Sheldon Hackney

Last updated
Francis Sheldon Hackney
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities
In office
Preceded by Lynne Cheney
Succeeded by William R. Ferris
6th President of the University of Pennsylvania
In office
Preceded by Martin Meyerson
Succeeded by Claire Fagin (interim)
President of Tulane University
In office
Preceded by Herbert Eugene Longenecker
Succeeded by Eamon Kelly
Provost of Princeton University
In office
Succeeded by Neil L. Rudenstine
Personal details
Born(1933-12-05)December 5, 1933
Birmingham, Alabama
DiedSeptember 12, 2013(2013-09-12) (aged 79)
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Spouse(s)Lucy Durr Hackney
Children1 son, 2 daughters
Alma mater Vanderbilt University (B.A.)
Yale University (Ph.D.)

Francis Sheldon Hackney (December 5, 1933 – September 12, 2013) was a prominent U.S. educator. He was the Boies Professor of United States History at the University of Pennsylvania.


Early life

Hackney was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1933, and educated in the Birmingham public school system. He was a graduate of Ramsay High School. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Hackney earned his Ph.D. in American History at Yale University, where he worked with eminent Southern historian C. Vann Woodward. He subsequently served in the Navy for five years.


Hackney began his career as a lecturer in history at Princeton University. There, he taught in an Upward Bound program for disadvantaged students and played a role in the creation of the university's African American Studies program. While at Princeton, he moved into administration, serving as the provost from 1972 to 1975.

From 1975 to 1980, Hackney was the president of Tulane University. At Tulane, Hackney was best known for approving the November 1979 decision to tear down Tulane Stadium, the on-campus home of the Green Wave football team from 1926 through 1974. The Wave moved to the Louisiana Superdome upon its completion in August 1975. Tulane Stadium stood vacant for nearly five years after Tulane and the NFL's New Orleans Saints played their final games there, hosting high school football games and an ill-fated ZZ Top concert in 1976.

Hackney was president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1993. He was also the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from 1993 to 1997, appointed by President Clinton. His defining initiative in the job was his first: "A National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity," a project that helped finance and shape about 1,400 public meetings from 1994 to 1997.

Hackney specialized in the history of the American South since the Civil War. He had in an interest in American utopias and other social movements with an emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement and the 1960s. Among the articles and books on history that Hackney published, Populism to Progressivism in Alabama won the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association. Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Sheldon Hackney, an edited collection of essays authored by his former students and collaborators will be released in November 2013.

Hackney was credited at the University of Pennsylvania with raising undergraduate minority enrollment from 13 to 30 percent and with increasing the endowment from about $160 million to $1 billion. Towards the end of his tenure, there was the so-called Water buffalo incident, a controversial affair involving a student charged with racial harassment that raised issues involving free speech and university judicial procedures nationally. In particular, Hackney's role in the incident was a subject of his 1993 Senate confirmation hearings for the NEH appointment. Hackney's memoir about the turmoil of his confirmation [1] , The Politics of Presidential Appointment: A Memoir of the Culture War ISBN   1-58838-068-8, was published in 2002. During his confirmation, critics derided him as the "pope of political correctness." "I resent bitterly being slandered by slogan", Dr. Hackney told the Senate committee. "I am not just a cardboard figure. I am someone who has spent years defending free speech, and I will do that at NEH as well." He was confirmed, 76 to 23, and assumed the job previously held by Lynne Cheney.

Personal life and death

Hackney was the son-in-law of Virginia and Clifford Durr. [2]

Hackney died at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in 2013, aged 79. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. [3]


Works by Sheldon Hackney

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  1. Hackney, Sheldon (2002). "Foreword". The Politics of Presidential Appointment: A Memoir of the Culture War . NewSouth Books. p.  101. ISBN   978-1-58838-068-5.
  2. "The Martha's Vineyard Times: Gentleman & Scholar Sheldon Hackney". 2007-09-06. Archived from the original on 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
  3. "Sheldon Hackney dies at 79; educator chaired endowment for humanities". Retrieved 2013-09-16.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Herbert Eugene Longenecker
President of Tulane University
Succeeded by
Eamon Kelly
Preceded by
Martin Meyerson
President of the University of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Claire Fagin
Preceded by
Provost of Princeton University
Succeeded by
Neil L. Rudenstine
Government offices
Preceded by
Lynne Cheney
Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities
Succeeded by
William R. Ferris