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James McNaughton Hester, President of New York University from 1962--1975, who guided the University through the turbulent times of the 1960's and helped to chart the course for the renowned international institution that it is today, passed away on Wednesday at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He was 90. Following his tenure at NYU, Dr. Hester served as Rector of The United Nations University in Tokyo from 1975-- 1980, President of the New York Botanical Garden from 1980--1989, and President of The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation from 1989-- 2004. In later years Dr. Hester fulfilled a lifelong ambition and became a professional portrait painter, and had numerous showings of his work. James McNaughton Hester was born on April 19, 1924 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Long Beach, California, where his father was a United States Navy chaplain. Dr. Hester entered Princeton University but interrupted his studies to serve as an officer in the Marine Corps in World War Two. He graduated from Princeton in 1946. He worked with the U.S. Army in the occupation of Japan. He was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1947 and attended Pembroke College at Oxford. Much of the rest of his career was spent doing the public service that Cecil Rhodes called "the worlds work." He returned to service with the Marines during the Korean War, where, in his words, he "learned useful doctrines of leadership and management." Following this war he received his D.Phil from Oxford in 1955. In 1960 Dr. Hester became Dean of both the undergraduate and graduate schools of arts and sciences at NYU, and in January 1962 was named President. As President of New York University, Dr. Hester earned a reputation for the role he played in strengthening the University and as a spokesman for urban, private higher education. He also served on the President's Task Force on Higher Education and on the Board of the American Council on Education. Dr. Hester married the former Janet Rodes in 1953. He is survived by his wife, their three children Janet, Margaret, and Martha, and seven grandchildren. His brother Raymond and his sister Virginia also survive him. Dr. Hester was an enthusiastic participant in life, and remained active throughout, leading the carolers at The Windrows in Princeton in holiday songs this past week. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, or to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36104, in honor of Dr. Hester.

Published in The New York Times on Jan. 3, 2015
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