Obituary: David Walter Adamany (Sept. 23, 1936-Nov. 10, 2016)

By Jason A. Michael

Former Wayne State University President David Adamany died Nov. 10 following a brief illness. He was 80 years old.

At Wayne, Adamany was the university's longest serving president. He led the university from 1982-1997 and oversaw over $300 million worth of expansion and building projects.

"I would like to be remembered as laying the foundation for a great national university in Detroit," Adamany told the Detroit Free Press in 1997. "I'm actually a little concerned that I'll be remembered as a developer of buildings and not as the developer of a national research university. But buildings are important. Wayne had too little space and very poorly maintained space in the 1980s. So it was necessary to both upgrade the existing buildings and build new ones."

Adamany was born in Janesville, Wisconsin. The son of Lebanese parents who emigrated from Canada, Adamany received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University. He went on to earn his law degree there before eventually earning master's and doctorate degrees from the

University of Wisconsin.

When he came to Detroit in the early 1980s, Adamany found a university in desperate need of revitalization and expansion. While he took on the role with great zeal, his attempts at union busting and tough negotiations left him with a reputation as competent but controversial.

"Dr. Adamany was a force for change at Wayne State, and his energy and focus helped revitalize the university during a challenging period in its history," said Michael Wright, WSU's chief of staff and vice president for marketing and communications, in a statement. "His tireless approach to advancing the university occasionally met with resistance, but no member of the Wayne State community could ever doubt his passionate commitment to helping Wayne State realize its potential as a premier, urban research university."

His lasting legacy at Wayne was the David Adamany Undergraduate Library, a facility that was completed shortly before his exit from the school.

Adamany was widely recognized as a community leader and stalwart civil rights advocate. He was a longtime member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, as a proud gay man, a strong supporter of equal rights for the LGBT communities. In 1997, he was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from Detroit's Plymouth United Church of Christ, which is presented "to persons, churches or organizations that... exemplify best the legacy of Dr. King."

In 1999 he briefly served as interim CEO for Detroit Public Schools. The following year he moved to Philadelphia to take the position of president of Temple University. He led the university for six years but stayed on after stepping down to teach at the university's Beasley School of Law and in political science department.

"Temple is nationally recognized today for the quality of its education because of David's determination," said Temple University's Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. O'Connor in a statement. "We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude."


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