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Public Gathers To Remember UNC Chancellor

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CHAPEL HILL — As the memorial service forUNCChancellor Michael Hooker began, bells tolled. The flag flew at half-staff in front of South Building, where Hooker worked, and in front of the nation's capitol at Senator Jesse Helms' request.

The mist burned off early Friday morning to a beautiful day in Chapel Hill. People at the memorial service say the weather was a fitting tribute to a well-loved and admired leader.

The memorial service for Hooker drew his colleagues, students and friends. All came to pay tribute to a determined and energetic leader who wanted to make his university the best university in the country.

Hundreds crowded into Memorial Hall to hear the music Hooker loved, while the state's highest dignitaries offered their sympathy and praise.

"We will not forget his zest for life, his enthusiasm, which made all of us younger," said Governor Jim Hunt. "And we will not forget his challenge to all of us to make every aspect of this university more excellent."

"He has dedicated [himself] to developing this university," said professor Jan Boxill. Boxill says Hooker brought an "undergraduate's enthusiasm" back to the university.

Some of the most eloquent speakers at the memorial were the students of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Students say they found Hooker to be very visible and approachable, very interested in their ideas, and dedicated to their futures.

"If you had a problem, he was there to fix it. You could write him or e-mail him. He always had a quick response. He was always there for the students," said Jameel Freeman.

Student Body President Nic Heinke read reflections from several students to those gathered at Memorial Hall.

"It came through every word he said, actions he took, and every time you saw him eating or cheering at an athletic event or just strolling around campus. His light has touched us all. It inspired us and motivated us," said Heinke.

UNC-CH Provost Dick Richardson suspended classes from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. so members of the university community were free to attend.

North Carolina Congressman David Price honored Chancellor Hooker with a tribute before the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday night.

Price said he is deeply saddened by the loss, but that Hooker's legacy will live on.

"North Carolinians who knew Michael Hooker will remember his energy for innovation and for effective teaching, his belief in the promise of a great public university, and his passion for leading Carolina into the next century."

Price said Hooker will also be remembered for his inventiveness and boldness with public education issues. Reporter:Yvonne SimonsPhotographer:Terry Cantrell