Former MSU Pres. Donald W. Zacharias has died at age 77
Dr. Donald W. Zacharias, courtesy of MSU University Relations
STARKVILLE, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
According to a press release from MSU University Relations, Dr. Donald W. Zacharias, the president emeritus of Mississippi State University, died Sunday, March 3.
Zacharias, 77, died of complications from multiple sclerosis after an extended illness.
Dr. Zacharias served as president for the university from 1985-1997.
Second in tenure only to Stephen D. Lee, the founding president of the state's land-grant institution, Zacharias brought Mississippi State to a new level of prominence during his 12 and one-half years of service.
Current MSU President, Mark E. Keenum had fond memories of Dr. Zacharias.
"Dr. Donald Zacharias was a transformative figure at Mississippi State University. He really helped bring MSU into the modern era, and he did so by developing a broad vision for the leadership that Mississippi needed from a land grant university. At our last visit during the Christmas holidays, Dr. Zacharias was still providing valuable, thoughtful counsel to me and still had the welfare of MSU students at the top of his mind. I counted him as a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration. Don Zacharias was a man of great courage and dignity and he was one of the most influential leaders in the history of Mississippi higher education," said Keenum.
Zacharias became a visionary for higher education in Mississippi when he was named MSU's 15th president in 1985 after coming to the Starkville campus from the presidency of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. During his tenure, Zacharias raised MSU's visibility and reputation nationally, enrollment climbed to the largest in the state at almost 16,000. African-American enrollment more than doubled to 2,200, 15 percent of the student body and the highest percentage among SEC schools.
Private support surged under Zacharias, as annual contributions rose from $4 million at the start of his presidency to more than $42 million in 1996.
Upon his resignation from MSU in 1997, Zacharias said: "I saw things in Mississippi State University that others might not have seen. I felt that I had made the right decision to be at this university because I liked both what it stood for and its overall character. I liked its mission, and I liked the students and alumni. I saw the potential."
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time, but a public memorial service is tentatively planned on the campus of MSU on Thursday, March 7.
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