August 14, 2006
By: by Joel Stashenko, The Business Review
Higher education in New York and the United States lost a dynamic leader when University at Albany President Kermit Hall died Sunday, State University of New York Board of Trustees' Chairman Thomas Egan said.
"As leader of the University at Albany, President Hall brought to that institution a drive for academic excellence, a commitment to enhancing campus life and an understanding of the university's global role," Egan said.
Hall, 61, was pronounced dead on Sunday afternoon at Hilton Head Regional Medical Center in South Carolina, where he and his wife Phyllis were vacationing. He was pulled from the water by beachgoers after apparently becoming distressed about 100 yards off-shore. It was not clear whether Hall drowned or was stricken while swimming.
UAlbany officials said they would release more information Monday as it becomes available. Phyllis Hall was not hurt.
Hall took over as UAlbany's 17th president on Feb. 1, 2005. One of his first acts was to announce that in lieu of an inaugural ceremony, the college would use $100,000 to start the Inaugural Scholarship Fund for undergraduates. Hall and his wife personally contributed $10,000 to the fund, which now stands at nearly $3 million.
Among Hall's priorities at UAlbany was the improvement of the college's academic standards. Next month, the university will begin an honors college, an advanced academic program for its best and most ambitious students.
Hall also tried to improve UAlbany's foreign exchange programs, especially in China. During six trips to China as UAlbany president, he signed formal student- and faculty-exchange agreements with East China Normal University, Nanjing University and other institutions.
During his most recent visit, in July, Hall also represented the State University of New York in negotiations over the opening of a SUNY campus at Nanjing University.
"Kermit Hall was a distinguished scholar and mentor to students and faculty alike who, as president for far too short a time, made enormous contributions to the academic advances of the University at Albany," said SUNY Chancellor John Ryan, who was acting UAlbany president before Hall arrived. "The State University has lost a colleague of vision, integrity and dynamism."
Gov. George Pataki said Hall also advanced the nanotechnology center at UAlbany, which the governor called "unparalleled" in the United States. In June, Pataki said the UAlbany nanotechnology center was an integral factor in the decision by Advanced Micro Devices to build a new computer chip manufacturing plant in Malta, Saratoga County.
"He has been both an outstanding university and community leader," Pataki said in a statement released by his office.
Before coming to Albany, Hall was president of Utah State University and a former provost and vice president for academic affairs at North Carolina State University. He was also an administrator and professor at Ohio State University, the University of Tulsa, the University of Florida, Wayne State University and Vanderbilt University.
Hall was a native of Akron, Ohio, who was educated at the University of Akron, Syracuse University, Yale University and the University of Minnesota.
He was recognized as a scholar of constitutional law. In 1992, former President Clinton appointed Hall to the Assassination Records Review Board, which reviewed the public release of documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hall was also a member of an NCAA task force on the future of intercollegiate athletics.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
President Shirley Ann Jackson, whose college collaborated with Hall and UAlbany on several projects, said she lost a "new friend."
"He was just getting started," she said. "We will miss him terribly."