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President Emeritus Paul Pearson dies at age 73

08/14/2000

Dr. Paul G. Pearson, president of Miami University from 1981-1992, died Saturday morning (Aug. 12) of cancer at his home in Oxford. He was 73.

It was said of President Pearson that he led Miami into the national spotlight without ever seeking that spotlight for himself. Throughout his 11-year presidency, he was widely praised for his blend of leadership skills, vision and sense of humanity.

During his tenure as president, Miami received wide recognition as one of the best values in higher education and was named a "Public Ivy," one of only eight universities nationwide to be so honored.

In addition, graduation rates went up 15 percent and applications for the freshman class rose 18 percent. Private support for Miami increased by five-fold and the university successfully launched a $100 million Campaign for Miami.

President Pearson also emphasized increasing the diversity of Miami’s students, faculty and staff. The university’s innovative efforts to recruit minority faculty and to address campus racial issues were spotlighted in The New York Times and other national media.

Pearson was a leader in Ohio’s higher education community, serving as chairman of the Council of Presidents of the Inter-University Council of Ohio during 1988-89. He was a strong spokesperson for the role of higher education in rebuilding the economy of Ohio and in improving the cultural and intellectual climate of the state.

But President Pearson also took interest in local issues. Under his leadership, Miami began meeting regularly with Oxford and Chamber of Commerce officials.

Although his role demanded a hectic travel and work schedule, he often team taught a course in the zoology department and rarely missed an opportunity to join a Saturday morning coffee group at the Oxford McDonald’s.

Even after his retirement, he and his wife, Winifred, were frequent guests at student honor banquets, lectures, concerts and athletic events.

"Miami University and the Oxford community have lost a great friend and a leader. Paul Pearson was a man of intelligence, humor, and compassion. We have all benefited by his wise counsel and will miss him greatly ," said Miami President James C. Garland.

Pearson began his duties as Miami’s 18th president after a 26-year career at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he served as a faculty member in the zoology department, department chair, associate provost, executive vice president and acting president.

Born and educated in Lake Worth, Fla., he received his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida. His scholarly research focused on the ecology of vertebrates and later on the ecological impact of pollutants such as pesticides and heavy metals on ecosystems.

He served as a member in the leadership of several national professional societies. The numerous offices he held included serving as president of the American Society of Zoologists, chairing the ecology division and serving as a member of the editorial board of the American Zoologist, and serving as associate editor Bioscience.

President Pearson held appointments to the boards of the Union Central Life Insurance Co. of Cincinnati, the Ohio Nature Conservancy, Dayton Public Television, Ohio Northern University, Southwest Ohio Senior Services Inc. and Knolls of Oxford and served for six years as director of Star Bank of Hamilton.

He is survived by his wife, Winifred; two sons, Thomas, Atlanta, Ga., and Andrew, Lexington, Ky.; a daughter, Jean McCabe, London, England; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday (Aug. 15) at the Oxford United Methodist Church, 14 N. Poplar Street. A private burial will follow. There will be a receiving line at the Oxford United Methodist Church, Monday (Aug. 14) from 5-8 p.m.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Paul G. Pearson Scholarship Fund at Miami University. Contributions may be sent to the Panuska Development Center, Miami University, 725 E. Chestnut St., Oxford, Ohio 45056.

Smith and Ogle Funeral Home, Oxford, is in charge of arrangements.

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