Sunday, February 01, 2004

Obituary: Harold Haak - Class of 1953

FRESNO, CALIF. - Dr. Harold Howard Haak passed away Sunday, Dec. 26, 2003, in Fresno, Calif. Harold "Bud" was born in Madison June 1, 1935. He attended Madison Central High School. Harold was selected to be in the ILS program at the University of Wisconsin where he received his B.A. in political science in 1957, graduating with Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honors. He received his master's in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1958 as a Detling Fellow. Following his education at the University of Wisconsin, Harold was a management intern in the administrative office, Departmental Civilian Personnel Division, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., from 1958 to 1960. Harold received his Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University in 1963 and was a Princeton National Fellow, and University Wilson Fellow. Dr. Haak was hired as an assistant professor at San Diego State University. He then became an associate professor of political science, and taught from 1962 to 1969. In San Diego, Dr. Haak also served as dean of professional studies and associate professor of public administration and urban studies. He left that position in 1971 to become the vice president for academic affairs at Fresno State. He served in this position for two years. In 1973, Dr. Haak became the chancellor of the newly named University of Colorado at Denver (UCD). He served six and a half years in Colorado. Dr. Haak returned to Fresno as president of California State University Fresno (CSUF) in 1980. His presidency spanned eleven and a half years. During this time he served on numerous committees in both academic, and public service. In 1990, he was voted one of Fresno's most influential people. He stepped down as president of CSUF in 1991. From 1992 to 1993, Dr. Haak served as senior vice chancellor of academic affairs for the California State University system. He returned to CSUF to teach public administration in 1993. In 1997, Dr. Haak served as a consultant to Yerevan State and University and the Engineering University of Armenia, returning seven times to continue this work. From 2000-2002, Dr. Haak accepted a position as president of Fresno Pacific University until a long-term candidate could be found. Dr. Haak served on the board of directors of numerous organizations, and was widely published. His publications include numerous articles in professional journals, several books and most recently, a children's book entitled "The Mubox Bugs." Harold is survived by his wonderful wife and companion of 48 years, Betty Haak; his brother, Lou Haak of Chicago; a sister, Victoria Helbing of Douglas, Ariz.; his daughters, Alison Kaiser and Janet Suniga of Fresno; along with their six wonderful grandsons; and many nieces and nephews. Harold was preceded in death by his parents, Harold J. and Laura Haak; and his sister, Betty Ann Haak. A memorial service was held on Jan. 3, 2004, in Fresno, Calif.

Originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal on February 1, 2004

Harold Haak, former Fresno State president, lapses into coma

Haak, former president of California State University, Fresno, and Fresno Pacific University, is in a coma at Saint Agnes Medical Center in north Fresno, the longtime educator's son-in-law said Thursday night. Jared Kaiser said Haak was recently admitted to Saint Agnes because he was having an allergic reaction. He took a serious turn for the worse Wednesday, Kaiser added. Doctors "ruled out a stroke ... but it was like he'd had a stroke," Kaiser said. At one point Wednesday, he said, Haak's heart stopped, and he stopped breathing. Medical personnel revived him, Kaiser said, but "they're not sure how long he was without oxygen." Kaiser said Haak has been in a coma since then and is on a respirator. "I talked with a neurologist, and he's not real hopeful," Kaiser said. "... We're not real hopeful, but we're open to miracles." He added: "He's not only a great president of the universities he served, he's a great father-in-law." Kaiser is married to Haak's daughter, Alison. Kaiser said Haak and his wife, Betty, recently returned from a Caribbean cruise with friends. Shortly after his in-laws returned, Kaiser said, Haak had hip replacement surgery. Haak, 68, was Fresno State's president from 1980 to 1991. He was succeeded by current President John Welty. When Haak retired from Fresno State, observers credited him with a strong yet calm administrative style that helped the university recover from the lingering rancor of the Vietnam War and years of often bitter relations between faculty and administrators. The university's athletic program was accepted into the Western Athletic Conference while Haak was president. He agreed in March 2000 to become interim president of Christian- based Fresno Pacific until a replacement could be named. He served until Merrill Ewert took over as president in 2002.

News story (above) originally printed in The Fresno Bee on December 26, 2003

Harold H. Haak dies at age 68 Former Fresno State president led school through tough times

By Jim Steinberg, The Fresno Bee

Harold H. Haak, a scholar who guided Fresno State's transition from a troubled ollege into a broad and growing university, died Friday afternoon in Fresno. He was 68.

