Former Penn President Sheldon Hackney dies

Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians

Sheldon Hackney, a former president of the University of Pennsylvania and chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has died. He was 79. An obituary for Hackney in the Vineyard Gazette said he died Thursday in Martha's Vineyard of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Hackney was Penn's president from 1981 to 1993, and later taught history at the university. 

During his time at Penn, Hackney was put into the national spotlight for the "water buffalo" incident, in which a student yelling at several black sorority sisters used that term, bringing scrutiny to race relations at Penn and the university's actions. Hackney's handling of the incident was a point of contention during his NEH confirmation hearings. While leading the university, Hackney oversaw a $1.33-billion fundraising campaign, and worked to increase Penn's selectivity and reputation. 

President Bill Clinton appointed him as chairman of the NEH, a role he held from 1993 to 1997. Hackney, an expert on the American South, then returned to Penn as a history professor, and retired in 2010....

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