Former JSU President Hefner dies in Tennessee

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Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway Ave. in Nashville, for former Jackson State University President Dr. James A. Hefner, who died Wednesday in his Brentwood, Tenn., home of complications from colon cancer, according to his family. He was 76.

A memorial service will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Poag Auditorium at Tennessee State University.

Hefner, a native of North Carolina, had a long history in higher education. He served as Jackson State’s president from 1984-1991 and was president of TSU, provost of Tuskegee University and interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at Clark Atlanta University.

While at JSU, he launched a five-year $10 million capital campaign that generated $11.2 million a year ahead of schedule. He was noted for enhancing the university’s scholarship program and establishing a Community Development Corporation with the assistance of the Ford Foundation to improve blighted areas around the campus. In addition, he is credited with organizing a Staff Senate and developing the Center for Professional Development and the Center of Technology Transfer. Hefner also expanded programs in the Division of Continuing Education and the Universities Center.

JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers said, “On behalf of all of us at Jackson State University, I extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Dr. Hefner. We owe a debt of gratitude to his legacy and for his love of our great institution. His decades of service in higher education at institutions throughout this nation are a testament to his desire to ensure a quality education for everyone. We pay homage to a president who had a lasting impact on academia and Jackson State University.”

“My father lived a life of service to historically black colleges and universities and the students who attend them,” said David Hefner, Ed.D., the youngest son of Hefner.

Former JSU President Dr. John A. Peoples Jr. said, “Dr. Hefner succeeded me, but I got to know Jim as a great person who served well. During the time I knew him, I was a member of the alumni association, and I worked to support his efforts.”

When recently asked how he wanted to be remembered, Hefner said: “As an educator who cared about black higher education and the welfare of students.”

Having written dozens of articles, Hefner co-authored and edited the book “Public Policy for the Black Community: Strategies and Perspectives.”

Throughout his career, he received numerous honors and awards, including a life membership in Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society; the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) Achievement Award in Research; NAFEO President’s Award; and Omega Psi Phi Man of the Year. He is the first college president invited to be a fellow in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard.

Hefner was awarded his undergraduate degree in business administration from North Carolina A&T State University; his master’s degree in economics from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University); and his doctorate in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1999, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Marlboro College, and, in 2005, an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from The University of the South.

He is survived by his wife, Edwina Hefner of Thomson, Ga.; three sons: Christopher, Jonathan and David; three daughters-in-law; and his beloved grandchildren.