Sheldon Hackney, former Penn president, dies at age 79

Sheldon Hackney served as president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1993. Credit: Penn
Sheldon Hackney served as president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1993. Credit: Penn

Former University of Pennsylvania President Sheldon Hackney died last week after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 79.

In a statement, current Penn president Amy Gutmann called Hackney “one of the most beloved presidents in the history of our university.”

Hackney, who served as Penn’s president from 1981 to 1993, was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1993. He held the position until 1997.

“He also was an exceptional leader and renowned scholar who was a national champion for the humanities, and for a broad-based liberal arts education,” Gutmann said. “He approached his work with grace and dignity, a sense of kindness and genuine humility, and a wry, oft-times unexpected sense of humor.”

He taught history at Penn from 1998 until his retirement in 2010.

According to Hackey’s obituary, which was published Thursday in the Vineyard Gazette, he died at home surrounded by his family.

He is survived by his wife Lucy, their children Sheldon Fain and Elizabeth, and several grandchildren.


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