Former MSU president Cecil Mackey, Jr is dead at 89

EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Former Michigan State University president Maurice Cecil Mackey, Jr. (“Cecil”), died on February 8 at age 89.

Mackey was president of MSU from 1979 to 1985, a time when the university and the state were dealing with a financial crisis.

“Cecil Mackey led MSU during some of its toughest budget years and his training as an economist was fully tested,” Interim MSU President John Engler said. “But he conducted himself with a grace and civility that always left those he encountered amazed at his inner strength. His presence on campus in the classrooms and courtside will be missed. To his wife, Clare, and the Mackey family I offer my sincere condolences upon the passing of a true Spartan.”

MSU was facing a nearly $30 million budget shortfall in the early 1980s and Mackey had to make unpopular cuts.

One of his cuts was downsizing the College of Nursing.

“I was assistant to the president in Cecil Mackey’s early tenure. He came with a lot of experience and was extremely thoughtful and analytic,” former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon recalled. “During some of the more difficult economic times for the state and the university, he demonstrated great personal courage in his approach to those sometimes-contentious challenges.”

Mackey also oversaw a period of growth during his tenure.

He started a program for establishing endowed chairs, increased private financial support to the university and opened the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and other academic and athletic facilities.

Mackey, MSU’s 16th president, is remembered as a soft-spoken Southern gentleman and a man of principle. An avid runner and tennis player, he and his wife, Clare, remained in East Lansing following his tenure and Mackey continued teaching economics courses at MSU.

Mackey was born Jan. 23, 1929, in Montgomery, Alabama. His father was a musician and leader of a popular big band.

Mackey received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Alabama, and a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois.

In 1953, Mackey married Clare Siewert, a Detroit native who grew up in Chicago and also went to the University of Illinois. The couple had three children: Carol, in 1956; John, in 1966; and Ann, in 1968.

His military service included the Alabama National Guard; the U.S. Army; the U.S. Navy—receiving the “Outstanding Cadet” honor as the top airman in his Naval Air Flight class; and the U.S. Air Force. While on active duty with the U.S. Air Force in 1956, Mackey developed the economics department and was associate professor at the United States Air Force Academy.

Cecil is survived by his wife, Clare; daughter Carol Shaffer (Edward) of Dallas, Texas; son John Mackey (Amy Perruso) of Honolulu, Hawaii; daughter Ann Kling (Michael) of Las Vegas, Nevada; and grandchildren Hannah, Albert, and Sophia Mackey, and Lauren and Katherine Kling. He was…

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