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Alfred Francis Hurley

Alfred Francis Hurley, who was Chancellor of the University of North Texas System from 1982 to 2002 and also President of the University of North Texas until 2000, passed away on June 8th in Dallas. Prior to coming to UNT, he had a distinguished thirty year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a Brigadier General. He was 84 years old. Dr. Hurley was a warm and loving father and a devoted husband who shared a love of stories, adventure, and social events with his wife Johanna, an educator who traveled the world as a Pan Am stewardess the year before they married. He was also a great mentor to his children and took great pride in their educational, professional and personal achievements. He was a fitness advocate who ran at least three miles a day. Dr. Hurley considered himself a New Yorker yet he loved his and his wife's adopted state of Texas. He and his wife had celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary in January. Dr. Hurley was born October 16, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York to Patrick and Margaret Hurley, both of whom were Irish immigrants. He was the oldest of four children. Survivors include his wife and partner, Johanna Leahy Hurley, his brother William, and the couple's five children, Alfred Jr., Thomas, Mark, Claire and John as well as fourteen grandchildren. His parents, his brother John, and sister Jeanne predeceased him. Growth was the hallmark of Dr. Hurley's tenure which started in 1982 and ended in 2002. The University of North Texas System, which includes UNT and the UNT Health Science Center, rose to educational leadership in the North Texas region. Enrollment at the University increased from less than 19,000 to over 27,000. The University's endowment grew from $850,000 to $45 million, and nearly $200 million was raised across two capital campaigns. Over $260 million was invested in renovations and new construction. The increased stature of the University was signified by the change in 1988 of the University's name from North Texas State University to the University of North Texas. In January 2001, the UNT System was recognized by the Texas Legislature as a formal system, making it one of the six recognized higher education systems in the state. Throughout his careers at UNT and in the Air Force, Dr. Hurley highlighted the crucial role played by his full time partner and wife Johanna. As a tribute to their accomplishments, the Board of Regents of the UNT System named the administration building, which stands at the center of the campus in Denton, the "Alfred F. and Johanna H. Hurley Administration Building." The citation accompanying the ceremony naming the building pointed to a Dallas Morning News editorial spotlighting Dr. Hurley as an "unsung hero of higher education." In addition to the accomplishments described above, the citation highlighted the nationwide recognition of many of UNT's academic programs; creation of the UNT Office of Postgraduate fellowships; establishment of UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science; transformation of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine into the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth; and creation of the UNT System Center at Dallas, including creation by statute, of UNT at Dallas - the first public university within the Dallas city limits. The Regents also recognized Dr. Hurley's accomplishments with the title of Chancellor Emeritus. Dr. Hurley was the first resident of Denton to chair the North Texas Commission and to join the Dallas Citizens Council. He was Co-Chair of the Coalition of Urban Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) and served on its Executive Committee; President, Texas Philosophical Society; Director, Fort Worth and Denton Chambers of Commerce; Vice Chairman, Denton County Business Leaders Council; President, Denton County United Way; Chairman, (Texas) Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors; and Director, Association of Texas Colleges and Universities. He received the Otis Fowler Award from the Denton Chamber of Commerce in 1986. After he retired as Chancellor, Dr. Hurley became a professor in UNT's Department of History from 2003 to 2008. In addition to teaching courses to undergraduate and graduate students, he and his wife continued to play a key role in organizing UNT's annual Military History seminar which enabled business and community leaders throughout Texas to hear and question both a leading scholar and a current or retired military officer who had served in combat discuss various topics. At its twenty-third anniversary in 2006, the seminar was endowed by many of its participants and named the Alfred and Johanna Hurley Military History Seminar. Dr. Hurley enjoyed a similarly distinguished Air Force career. He enlisted as an airman two weeks before the outbreak of Korean War in 1950 and retired as a Brigadier General in 1980. From 1966 to 1980 he was Permanent Professor and Head of the Department of History at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as a member of the Academy's executive board and Chairman of the Humanities Division from 1977 to 1980. Prior to his appointment as a Permanent Professor by Lyndon Johnson, General Hurley was one of the three youngest Lieutenant Colonels in the Air Force and had served in assignments as a navigator (achieving distinction as a Master Navigator with 3,630 hours), planner, administrator, and educator in Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Germany, Washington D.C. and Vietnam. He was the navigator on seventy reconnaissance missions while stationed in Germany during the height of the Cold War in 1963 and 1964. In the summer of 1968, he served a tour of duty in Vietnam where he flew missions and worked on the EC-47 program. This program, which he conceived and organized, produced 100 histories of the air war in Vietnam, researched and written on the scene. As Permanent Professor and Head of the Department, General Hurley built a nationally regarded history department. He took great pride both in teaching cadets and recruiting and mentoring the officers who served in the department. Many of the cadets and officers went on to have distinguished careers themselves, including General Ronald R. Fogelman, the 16th Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Hurley enhanced the national academic profile of the department by initiating and hosting eight Military History Symposia which brought together leading scholars in the field from the US and Europe. He and members of his department also often lectured at the U.S. War and Navy War Colleges as well as various Air Force service schools. General Hurley's military decorations included the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device, and Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars. General Hurley graduated summa cum laude from St. John's University in 1950 and received its President's medal in 1990. While serving in the Air Force, he received an M.A. and Ph.D in History at Princeton University in preparation for his initial assignment to teach at the Air Force Academy from 1958 to 1963. During his first tour at the Academy he expanded his Ph.D dissertation, Billy Mitchell Crusader for Airpower. Initially published in 1964 and revised in 1975, his book is still considered to be the definitive scholarly treatment of the topic and was reissued by Indiana University Press in 2006. He also wrote numerous articles and reviews for books and other scholarly publications. General Hurley was both a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fellow in the Eisenhower Institute of the Smithsonian Institution. He served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Air Force on the Air Force Historical Program; Trustee of the American Military Institute; Trustee of the U.S. Commission, Military History, Director, American Committee, History of Second World War; Trustee of the Air Force Historical Foundation; Trustee, Falcon Foundation, USAF Academy; and Trustee, Air Force Historical Foundation. Throughout both of his careers, General Hurley had the reputation of not only using his own talents to the maximum, but also inspiring exceptional enthusiasm in others to do the same. The officers in his history department at the Academy presented him with a picture of a desk overflowing with work that said "Where the action is" and signed it "We do the work of 500 men." Dr. Hurley equally loved his time at UNT and was extraordinarily committed to the school. It was the job he had always dreamed of and found his experience in the military (and in particular at the Air Force Academy) as ideal preparation for it. On multiple occasions he was approached regarding becoming president or chancellor of other institutions. However, he declined to even consider them. At one point in his tenure, the school's Board of Regents demanded that he accept a pay raise although the institution lacked the funds for a more broadly shared increase in faculty pay. Dr. Hurley's response was to donate the incremental compensation that he received back to UNT to fund scholarships for deserving students. General Hurley will be buried on Friday, June 14th. There will be a Catholic Mass at 10 AM at the Air Force Academy Chapel followed by a military funeral and a reception at Doolittle Hall. There also will be a memorial service in Dallas to celebrate his life at a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to one of the following organizations: The Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Falcon Foundation, or Alfred and Johanna Military History Seminar at UNT.

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Published in The Gazette on June 12, 2013
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