Mr. Haak had entered Saint Agnes Medical Center in recent days, apparently suffering an allergic reaction to medication. He lapsed into cardiac arrest Wednesday, but was revived. He had been sustained on a respirator in a coma.

Mr. Haak served as university president from 1980 to 1991 and as interim president of Fresno Pacific University from March 2000 to June 2002.

Professors and administrators remembered Mr. Haak as a learned, pipe-smoking academician who never let his Princeton doctorate in politics stifle a self-deprecating wit. He increased the number of women in Fresno State's administration and saw the university's student population surpass 19,000.

At Fresno Pacific, Mr. Haak guided that university through difficult financial straits, trimming more than $1 million from its $22 million budget, freezing all but essential spending and canceling a planned staff salary increase. Before leaving Fresno Pacific, he said the campus budget had moved into the black.

Two successors praised Mr. Haak on Friday.

President John Welty of California State University, Fresno, said, "He was extremely helpful when I arrived, and continued that assistance."

Mr. Haak, he said, "laid the foundation for a great deal of growth that has occurred over the years. He maintained his sense of humor, a very important characteristic for a university president to have. He always saw the positive, and was able to use humor to deflect a lot of conversations that might have become tense."

President Merrill Ewert of Fresno Pacific said: "I would call him about specific questions, meet him for coffee and talk. He was somebody I listened to, trusted and considered a good friend."
Ewert described features of Mr. Haak's leadership style as walks around campus, talks with people, listening and telling stories. Mr. Haak made it look easy for a committed Lutheran to thrive at the Mennonite university, Ewert said.

Fresno Pacific spokeswoman Dianna Mock recalls Mr. Haak baffling friends with card tricks. She said: "He was an absolutely wonderful human being, never without a joke or a song. Oh, did he sing! We didn't even need entertainment at his retirement party."

Mr. Haak's reputation led the Clovis Unified School District to call on him and retired Judge Armando Rodriguez in 2001 to lead an athletic eligibility investigation at Clovis West High School. The high-profile case took Mr. Haak and Judge Rodriguez to the Dominican Republic, where they determined that former basketball player Charlie Rodriguez had been too old to be eligible.

Peter Klassen was dean of social sciences through Mr. Haak's Fresno State presidency, and later helped attract him to Fresno Pacific. He remembers Mr. Haak as an educator open to new ideas.
"You could always speak to him as a friend," Klassen said. "He had a real sense of humor."
Klassen, president of the Fresno Pacific Board of Trustees, asked Mr. Haak to consider assuming the Fresno Pacific presidency for two years. Mr. Haak then said, "Hey, I think I would enjoy that."

His crucial fill-in role culminated a long career in education. Mr. Haak was born in the depths of the Depression on June 1, 1935, in Madison, Wis. He received his bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin, where he was Phi Beta Kappa in political science. He earned his master's degree there in political science, followed by a doctorate in politics from Princeton University.

Mr. Haak worked as an assistant and associate professor of political science at San Diego State University and later, dean of the College of Professional Studies there.

He first arrived at Fresno State in 1971, hired by President Norman Baxter as academic vice president responsible for academic planning, curriculum development and innovation. He was responsible as well for the academic personnel program, allocation of faculty positions and instructional budgets.

Mr. Haak left Fresno State to become chancellor of the University of Colorado at Denver in 1973, where he remained until he was named Fresno State president.

He used humor to smooth relations with faculty. Communication professor Melanie Bloom, a former president of Fresno State's Academic Senate, recalls the learn-at-lunch program he began for faculty and staff. He volunteered as its first speaker.

Bloom remembers Mr. Haak laughing with wet pants, telling the slightly intimidated academics, "I have done it. I was using the restroom, and my pants fell into the toilet. I wondered how to explain it, and decided to tell the truth."

Bloom said, "It absolutely endeared him to that audience."

She also remembers him navigating sensitive particulars at the eulogy for a faculty member. His eulogy showed such warmth and compassion, but it didn't deny the difficulty involved," Bloom said. "He dealt with it with great compassion and love."

When Mr. Haak arrived as president, relations between Fresno State and the Fresno community suffered serious frictions, Bloom said. A computer center had been firebombed. The university had not emerged completely from its divisions over the Vietnam War. "He began to build a bridge with the community through athletics," she said. "It has been wonderful. Now you see tremendous support from the community for athletics and the other university operations as well. It is a different school than when he came, and President Welty has pursued that change."

News story (above) originally published in The Fresno Bee on December 27, 2003

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