Local News

North Carolina Mourns Loss of UNC Chancellor

Posted June 28, 1999

— Family, friends, and members of the university community are mourning the loss ofMichael Hooker, chancellor of theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hillsince 1995, who died Tuesday of complications from cancer.

Student leaders stopped by South Building Wednesday morning tolay flowersoutside in Hooker's honor. They are asking each member of the Carolina community to do the same.

Officials with theSpecial Olympics World Summer Gameshave dedicated the closing ceremonies to Hooker, and toa volunteer who died Saturday.

President Clinton also released a statement Tuesday recognizing Hooker's contribution to education.

"Michael Hooker represented the very best in our education system -- and the very best in public service. He will be missed," Clinton's statement read.

Hooker, 53, died about 1 a.m. atUNC Hospitals, where he was admitted late Monday night, according to auniversity statement. Hooker, who began treatment for cancer in January, had led a conference call meeting of his cabinet earlier that day.

"Michael loved this university without reservation, and I know it was a great source of inspiration in his fight to recover," saidUNC President Molly Corbett Broad.

Broad said Hooker worked to bring technological changes to the university to change the way students are taught.

"He lived a life of really committed public service," said former UNC president Bill Friday, who knew Hooker when he was an undergraduate. "It's a tragedy that a life is cut down so soon. The university has a vitality that is a direct result of his leadership."

Dave Whichard of Greenville, a member of theUNC Board of Trusteesand a member of the search committee that recruited Hooker, called Hooker "a visionary and an active chancellor."

Trustee Jean Allman of Rocky Mount also praised Hooker as a dynamic person who "had such a wonderful vision ... of what we need to teach our young people."

It will be up to Broad and theUNC Board of Governorsto find a replacement for Hooker. Until then, University Provost Dick Richardson will be in charge.

"I think he has put into place not only the vision, but he has also put in place the audacity to claim that we could be the best public university in America," Richardson said.

Now, UNC will enter the next century under new leadership. Students and faculty must deal with the loss.

"Actually, he was a student in one of my classes when he was an undergraduate here," said Dr. John Hernandez, a physics professor. "I am very sorry to hear that he's died. The university will miss him, I'm sure."

Students like Daylian Cain are saddened. "I don't know who is going to replace him, and do the kind of things he did around here," he said. "UNC, because of him, is rising."

The chancellor took a leave of absence in April so he could receive experimental treatment fornon-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. He had been receiving treatment since January at UNC Hospitals.

Hooker missed a scheduled June 1 return to his office, although he worked at home.

Hooker said last month his cancer had changed from a low-grade, slow-growing form to a high-grade, rapidly growing version. Hooker said he suffered nerve damage to his right leg and left arm as a result of the illness.

At the time, the physicians who diagnosed Hooker described his disease as treatable, saying that if chemotherapy sessions were successful, his cancer could go into remission for years.

"It's not a curable disease," Hooker said. "Some days, I feel like I used to, and then I realize, 'Holy Toledo, I've got cancer.'"

Hematology and oncology journals have become his favorite reading, the chancellor said.

Hooker was admitted to the National Cancer Institute in April but began chemotherapy in January at UNC Hospitals. In April he was granted a two-month leave of absence so he could concentrate on his treatment.

Broad appointed William O. McCoy as acting chancellor while Hooker went to Maryland for treatment. McCoy left the acting chancellor's post June 1.

While Hooker stayed at home, a vice chancellor represented him at university functions.

Friday and former Chancellor Paul Hardin were named to the management team with McCoy, a retired BellSouth Corp. executive and former UNC system finance vice president.

Hooker, a UNC graduate, was named chancellor in 1995. He had been president of the University of Massachusetts system.

Hooker, a native of Richlands in the coal-mining territory of southwest Virginia, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1969 with a degree in philosophy.

The first person in his family to earn a college degree, Hooker went on to receive master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts.

He rose through the ranks of academia, from a teaching post at Harvard to the presidency of Vermont's Bennington College at age 37. After three years at the helm of the University of Massachusetts, Hooker returned to Chapel Hill as the eighth chancellor of the nation's oldest public university.

Before Hooker was president of the Massachusetts system, he served as president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and was dean of undergraduate and graduate studies at The Johns Hopkins University, where he had been a philosophy professor.

Hooker 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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