Public Affairs

September 08, 1997

Dr. R. W. Hiatt, fifth president of the University of Alaska, died this weekend.

September 8, 1997  NR 15-1997

Dr. Robert W. Hiatt, fifth president of the University of Alaska from 1973-77, died this weekend in San Jose, California. He was 83.

Hiatt taught at the college level for more than 20 years; served in the diplomatic corps of the United States; and was a productive researcher in marine zoology. Prior to coming to Alaska, he was at the University of Hawaii, where he served two years as acting president.

Dr. Hiatt was born December 23, 1913, in San Jose, California, one of seven children. He first visited Alaska in 1925, traveling by steamer with his mother and aunt from Seattle to Skagway.

The only one of his parents' seven children to attend college, Dr. Hiatt received his bachelor of arts degree from San Jose State College in 1936. From 1936 to 1941 he was a teaching assistant at the University of California at Berkeley, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in marine zoology in 1941.

He and Elizabeth A. Matthews were married on July 18, 1938. His wife and three children survive him.
From 1941 to 1943, Dr. Hiatt served as an instructor and, later, assistant professor in zoology at Montana State College, Bozeman. Enthusiastic skiers, the Hiatts also enjoyed camping and fishing in the Montana wilderness.

In 1943, Dr. Hiatt moved to the University of Hawaii, at which he spent the greatest portion of his academic career. There he rose to the rank of senior professor, and entered academic administration. He served as the chairman of the zoology department, dean of the graduate school and director of research, vice president for academic affairs and acting president in 1968 and 1969.

Leaving the University of Hawaii in 1969, Dr. Hiatt entered the diplomatic service of the United States, serving from 1970 to 1973 as a consular officer and secretary, and as counselor for scientific affairs in the U. S. embassy in Tokyo. In May 1973, he was elected by the Board of Regents to succeed Dr. William R. Wood as president of the University of Alaska, a post he held for four years.

At the University of Alaska, Dr. Hiatt established the Rural Educational Affairs division of the university to take postsecondary education and training to rural areas of Alaska for the first time; reduced the number of statewide vice presidents to two and redistributed their responsibilities to chancellors, and initiated and guided the first comprehensive academic development plan for the statewide university system.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bob Miller, 907-474-7272

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