Former Penn president Sheldon Hackney dies
He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in his home in Martha’s Vineyard
September 13, 2013, 12:16 am · Updated September 13, 2013, 12:31 am·
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Francis Sheldon Hackney, president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1993, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in his home in Martha’s Vineyard, according to an obituary in the Vineyard Gazette. He was 79.
Born in Alabama, Hackney worked to increase minority presence on campus and focused on undergraduate education, student financial aid and research funding. His focus in particular on undergraduate education resulted in the creation of new dual-degree programs in cognitive science, international area studies and public and urban policy, along with many other areas.
“He was a great soul. He and his wife Lucy have had an impact on Penn, individuals at Penn and on the nation that is deep and far ranging,” Will Gipson, associate vice provost for Equity and Access, said in an email.
During his time at Penn, he came into the national spotlight in the wake of the “water buffalo” incident — when a freshman student called several black female students by that term and attracted widespread media scrutiny to the University.
He left Penn in 1993 when then-President Bill Clinton appointed him as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“It is possible for us to thrive,” Hackney said during his inauguration ceremonies as Penn’s president. “We may not all get fatter, we may do without bigger offices, but the real mission of the University, the pursuit of real knowledge, we can accomplish under our constraints.”
Before coming to Penn, Hackney was president of Tulane University for five years and the provost of Princeton University for three years.
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