. He visited public schools, community colleges, small businesses and manufacturing facilities. He met with legislators, alumni and Carolina students in their hometowns.

The chancellor also helped launch a weeklong bus tour across the state aimed at introducing new faculty and administrators from other states and countries to the "real" North Carolina, as well as to see first-hand where 82 percent of the university’s undergraduate students come from. The tour was suggested by a faculty group devoted to public service.

Such travels served Hooker well as Gov. Jim Hunt’s representative on the 1998 Commission on the Future of the South, chaired by former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins. The commission made recommendations to help guide the region into the 21st century.

Public education has been another major priority for Hooker, who ardently supported LEARN North Carolina (Learners’ and Educators’ Assistance and Resource Network of North Carolina), the university’s one-stop World Wide Web site offered free to all N.C. school systems through the School of Education. Teachers, curriculum or technology specialists, and others in all 117 public school districts have been trained on the site, which includes an electronic database of exemplary lesson plans indexed by grade, subject and the N.C. Standard Course of Study, set by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and considered to be the teacher's "bible." LEARN’s success across the state has led to a $1.2 million federal appropriation designed to make the UNC-CH project a national demonstration project that other states can emulate.

On campus, the chancellor joined with the faculty, students and staff in strengthening Carolina’s intellectual climate. A chancellor’s task force guided those efforts through a major yearlong report completed in 1997. Some of the top recommendations are being implemented.

Technology also was a key point of emphasis under Hooker’s leadership. The university has successfully launched its first Internet-based courses and programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as part of an effort to make Carolina accessible to working people. In fall 2000, freshmen will be required to have laptop computers for their academic work as part of a sweeping technology program called the Carolina Computing Initiative.

Other focal points of Hooker's tenure included taking numerous steps to bolster relations with the N.C. General Assembly. The chancellor also stressed adequate and equitable support for faculty, staff and graduate students, resolved long-standing personnel disputes and continued efforts to involve the local community in future planning for development on both the main campus and outlying properties. Under Hooker’s leadership, the university also dramatically boosted private fund-raising efforts and is planning another major multi-year campaign.

Hooker returned to Chapel Hill from the presidency at UMass, where he spearheaded improvements in areas such as teaching and economic development and later tackled restructuring two campuses.

Hooker went to UMass from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which he led from 1986 to 1992. Hooker governed Vermont's Bennington College, a small liberal arts school, from 1982 to 1986. The chancellor was featured in Esquire magazine's 1984 story on the "Best of the New Generation."

From 1975 to 1982, Hooker held posts at Johns Hopkins University, including dean of undergraduate and graduate studies. He taught philosophy at Harvard University from 1973 to 1975 after earning master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1972 and 1973, respectively.

Hooker long was a national leader in education. In 1997, he served as keynote speaker at the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s first national conference on university outreach efforts. In 1996, the chancellor was among the first 20 college presidents named by Secretary of Education Richard Riley to serve on a steering panel for the "America Reads Challenge" initiative, aimed at boosting the ranks of college students helping elementary students learn to read well by the end of the third grade.

Hooker was a member of the Association of Governing Boards' Advisory Board of Presidents and the boards of directors of the Campus Compact, a national public and community service project based at Brown University and coordinated by the Education Commission of the States, as well as the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. He has served on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities' Committee on International Programs and chaired the American Council of Education's Commission on Leadership Development. He also served on the boards of Centura Bank Inc., based in Rocky Mount, N.C., and Alltel Corp. in Little Rock, Ark.

An expert on medical ethics, Hooker has written scholarly articles on applied ethics in business and the ethics of biological warfare. He chaired a biotechnology advisory panel for the U.S. Congress' Office of Technology Assessment from 1982 to 1984. A former member of the editorial board of the Journal of Business Ethics, Hooker was editor of "Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays" and "Leibniz: Critical and Interpretive Essays." His awards include an honorary degree from Drexel University, a Danforth Associateship and a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship. Earlier this month, he received a special Research Park Community Leadership Award from the Association of University Research-Related Parks. Hooker was cited for his work to build partnerships among universities, government, business groups and citizens to improve the economy and quality of life.

As he did when Hooker was receiving treatment, Richardson, the provost, will continue to serve as senior administrator looking after the needs of the Chapel Hill campus, pending further decisions by President Broad.

Arrangements are incomplete. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be made to the Michael Hooker Memorial Fund at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in care of Office of Development, P.O. Box 309, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514-0309.

The chancellor is survived by his wife, Carmen, of Chapel Hill; his daughter, Alexandra, of Baltimore, Md.; his mother, Christine Hooker, of Roanoke, Va.; and Carmen’s two daughters, Jennifer and Cyndi Buell, both of Charlotte.

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Photos of the Chancellor are available. Please contact campus photographer Dan Sears at 919-962-8592.

UNC-CH to host public memorial service for Chancellor Michael Hooker on Friday

State, university leaders share thoughts on Chancellor Michael Hooker’s legacy

Student leaders plan tribute to Chancellor Hooker

For more information about the Michael Hooker Memorial Fund or to make an online gift, click to:

Contact: News Services staff, 962-2091