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Michael Hooker 69

Distinguished Service Medal Citation

Michael Hooker ’69

Isn’t it ironic that we went on to the 21st century without Michael Hooker. He left us far too soon, this man who had few peers in his love for our University and even fewer in the kind of tough love that translates to positive action for her betterment.

What, then, do we tell someone who wants to know who Michael was?

Go anywhere in North Carolina. More folks know and understand what research at Carolina means to them now, because he went to see them and to tell them in the most remote corners of the state we serve. Go to the Legislature in Raleigh, where they have a more complete appreciation for how we spend their money. Michael was all about accountability. In the words of Doris Betts ’54, he was trying to tell the state that academics and common sense are not mutually exclusive.

Look in on the modern classroom, the library or even the dorm room. Michael was first of all a futurist, and he pushed technology passionately. He got the campus wired, he insisted that every student have a computer, and he saw to the first Internet-based courses.

Check a freshman’s class schedule. Michael wanted first-year students to get off to a more meaningful start, and along with the big-audience lectures they now can attend small seminars with the best professors.

Follow the U.S. News rankings. By this time we are used to being in the top five among public universities. But Michael was the first one to talk publicly about the possibility we actually could be Number One. Sure—he knew the rankings were several parts hype. But he knew when hype could have value; he knew these rankings had the attention of the parents of prospective students. We aren’t at the top yet, but nobody seems to think the idea is far-fetched.

Examine the credentials of an impressive roster of the top administrators he brought to this campus, and what they have done already to make Carolina a benchmark, and not a follower, on the fast-changing landscape of higher education.

Rediscover what makes people miss Carolina. Michael made sitting under a tree in quiet contemplation in McCorkle Place sound almost corny. But he was giving voice to a Chapel Hill ideal that’s easily, but too seldom, realized. Go hear some music; go to a lacrosse match or a field hockey match, and find out as he did that some of our most exciting athletic competition is off the beaten path.

Go to the memorabilia room at the Smith Center, and look until you find the picture of Michael with the swimming team. He and his business suit are in the water, where the swimmers tossed him. He has his thumb in the air, loving life.

He has helped us out with his legacy. When it became known that the University would receive its largest single gift ever–$28.6 million—Michael earmarked it for an endowment that will fund 400 scholarships, improve the undergraduate advising system, hire additional faculty in the law school, and build the Black Cultural Center. Some people were tired of hearing about the BCC. Michael was tired of watching the fund raising campaign drag on, and he seized the opportunity to end it.

Michael was so good at seeing what a university could offer to those who never would be caught up in the traditions he loved. As much as he was nourished by the campus aesthetic, he also embraced the new field of distance learning, and insisted we make room for those who just want to learn and don’t necessarily crave the entire Carolina experience.

Chuck Stone’s words at Michael’s memorial service bear repeating: “Michael was a burning and a shiny light and we were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. And oh how we rejoiced. Inspired by his vision, moved by his impatience, uplifted by his arguments, transfigured by his programs.”

Michael Hooker talked so much about the 21st century. Then, he entrusted it to us.